Mr. Minister, Excellencies, dear friends – welcome to our Fourth of July celebration. Thank you for joining us this evening.
This year, as well as celebrating 241 years of U.S. independence, we celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan. It is also 99 years since Azerbaijan became an independent state in 1918, inaugurating a democratic republic that was, among its other achievements, the first Muslim republic to give women the right to vote. This is an important democratic step which was achieved here even before women enjoyed the same right in the United States, and an achievement of which Azerbaijan is rightfully proud.
For the people of the United States, the Fourth of July is a celebration of our democracy. We do not celebrate democracy as something completed, a task accomplished in 1776 when we declared our independence. Instead, we celebrate democracy as an ongoing conversation, a continuing process. It has been 241 years since the United States declared its independence, but the conversation still goes on about how to best live up to our core values. We question ourselves – constantly and unflinchingly. You will find few critics of America stronger than those who live within our own borders. Our culture of self-examination and the drive constantly to improve makes us who we are, and makes us strong. We are a work in progress – every democracy is.
Experience shows democracy is about more than political activities. It also, for example, has an important role in realizing economic success. Think about it: democracy is about the power of the individual to be creative, to be able to compete effectively within a fair environment, characterized by the rule of law, to bring about positive change, to provide ideas, goods, and services consumers want, and to boost public prosperity and well-being.
Democratic principles, such as accountable governance and the rule of law, are critical for stability, prosperity, and success. This is why, for a quarter of a century, we have supported Azerbaijan’s goal to have a diversified economy as an engine for jobs and growth, new opportunities for investment, and a creative, innovative cadre of entrepreneurs to boost economic growth and prosperity.
The United States has been here since the beginning; we have stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Azerbaijan since its independence. We will continue to support an independent, stable, prosperous, and democratic Azerbaijan. We will continue to work tirelessly together for a better future for our two countries.