Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate America’s 239th year of independence, and the long-standing ties between our two countries. Thank you, Your Excellencies, Member of Parliament Bazzi, Deputy Prime Minister Mokbel, for representing Presidents Berri and Salam tonight.
Thanks, also, to our generous sponsors, whose logos are displayed on the screens above. Their presence and support are crucial to the success of this celebration. Finally, a special thanks to the children’s choir, the musicians, and our Marine Security and Local Guard Force for the presentation of arms and display of colors.
We celebrate American independence early this year out of respect for the holy month of Ramadan, which will coincide with the Fourth of July. We wish the Muslim community a blessed holy month.
Tonight is an occasion to reflect on the strength of the Lebanese-American relationship. It is a relationship that stretches back before the independence of my country, when merchant ships from Boston, Massachusetts visited Beirut port to do business. It stretches back to the early nineteenth century, when American educators and missionaries came to Beirut and Mount Lebanon, a presence that led to the founding of several great American-Lebanese universities and high schools that flourish today. It deepened with the arrival of Lebanese immigrants in my country, searching for new opportunities as America and its economy grew. Their descendants, proud Americans of Lebanese origin, have contributed so much to the development of America, and I salute those here tonight. Many helped fund this event.
America and Lebanon have deep bonds of friendship, business, culture, and education. These bonds are enduring because they spring from the commitments and effort of private Americans and private Lebanese. But my government is proud to support these relationships through robust assistance and cultural and educational exchange programs that benefit Lebanese from all parts of Lebanon and all walks of life.
$70 million this past year to deliver clean water and support high quality education, almost $83 million since last August to the Lebanese army to protect its borders and safeguard its citizens, $800 million since 2012 to help Lebanon and local communities cope with the burden of Syrian refugees. These are just a few examples of how my government supports Lebanon at a time of stress.
Extremist groups from across the border seek to sow seeds of hate, divide the Lebanese people, and destroy our shared values of mutual respect and understanding. It will take time and perseverance, but those extremists will fail, so long as the Lebanese people remain committed to their state institutions, true to their values which are so much stronger than the false ideology of extremism, and stand by their army and security services.
Those institutions, after all, alone have the legitimate role of defending the state and its borders, and are accountable to all the Lebanese people. For our part, America and the international community are absolutely committed to helping Lebanon achieve these goals, by contributing to the army’s means to defend Lebanon.
Thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate this partnership and America’s independence. As I prepare to leave later this year I am once again grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my country for a third time in Lebanon and rejoin so many Lebanese friends. Lebanon has always been a big part of my life, and it always will be. I leave confident that our relationship is on a strong foundation to the benefit of both our countries. Thank you.