Ambassador Dorothy Shea’s Remarks on the 247th Anniversary of the U.S. Independence

Delivered on June 20, 2023

On the 247th Anniversary of U.S. Independence, Ambassador Dorothy Shea delivered the following remarks:

Ahlan wa sahlan.  Masaa’ el Kheir.   I am so sad not to be there in person with all of you, our friends and distinguished guests, as we celebrate the 247th birthday of the United States of America.  But my absence is for a good cause:  I am still in Washington because I have been asked to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing for the next assignment for which I have been nominated.  Please know that I am there with you all in spirit though!

Thank you, especially to the Honorable Michel Moussa representing His Excellency Speaker Nabih Berri and Your Excellency Bassam Mawlawi representing Prime Minister Najib Mikati, for joining us this evening.  Excellencies, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and other distinguished guests, my colleagues and I are honored by your presence.   Thanks also to our generous sponsors, whose stands I encourage our guests to visit throughout the beautiful Seaside Pavilion this evening.  A special thank you to the AFCENT band, joining us tonight from Al-Udeid Air Base in Doha. And a huge thank you to my Embassy team for organizing this spectacular event and to our Marine Security Guard Detachment for the presentation of the colors.

Tonight, we are celebrating in style, recognizing an era that brought about great change for our country, as well as “far out” music, and “groovy” outfits! Yea, we are channeling the 70’s!  Makes me think of my yellow corduroy bell-bottoms I used to love as a child…

But besides the glitter of disco, the influence of Soul Train on our music and culture, and the epic beginning of the Star Wars film universe, I also wanted to speak with you all about some lessons that 1970s America may carry for today.

Considering some of the events of that decade, a person’s first thought could be that the 1970s were a “heavy” period in American history, as it was here in Lebanon.  Things weren’t all groovy.  And yet, it was the optimism and esprit de corps of the American people in that decade, that leave us with a sense of fond nostalgia for the spirit of that time in our collective memory.

It was a decade of social activism and silver-linings.  Present-day America would not be the same without the hard-fought victories for peace, our social fabric, and the environment achieved in the 1970s.  As a country, we learned that – no matter the political winds nor world events – when we the people come together with a shared vision for the future, great things are possible.

And it is a similar spirit I have observed in the people of Lebanon – of seeing past the difficulties of the present moment, and uniting with your friends, neighbors, and communities to pursue a brighter future.  It is this spirit that has inspired me over my three-year tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, and which continues to give me optimism about your country’s future.

I’m grateful to the partners I have had in the Lebanese government throughout my tenure, and proud of our work together to improve the circumstances of all Lebanon’s people.  We achieved truly notable victories, including concluding the Maritime Boundary Agreement with Israel.  That agreement — after eleven years of negotiations — is evidence of what is possible here in Lebanon and in the region beyond, when there is political will.

Speaking of the region, I know there has been a lot of attention focused on the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the possible implications for Lebanon.  We, too, are hopeful about a de-escalation of regional tensions.  But we also know that real change in Lebanon will not come from outside your country’s borders – the future is in the hands of you, the Lebanese.

We all know the actions that need to be taken, and many of the people in this very room have the power to help change Lebanon’s course – first and foremost, the Parliament should perform its sovereign duty by reaching consensus, maintaining a quorum, and electing a president who can work with an empowered government to implement reforms that get the country’s economy back on course to the benefit all Lebanese people.  We look forward to partnership with your future president, someone on whom we will count to put the interests of the country first, someone not tainted by corruption or subject to outside influence.

We also look forward to coordinating with the future prime minister and cabinet, who will play a critical role in righting this country’s path.  Let us work on Lebanon’s future together, beginning with the reforms requested by the IMF in order to jumpstart international lending to Lebanon’s economy.

Why am I still so optimistic about Lebanon’s future?  I am inspired by the opportunities I have had to engage with, learn from, and support Lebanon’s activists,students, journalists, educators, and civil society leaders.  Lebanon is unique for its diversity and the vibrance of its society, and it is this community whose voices are so critical in urging the country and your leadership, to come together to solve the most urgent and difficult issues.

During my time as Ambassador, I have been fortunate to observe the kindness, empathy, and strength of the Lebanese people – whether during the depths of the COVID pandemic, following the horrific Port of Beirut blast, or during the ongoing economic crisis. I have seen those with more assisting those less fortunate.  Neighbors and communities have come together, and the Lebanese diaspora has shared the best of what this country represents with the world, while also helping families here at home.

I encourage you to keep working together to confront the challenges this country faces.  Don’t turn your backs on one another, whether due to political or religious affiliations, national origins, or other differences.

Lebanon’s younger generation routinely gives voice to the desire to reject such divisions and work together in unity.  Whether establishing NGOs to assist in all of Lebanon’s governorates, becoming journalists, volunteering to help find solutions to the many challenges Lebanon faces, or even running for office, they have shown what is possible for everyone.  In coming together for what is best for the whole country, Lebanon can experience transformational change, not unlike that which the activism of the 1970s supported in the United States.

And throughout these efforts, as factions hopefully endeavor to come together for the best of the country and its people, the United States will continue to be here as your partner.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we are in this together.

Shukran, and enjoy the party!

Let’s groove tonight!

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