Ambassador Degnan Independence Day Remarks

Deputy Prime Minister, distinguished guests, friends. Good evening! Mogesalmebit!

It is wonderful to see everyone in person again here at the American Embassy. This is what a 4th of July celebration should look like! Thank you all very much for joining us.

July 4th marks the day America’s Founding Fathers declared independence. It is the day Americans committed to building a nation based on fundamental freedoms and democratic values. For 246 years, Americans have reaffirmed that commitment through our efforts to strengthen and improve our democracy, to protect the rights of all people, and to promote peace and prosperity in America and around the world.

We fought for these freedoms and democratic values 246 years ago, and we are defending them today, through our support to those fighting for their freedom and sovereignty, including in Ukraine. As President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be defended, protected, and handed on for our children to do the same.”

The will to defend freedom, independence, and democracy is something Georgians and Americans share. It is not because we want war. On the contrary. It is because we deeply believe that freedom and democracy are the surest path to peace.

Georgians and Americans know that nothing about the fight for freedom is easy – whether in 1776 in America, 1921 in Georgia, through two World Wars in Europe, or the collapse of the Soviet Union. We saw this in Russia’s unjustified invasion of Georgia in 2008, and we see it in the latest battle for freedom in Putin’s barbaric war against Ukraine: a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a modern rules-based order that has brought stability and prosperity to Europe for over 75 years and an autocratic regime governed by brute force, oppression, and fear.

Why am I raising Russia’s war against Ukraine on America’s Independence Day? Because Ukraine’s battle for its independence is part of a larger fight for the essential democratic principles that unite all free people – the same principles that Georgians and Americans enshrined in our constitutions and strive to uphold: the rule of law, free and fair elections, the freedom to speak, write, and assemble; and a free and ethical press.

The belief that government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” has a responsibility to respect and safeguard the liberty, equality, and dignity of every individual, and protect the safety of its citizens without sacrificing constitutional values like due process and equal protection for all. These principles may be costly to defend, but they are essential in a free society to allow every citizen to achieve their full potential.

[For too long, many sought to reach an accommodation with an autocratic Kremlin. But we have learned that a revanchist Russia cannot be appeased without endangering the peace and prosperity we have painstakingly built. We must speak up for our principles. The remarkable solidarity and unity we’ve seen recently against Russian brutality shows that the Euro-Atlantic family of nations is committed to helping those willing to stand up for our shared values. We continue to believe in and strive for the vision of a Europe, whole, free, and at peace. Georgia belongs in that Euro-Atlantic family, and we look forward to welcoming you as a full member.]

Around the world in recent years, we have watched the forces of autocracy try to smother democracy, with contempt for rule of law, contempt for democratic freedom, contempt for truth and dignity. Putin’s attempt to use brutal aggression and disinformation to sow division and expand his autocratic regime is a direct challenge to these fundamental principles.

And the West has responded with resolve, with powerful unity, and with determination to defend our democratic way of life. As President Biden said, “…the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.”

As in the United States, people here in Georgia cherish freedom. You cherish your independence, and your unique culture, language, and traditions. Like Americans, Georgians too seek peace, security, justice, equality, and dignity. There is nothing “foreign” about these principles. These are not “Western” values imposed on Georgia. These are fundamental Georgian values, woven throughout Georgia’s history, culture, and tradition, from King Tamar, to Ilia Chavchavadze, to Ekvtime Taqaishvili. The path to the freedom Georgians cherish – and to peace, stability and prosperity – leads to Europe.

Georgia has made great progress building its democracy over 30 years. Over this time, the American people have invested over $6 billion in assistance because we believe in helping Georgia become a more prosperous, more democratic, and more secure country. It is not a criticism to say there is more work to do, most importantly in implementing and re-enforcing the democratic framework Georgia has painstakingly created, and strengthening the independence of the democratic institutions you’ve established.

We know from our own experience in the U.S. that democracy is hard work that never ends. It takes enduring commitment, difficult compromise, and political will. It requires putting the country ahead of narrow partisan interests and rising above zero-sum political games. It can’t be accomplished in one day, or by one party alone.

Success depends on living up to Georgia’s national motto: dzala ertobashia. There is no limit to what Georgia can achieve when Georgians stand together, united in the common cause of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future. And I assure you, the United States will continue to stand united with you.

Let me close with the words of Pope John Paul II, which seem so relevant as we strive for a future of peace, equality, and prosperity: “Never ever give up hope. Never doubt, never tire, never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

America and Georgia stand as proof that freedom-loving people will ultimately refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We stand united – America and Georgia — in the name of peace and freedom.

God bless America. God bless Georgia.

Damoukideblobis Dre Gilosavt! Happy Independence Day!

Thank you. Didi Madloba.