Mr. President, thank you very much for your kind remarks on behalf of the Albanian people.
Madame Speaker, Excellencies, honored guests, friends – thank you for joining us in celebrating the 247th Independence Day of the United States of America.
At our founding, Americans announced through our Constitution that “We the People,” and not anyone else – no king, no general, no ruler – no one but “We the People” have the power and right to decide who we are, what we hold dear, and what our fate will be.
You may recall that I invoked those famous opening lines of the American Constitution last year. I am repeating them tonight, not because I have run out of ideas, but because this idea behind “We the People” is more important than ever for both our countries and, indeed, for the world.
“We the People” is a declaration about agency and choice in a democracy: We assert that “We the People” are the source of power and what we choose matters the most.
And choice is by necessity about the future. We can argue about the past, but we cannot change it. We can only choose what happens next.
From all the events that I have been part of, or witnessed, from all the people across the 61 municipalities of this beautiful country that I have met over the last three and a half years, it is clear to me that the people of Albania have made their choice. They have chosen to be free and democratic, to be among those nations who will defend the freedom and democracy of others, to ensure that Albania can never be erased from this world. In this way, you are like us, and we are like you. And I would like to think that this is what Secretary Baker must have sensed when he said from Skanderbeg Square in 1991, “You are with us, and we are with you.”
Just as Americans declared our choice in 1776, Albanians declared their choice in 1991.
Americans chose on July 4, 1776, to be free; to believe that citizens are the source, not subject, of the government’s power; to commit to choosing our future every day to make our union more perfect; to acknowledge that we are humans who will make mistakes from time to time, but to believe that because we are Americans, we will get back up and try again, and choose better.
Thirty-two years ago, Albanians, you – like us – chose to be free. You – like us – decided that citizens are the source, not subject, of the government’s power. You – like us – know that democracy takes commitment and endurance. You – like us – want your children – Nalta, Arba, Greis, Irsa, Beni, all the children I had the great, great pleasure to get to know while I’ve been here – you want your children to live in a world where they have an equal chance to pursue happiness. You – like us – are willing to do the hard work to make the future better than the past.
If I have learned anything from my time in Albania, it is that we – Americans and Albanians – are alike in so many ways, including in the most important ways. I hope that Americans and Albanians – We the People – will always cherish that affinity. And I hope everyone will see that we – like you – we will never give up in our demand for a more just, more secure, more prosperous future for all of us.
This may be my last opportunity to see some of you face to face, and I would like to take the opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to you for everything you have done. I am grateful to know that each one of you, in your own way, in your own capacity, is making a tremendous contribution, and has made a tremendous contribution to the U.S.-Albania relationship and to your countries. I think with every single person in here, I have had one disagreement or another, with some of you more than others. But I still believe – just as I believed in the beginning – that unites us is far greater, far more important, than what divides us. So, thank you for being here tonight to join us in the celebration and, personally, thank you for your friendship and your wise counsel. And I’ll see you in Washington.