Chargé d'Affaires Michael Scanlan's remarks at the Independence Day Reception
Dear guests, friends and colleagues!
Welcome to our celebration of the 236th anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America. I am glad you are able to join us to mark this special day.
The history of America is, in part, the history of immigrants seeking a better future. Belarusians like Thaddeusz Kosciuszko, David Sarnoff, and Boris Kit helped build my country, motivated by a desire for change.
Common values also unite Belarusian and American history. For example, Belarus was at the forefront of promoting religious freedoms unparalleled in 16th century Europe. The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was fundamentally important to the rule of law, and Magdeburg Rights gave citizens a say running their towns and cities.
January marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk. Our bilateral relationship has been marked by high points and by low ones as well. That said, the United States has always sought to build relations based on the shared values of Belarus’ undisputed European past.
In 2010, we hoped that Belarus was gradually embracing these values. For example, in December of that year, the Belarusian government publicly acknowledged, together with the United States, that "enhanced respect for democracy and human rights in Belarus … is essential to the progress of the country and its citizens."
We also witnessed in 2010 some limited liberalization, including, at least initially, a more open presidential campaign.
However, post-election repression, which continues today, shattered these hopes. Sadly, some of our guests cannot join us because they are unjustly imprisoned.
I hope Belarus returns to the shared values of its honorable past. Today, these principles are embodied by democracy, a free market, a vibrant civil society, and by basic rights like freedom of assembly and the press.
I am departing Belarus shortly as my posting ends. I will always remember your country fondly. The hundreds of Belarusians I have met are clear proof of your immense talents.
I truly hope that one day in Belarus the system will change to value and embrace these talents.
Thank you, All! Please join me in raising a toast the Independence of America and to the freedom of Belarus. God bless America! Long live Belarus!