Charge d’Affaires Michelle Yerkin Remarks at the Independence Day Celebration

Charge d’Affaires Michelle Yerkin

Remarks at the Independence Day Celebration

U.S. Embassy Reykjavik

July 1, 2022


Góðan daginn!  Good Afternoon!

Kæru vinir.  Velkomin og takk fyrir að fagna sjálfstæði Bandaríkjanna með okkur í dag.

Thank you very much for joining us and welcome to the celebration — the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.

I would like to extend a special welcome to our distinguished guests —

  • The First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid
  • Former President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
  • Acting Permanent Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Anna Jóhannsdóttir

Welcome also to our friends and colleagues from the business, education and culture communities, from law enforcement and emergency response, and fellow diplomats from around the world.

Let me extend a very special thank you to our generous sponsors who helped make this event possible.

Many of our donors are actively engaged in trade and investment between the United States and Iceland, and they are bringing our countries together in so many ways.  We are very grateful for your contributions.  Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for our sponsors!

I want to take a moment to acknowledge how happy we are to be together in person, for the first time in two years, to celebrate America’s birthday.  The past couple of years have been hard on us all, but we may finally be turning the corner.  Tourists are coming back — Americans are traveling to Iceland again!  We are meeting face-to-face again with our friends and colleagues.  And we are able to celebrate important milestones, like this one, together.

In fact, we were so excited to be hosting our Independence Day reception in person this year that we even considered holding it outdoors on the lawn of our new Embassy building just around the corner from here.

But then reality set in and we remembered Iceland’s – how shall I say this diplomatically? – Dramatic?  Famous? – Let’s say unpredictable… Iceland’s unpredictable weather and we made the wiser choice!

As I am sure you all know, the Fourth of July is an important holiday for the United States.  It is a time when we celebrate the founding of our nation and reaffirm our commitment to the core principles as described in our Declaration of Independence.  It’s worth quoting directly – the words are that important:

“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.”

The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, and the Founding Fathers were products of their time.  The United States has evolved – often painfully – over the years to an ever-broader, and ever-more inclusive, interpretation of these words.  There have sometimes been setbacks, but as one of our greatest national leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The value of justice and the rule of law are among the many fundamental principles that the United States and Iceland share.  These values bind our two countries together, along with our shared history and commitment to security and defense in the North Atlantic.

As we celebrate freedom and democracy today, I want to make a special mention of the leadership of Icelandic government in speaking out strongly against the brutal invasion of a free, independent, and sovereign Ukraine.  It wasn’t just words.  You followed up with tangible action:

  • providing humanitarian relief and logistical support,
  • sheltering refugees,
  • and working diplomatically to uphold international law and the global rules-based order.

Iceland is a country that understands the importance of democracy, independence, and sovereignty.  We will continue to work together to defend these values in Ukraine, in Europe, and around the world.

Friends and colleagues, I thank you for your goodwill, your friendship, and your collaboration.  There are so many wonderful areas of existing and future cooperation I could mention:

  • scientific research,
  • trade,
  • innovation,
  • educational exchange,
  • and Arctic issues.

And I could go on!

But the party beckons, so let’s have those conversations together as we enjoy the food and drink.

Again, thank you so much for joining us today as we celebrate the Fourth of July.  The team and I are so happy to see you!

Takk fyrir!