Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pursuit of liberty

The U.S. ambassador to Japan toasted the Fourth of July with a declaration of American support for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Just as we did in two world wars in Europe and Asia and just as we are doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are using our strength in support of freedom and to aid those living under tyranny so that all the world’s citizens may enjoy the blessings that Americans have celebrated each July 4th for 231 years: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer said.

His Independence Day message, posted on the U.S. Embassy Web site (, has become a tradition. Mr. Schieffer wrote his first one two years ago, after he assumed the post as Washington’s envoy in Japan. Other U.S. ambassadors marked the holiday with fireworks, hot dogs and other American traditions. The ambassador in Saudi Arabia talked about his ancestors at the Boston Tea Party, while the ambassador in Brazil posted a greeting on his embassy’s Web site ( in Portuguese with a smiling Uncle Sam.

In Tokyo, Mr. Schieffer has used the Fourth of July as an opportunity to explain what makes America a “beacon of hope for more than three billion people in the world who still lack freedom and protection of their basic human rights.”

He wrote, “I have yet to find a better expression of these values than what the authors of the … Declaration of Independence wrote on July 4, 1776:

” ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ ”

In Dublin, Ambassador Thomas C. Foley invited “over a thousand of the embassy’s closest friends” for a weekend “blow-out party” to celebrate the Fourth, the embassy said on its Web site (

Mr. Foley noted that the holiday has “taken on legendary overtones for Americans.”

“It is often the source of great pride to claim being born on July 4,” he said, citing the famous Broadway song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, an Irish-American who wrote and performed “Yankee Doodle Boy.”

Like other ambassadors in their holiday messages, Mr. Foley delved into history to explain the American Revolution from the opening shots at Lexington and Concord in 1775 to the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

“At the end of the war for independence, the people living in America were so elated at their victory that they offered to crown the military leader … and make him king,” Mr. Foley said, referring to George Washington, who instead resigned his commission and retired to his Potomac River plantation, Mount Vernon.

Washington’s retirement was short-lived. He was elected the first president under the Constitution in 1789.

“Washington … set in place much of the structure for the executive branch of the federal government,” Mr. Foley said.

Ambassador Ford M. Fraker in Saudi Arabia recounted the exploits of his ancestor, Thomas Fraker, who joined other Patriots at the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the most famous act of defiance against Britain before the war. The ambassador joked that his British-born wife, Linda, calls the holiday “good riddance day.”

Ambassador Victor Ashe held four Independence Day celebrations across Poland on Monday.

“America’s support of liberty and freedom rings true in Poland,” he said.

In Brazil, Ambassador Clifford Sobel authorized a holiday greeting in Portuguese with a cartoon of Uncle Sam, who looked a bit like a leprechaun, saying:

“Feliz 4 de Julho.”

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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