Remarks by Ambassador Henry Wooster at U.S. Independence Celebration Event on June 23, 2021- as prepared for delivery.

Thank you.  On behalf of my embassy colleagues and the American people, my wife Laura and I welcome you to the Independence Day celebration of the United States of America.  We invited each of you here tonight because we value your role in promoting education.  More about that in a moment.

This year, America turns 245.  Throughout our history, empowered by a constitution which has inspired many democracies, and enabled by our democratic institutions and processes, Americans have progressed towards the illusive but inspiring charge of our constitution: “To form a more perfect union.”

Although we are the world’s oldest democracy, we are always undergoing growing pains.  Indeed, you might say America’s story is one of resilience.  In fewer than 100 years from our founding, we fought a civil war to, among other things, abolish slavery.  We amended our constitution many times, for example, to expand the right to vote to racial minorities and to women.  After failing to equally empower all our citizens, we underwent the civil rights movement, which led to landmark legislation in the civil rights and voting rights acts.  To combat racial segregation, we integrated our schools across racial lines.  In fact, Vice President Kamala Harris was among those courageous students.

These historical vignettes are American democracy.  Today, the U.S. Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse legislative body in America’s history, with nearly one in every four members belonging to a minority.  Our political leadership is now more representative of our nation’s citizens.

Of course, challenges remain.  We have yet to end systemic racism.  One need only look to the killings of people of color; plus, incidents of islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, and anti-Semitism.

Nonetheless, America is committed to confronting racism, not only because of our legacy of slavery, but also, because America is a nation of immigrants.  I am the son of a naturalized American mother.  My first language was not English—a fact few recognize, given my Anglo-Saxon name.  The first language of my wife Laura’s grandparents, on both sides, was German.  One of her grandparents joined the U.S. Army just to learn English.  Many of my U.S. colleagues in this embassy, and in others in which I have served, are immigrants, and the children of immigrants.  They reflect a variety of backgrounds.  For example, within this embassy, each Ramadan, our American Muslim colleagues fast alongside many of you.

Throughout our history, our constitutional democracy has promoted diversity in America and helped us overcome challenges when this value was imperiled.  Indeed, as President Biden has said, we firmly believe democracy can still deliver for the American people, and that it is essential to meeting the challenges of our time.

Many challenges we face are global, and the record shows the best path to resolving such problems is when nations work together.  For this reason, under President Biden’s direction, the United States has been restoring alliances and recommitting to multilateral institutions.  We rejoined the World Health Organization and resumed support of UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works agency, which supports Palestinian refugees.  We have rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, and we have re-engaged the UN Human Rights Council.

As the president has said, our greatest assets are our allies and our alliances.  Nowhere is that truer than in Jordan, where our two countries are committed to achieving goals of mutual importance.  Among the most important goals of U.S. Jordan policy is promoting education across the kingdom and increasing the economic value of that education.  Whether through our flagship educational exchange programs like Fulbright and the International Visitors Leadership Program, or teaching English, or by updating school curricula to meet the demands of today and tomorrow’s market, we are committed to helping build a bright future for Jordan’s young people.

My wife Laura, who is an educator, will tell you that it is education that gives us all the opportunity to pursue our calling.  Some years ago, while working at the White House, I remember thinking that my mother was a factory worker who had only studied till the sixth grade, and my father was a career army officer who hadn’t graduated high school—and there I was, I had just briefed the president of the United States in the oval office on a key foreign policy priority.

It was education—in the form of life lessons through lived experience, and my formal education—that enabled me to be in that position, as well as in this position, today.  So, I truly mean it when I say that I look forward to conversations this evening on how the United States can continue to partner with Jordan on education.

245 years ago, America’s founding fathers declared the independence of the United States of America, knowing they would face challenges in the journey ahead.  Today, too, the challenges are daunting—yet we are not daunted.  Looking back this past year has proven that when people pursue shared goals, they are stronger.

That said, as President Biden has noted, we have always been a forward-looking nation, one still striving toward a more perfect union.   Five years from now—July 4, 2026—will be the 250th anniversary of the United States’ independence.  Today we begin that celebration with our partners at the America 250 foundation and invite all Americans, as well as our friends abroad, to help honor our past and shape our future.

One significant milestone in this process relates to America’s newest national holiday.  June 19, or “Juneteenth”, has commemorated the emancipation of African Americans from slavery, unofficially, for more than a century.  As you may have seen, President Biden just made Juneteenth a federal holiday.  So, this past Sunday, we closed the embassy to celebrate Juneteenth and reflect on the work that lies ahead in forming a more perfect union.

On behalf of the United States, the U.S. Embassy, Laura, and our family, let me welcome you once again to this celebration of America’s independence.   God bless Jordan and God bless the United States of America.