Remarks by Ambassador John F. Tefft at the Independence Day Reception

Welcome to Spaso House and our annual Fourth of July reception!

The Fourth of July is the one day every year when Americans celebrate the principles on which our nation was founded. We also look back at our history and recall the sacrifices of so many Americans in the pursuit of freedom and defending our fundamental rights. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently expressed it in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”

Keep “happiness” in mind because the Fourth of July is also a day when we Americans like to have fun: fireworks, picnics, family excursions – and gatherings like this one. We celebrate all 50 of the United States of America – from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Bering Strait to the Gulf of Mexico.

Today’s Spaso House reception is dedicated to our most populous state, California. We have a Hollywood Walk of Fame and a playlist of classic California music, from the Beach Boys to the Eagles. There are also food booths featuring the cuisine of some of California’s many ethnic groups – including an Asian Station, an Italian Station, and a Latin American Station. We want to thank the many businesses which have generously contributed to this reception. And a special word of appreciation for our great friend Ambassador Ruben Beltran of the Mexican Embassy for contributing the tequila for our margaritas!

And there’s yet another tempting food station: the great American pastime of baseball is represented by a booth – honoring California’s own World Series champion San Francisco Giants – that offers our finest baseball stadium cuisine, including burgers, hot dogs, and beer.

We also have some great entertainment today. I am honored to welcome the Jones Family Singers. While they hail from Texas, their music expresses the beauty and energy of the African American community that is part of California’s wonderful diversity. I’m very happy that they could join us to celebrate July 4th and entertain us with a uniquely American art form – gospel music.

Why are we focusing on one state today? Everywhere I have served as Ambassador, my wife Mariella and I have chosen one American state or region for our embassy’s Independence Day theme. And what’s not to like about California? It’s the home of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and a famous Russian American settlement: Fort Ross. Yes, two centuries ago, Siberians were trading furs near what is now the world-class city of San Francisco. And today we’re celebrating California themes in the great city of Moscow.

I would like to thank my wife Mariella and our Independence Day organizers, Jen Gorman and Diana Costa, for their inspiration and hard work. Thanks also to our dedicated team of embassy planners who worked so hard to make this event a success. And special thanks to the Spaso House staff for a great job in preparing the food and sprucing up the house and grounds.

In essence, Independence Day is all about people. One of our great presidents, Abraham Lincoln, described the United States as government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” And I think that – despite the issues that divide our governments – Americans and Russians get along just fine on a “people to people” basis. That’s what today’s gathering is all about.

President Jefferson, who penned the Declaration of Independence, also had some other wise advice about brevity: “The most valuable of all talents,” he wrote, “is that of never using two words when one will do.”

I’ll take his advice and stop here. I wish you all a wonderful Independence Day. Thank you for coming. Please enjoy the food, drink and entertainment here at Spaso House!