Thank you for coming today for this important event.
Just last week, we in the United States, the oldest constitutional democracy in the world, held our own peaceful elections. It’s clear from our experience that democracy is often loud and messy and can reveal significant disagreements within a society. That isn’t always a bad thing, but lately in the United States, just like in Georgia, we’ve seen an increase in polarization and division. Unfortunately, both our countries have seen how Russia and other autocratic regimes exploit these divisions to sow discord in an attempt to undermine our societies.
In today’s difficult geopolitical environment, national unity has become even more important. This does not mean we will all agree on everything and there will be no disagreements, particularly on key policy issues. Party competition, and even partisanship, is a normal and healthy component of any democracy. But so is compromise for the common good.
We’ve seen how autocrats use “managed” or sovereign democracy to stifle dissent and advance their own interests. Autocratic regimes, such as in Russia, often use national unity as an excuse to silence independent voices. The people of Georgia should be proud of the diverse array of voices and viewpoints you have here, and of your history of speaking truth to power to ensure the country keeps moving forward on a democratic path.
In the United States, we have sought a more democratic approach to building unity through dialogue and engagement on core values. In the midst of a highly polarized political environment and intense political competition, it’s easy to forget that the people of Georgia are united on the most important issues facing Georgia.
The people of Georgia have repeatedly and clearly said they want to live in a prosperous, secure, democratic Georgia, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations. The United States supports Georgia’s citizens in achieving this goal. Everything we do here is in support of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future, working with the government and partners in Georgia who share that goal. Our 30-year relationship with the people of Georgia has always focused on making this goal a reality because it is what Georgians repeatedly say they want.
This is an unprecedented moment in history for Georgia. Petty partisanship should not get in the way, particularly when it is clear that people on all sides have so much in common. There is too much at stake. That is why we are pleased to support this initiative to forge a consensus on guiding principles for Georgia that can be the basis for civilized discussion. This is an effort to focus competition in a healthy way on how best to achieve what the people most desire. There is a reason Georgia’s motto is strength through unity. We hope this initiative will reinforce the power of that motto.