2019 U.S. Independence Day Remarks by Ambassador Robert A. Riley

Hello and welcome. So good to see everyone again!

We welcome with open arms and hearts the many veterans who are here present today. We have dedicated this, our two hundred forty third July 4th celebration, to saluting your service in the U.S. military. We have just returned from honoring the ten FSM citizens who gave their lives in service to our country, and before going on, I would like to ask that we have a moment of silence in their honor.

I would now like to ask that all of the veterans who are present here today to stand up and be recognized. Could we please give them a round of applause? We also have some active military soldiers, sailors, and marines in attendance, and I would also ask that they stand and be recognized.

Before I continue with my remarks, I would like to acknowledge the presence of:

  • The Traditional Leaders
  • Your Excellency, President Panuelo and First Lady
  • The Honorable Speaker, Vice Speaker and Members of the FSM Congress and spouses
  • The Honorable Cabinet Members, Officials and Representatives of the National Government
  • The Honorable Dean and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • The Honorable Governor of Pohnpei State and First Lady Mrs. Peterson
  • The Honorable Lt. Governor and Mrs. Oliver
  • The Honorable Speaker, Vice Speaker and Members of the Pohnpei State Legislature and spouses
  • The Officials and Representatives of Pohnpei State Government
  • The Honorable Leadership and Members of the Municipal Governments
  • The Members of the Clergy and Religious Leaders
  • Heads of resident International Organizations; NGOs
  • Honorary Consuls
  • All Veterans and their families
  • The Pac Fleet Band
  • Partners & Friends
  • Everyone who has joined us today.

Good evening and a hearty welcome to our annual Fourth of July event. We come together to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which set our course as a nation; together with the Constitution, it is the foundational document of the United States, expressing eloquently the beliefs that remain the principles of our democratic experiment that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — and that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. These words prepared the ground for everything that followed: the war of liberation against the British, the U.S. Constitution, and our system of governance.

That this new country of the United States, conceived in this declaration, would win its war of independence was far from a forgone conclusion. Finding enough recruits – and keeping them – was a huge challenge. Many, after tasting the rigors of war, returned to their homes. There was no standing army at the outset of the revolutionary war effort; many of the fighting men who joined were from informal and ragtag militias. The central government had little power, and virtually no ability to extract funding from the 13 states, so financing was a continual problem throughout the war; it was one of George Washington’s biggest headaches. At inopportune moments, he had to travel to the capital to plead for enough money for food, clothes, and guns; and was often unsuccessful. Starvation in the army was not uncommon, and disease, including smallpox, was rampant; more soldiers died from these adversities than in combat. Especially at the beginning of the war, the troops lacked training. After some initial important victories, and despite others that punctuated the long war effort, the situation often appeared bleak, and it sometimes seemed in this war of attrition that the Americans would not prevail. Yet through incredible persistence, unalloyed bravery, and total dedication to the cause they were brought in the end to victory at Yorktown; and provided a prototype for the U.S. Armed Forces to follow ever since.

Under the auspices of the Revolutionary War, and after, as the nation slowly took shape in the post-revolutionary period, the United States determined that it would not be a nation of men, but of laws. The founders were often quite dissimilar in character, with diverse points of view; clashes between various factions eventually detonated in the fierce political combat of the 1790s. But due to their commitment to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the disputes did not devolve into violence and revolutionary chaos, but instead strengthened their and the nation’s understanding of democracy and the rule of law. It was self-reinforcing; success bred success. In a similar way, a professional military untethered to politics, dedicated to the apolitical defense of the United States, was born.

One principal early controversy of the Republic was the question of whether or not the United States would have a standing military. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton (Washington’s aide during the war, and his Treasury Secretary when he was President) advocated strongly for such a force. This was based on their revolutionary war time experience; recruits from untrained militias often proved to be of uneven reliability. Others feared that a permanent military would encourage a strong central government and weaken states’ rights. In the end, various low level conflicts – such as the various Indian and Barbary Wars, and the Quasi War with France – settled the argument, and the formalization of the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Coast Guard gained strength. (The Air Force came later…)

After 150 years of democratic churn and institutional change, the United States and the world faced the Axis threat during World War II. The foundations laid in the late 1700s was put to a supreme test in the 1940s, and empowered the Allies to prevail; it also set the stage for the post war world order of open sea lanes and ever increasing economic interdependence. This was the ultimate victory of the rule of law, transparency, and freedom, written on a global scale, advancing democratic, economic, societal, and technological development. We are proud to count the FSM as partners in that effort.

The partnership is deep: the United States is committed to defending the FSM as it would its own shores, and FSM citizens enlist in the US military in greater numbers per capita than any of the U.S. 50 states. We collaborate to advance development within the FSM, to ensure that it is fully ready to meet the challenges of 2023 and beyond. We, Micronesians and Americans alike, freely move between our two countries as we join forces together, in work, school, and play. Together, we promote the rule of law, transparency, and freedom; and together, we serve in the US Armed Forces; hence our theme of this year’s Fourth of July – Salute to Veterans.

We are now facing new strategic challenges in the theater. To meet them, we must incorporate our joint legacy in everything we do, so that our actions demonstrate moral resonance and coherence.

And this we should do together, with singleness of purpose, and bring with us on our journey those who share democratic values, and the wish for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Just as our respective founders illuminated the path forward, lighting the fires of democracy, we must protect those fires as we defend the region.

243 years ago, 13 colonies came together in union to declare their independence, and eventually became the United States of America; and just as the islands of the FSM are stronger together, unity provides security and opportunity for future generations.  Our two nations will work together to protect that future by tackling the challenges that we face in fostering sustainable economic development, combatting climate change, and enhancing maritime security.

The mutuality of the partnership is evident; just as the United States defends the FSM as it would its own homeland, FSM citizens enlist in the US Armed Forces in greater numbers per capita than in any U.S. state, FSM students attend our US military service academies, and FSM citizens attend U.S, colleges so that they can return to the FSM to serve their country, ensuring a bright future for the FSM.

Today we salute all FSM veterans of the U.S. military. We honor those who have served our nation and the FSM in the US military, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans have served in our military with valor and dedication, and we are deeply grateful for their commitment. So many have returned to the FSM and contributed mightily to their country. And they, like many other FSM citizens who join the U.S. military, demonstrate the close and mutually beneficial relationship between our nations. This U.S. commitment will continue in perpetuity.

At our celebration today, as a demonstration of that commitment, we would like to announce the opening of the Embassy’s new Defense Attaché Office. Marine Corps LT Col Chris Georgi, who arrived in April, joined our Mission as our first Defense Attaché, and has been instrumental to opening the new office; his relief, also from the Marines, is LT COL Erin Richter, and she just arrived last Saturday. Operations Coordinator Jeff Harris has coordinated the very complex logistics of setting up the office. Could the three of you please stand up and be recognized? Similarly, we have a number of Seabees from the Pohnpei Construction Civic Action Detail (or CCAD for short) represented here today – please you all also please stand up and be recognized.

In addition to enlisting in the various US military services, FSM students are applying and being accepted to our U.S. military service academies. They are making important contributions to the FSM when they return. We have a representative here today, Youki Susaia, who has been attending the US Coast Guard Academy. Youki, please stand and be recognized!

And finally we salute our flag, the symbol and physical expression of what the men and women of our two nations have fought and for which they continue to fight– life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Please, let us all in turn salute all of the military veterans in attendance!

Happy 4th of July!

Thank you.