July 10, 2019
Independence Day Reception
Welcome Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko, Undersecretary Marcin Przydacz of Poland, our honored visitor from Washington Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, colleagues, friends, and guests.
Thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate America’s 243th birthday.
I would also like to express my sincerest thanks to our many donors that made this event (and our fabulous red, white, and blue carpet) possible!
As well as our amazing musicians the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet.
And a special thanks to our outstanding Embassy Minsk team – and particularly Allison McCoy – for their tremendous hard work and dedication over many months to make today an Oscar-worthy evening.
For Americans, July 4th is a day of reflection on the costly road to freedom and independence, and the need to remain ever vigilant in its defense.
The hunger for freedom and independence is not unique to the United States. For 28 years now, Belarus has enjoyed its own status as an independent state and I can see the growing pride in being Belarusian and interest in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
It has been a great honor to represent my country in Belarus for the last year and I am very grateful to be here at such a watershed moment in the bilateral relationship and in Belarus’ history.
One of the key foundations of our bilateral relationship is the American business community in Belarus. They are America’s most visible ambassadors and as I frequently say, American companies make good neighbors!
Not only are they job creators and engines for economic development, they are responsible members of their communities.
As in the United States, American companies in Belarus help to shape the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators!
Young Belarusians working at these American companies gain valuable professional skills and like many young Americans, such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who worked at Mc Donald’s or President Barack Obama who scooped ice cream at Baskin Robins, they often carry those skills into their next job, their start-up ideas, or into government service.
American companies are leading the way in Belarus’ IT sector. From EPAM, which has some of the deepest roots, to the latest American technological leader to take up residence here Mapbox — these companies are not just providing cutting edge services; they are actively working to improve the IT ecosystem in Belarus by cultivating the next generation.
American companies also break stereotypes and bring dignity and independence to often marginalized groups in Belarusian society. The Renaissance Hotel is working with our USAID implementing partner BelAPDIMI to employ people with Down Syndrome such as our honored guests here tonight – Vassili Pavlikov and Mger Minosyan.
And this year, we saw Coca-Cola continue its environmental efforts in Yelna, protecting and restoring Belarus’ beautiful marshes and swamplands.
As I said, American companies are good neighbors!
The United States steadfastly believes that respect for human rights and freedoms are key to building prosperous, resilient, and peaceful nations. As I am sure DFM Kravchenko agrees, our two governments do not always see eye to eye. But I am also very pleased that despite our differences, we are finding areas for cooperation that contribute to regional security and Belarus’ independence and sovereignty.
Over the last year and a half, premiere American law enforcement agencies the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Drug Enforcement Administration, better known in the movies as the FBI and DEA, signed memoranda of understanding with the Government of Belarus to work on issues of mutual interest such as improving border security.
And through assistance provided by the Department of Energy and the Department of State’s own Export Control and Border Security Office, we have partnered to increase Belarusian capacity to identify security threats to Belarus and its neighbors.
And it is not just my government. Thanks to the generosity of individual Americans, businesses, faith-based groups, and other private organizations, I am very proud to say that the United States is the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to Belarus.
But I am excited to be here for more than these reasons. For me, it is a great honor to watch Belarus’ next generation – a generation who has known only a sovereign and independent Belarus – grow into its own.
Whether it is talking to young entrepreneurs at IMAGURU, hosting a girl shadow, or engaging with alumni of our Community Connections or IVLP programs throughout the country, I am so impressed with the Belarusian people and proud that we can help them reach their full potential.
In the words of Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala – arise young Belarus!
Занімай, Беларусь маладая мая, cвой пачэсны пасад між народамі!