September 6, 2019
Ambassador Blome’s Remarks at the 2019 Independence Day Celebration
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening and welcome! Thank you for joining us. Thanks in particular for adjusting your schedules to allow us to host you on September 6 instead of July 4! I would like to thank in particular:
His Excellency Kamel Morjane, Interim Head of Government;
The Honorable Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Mayors;
Heads of Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations;
Representatives of Tunisia’s civil society
I would like to thank our sponsors for tonight’s event, as well as our musicians: Houyem Ghattas, Nightcall with Najet Ounis, and Tunisia 88. To the soldiers and guards providing security tonight – thank you.
This evening is a celebration of friendship between one of the world’s oldest democracies and one of its youngest. The United States held its first presidential elections in 1788. 226 years later, Tunisians went to the polls to elect a new president and parliament. The concerns that exist in any new democracy were here in 2014. Would the process be legitimate? Would there be violence? Would people accept the results?
Tunisians overcame these doubts, they responded with courage, and did what people in democracies across the world do. They made their voices heard, with ink-stained fingers as proof.
And Beji Caid Essebsi – الله يرحمه – became Tunisia’s president. His leadership and legacy as Tunisia’s first democratically-elected president will not be forgotten, and we honor him this evening.
As we mourn President Essebsi, Tunisia’s friends have watched with admiration as Tunisia quickly moved toward early elections guided by its constitution and its laws. Tunisia demonstrated that while this democracy may be young, it is strong. Looking forward to September 15, Tunisians will have the right to do what many around the world still yearn to do – to vote and have their voices counted.
The United States is proud to support Tunisia, as a fellow democracy and partner. We are working throughout the country with the Tunisian government on projects to help unleash the enormous potential of the Tunisian economy, especially its private sector. Tunisia’s greatest resource of course is its talented and energetic workforce. They are starting businesses and creating jobs, and they will be Tunisia’s real engine of economic growth. We are working directly with hundreds of small and medium sized firms across all regions of Tunisia to help them identify new markets and opportunities.
We are also working hard to expand bilateral trade and investment between our two countries. The United States is now the top export market for Tunisian handicrafts. Tunisia’s brand is on the rise in the U.S., with New York restaurants serving Cap Bon harissa, and homes across America displaying Nabeul pottery and Kairouan carpets. Organic Tunisian olive oil is a hot product on American supermarket shelves, and my fellow Americans eat a lot of Tunisian dates – more than 90 million dinars worth in 2018. But more than this, we want to see U.S. business find more investment opportunities in Tunisia; U.S. firms bring high standards, advanced technology, and global outlooks.
We also work very closely with Tunisia on security issues, because we face shared threats that cross borders, and we recognize that economic prosperity and democratic development require security for Tunisians. The country’s security personnel have made courageous efforts to tackle terrorism and extremism, and I salute Tunisia’s brave soldiers and security officers who make great sacrifices every day to keep their country safe.
One of the lessons of American history is that becoming a democracy is never finished, its high ideals never fully realized. Instead, each generation in turn struggles to nurture, protect, and improve their democracy, and then hands that leadership to the next. Our proudest moments as a nation have come when Americans stood to defend the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice that are democracy’s foundation, and which we celebrate tonight on Independence Day. I believe Tunisians share these ideals – and for that reason I am optimistic for Tunisia’s future.
To all of Tunisia, we stand with you – side by side as fellow democracies – and we are proud to be a partner and friend.
I would now like to invite our Guest of Honor, the Interim head of government to say a few words.