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CDA Zadrozny Independence Day celebration 2023

– July 7, 2023


CDA Zadrozny remarks as written:


Today we celebrate the 247th Independence Day of the United States of America. 


This year’s theme for our event is strength in diversity. America and Papua New Guinea share a lot in common. And in the same way that Papua New Guinea has 22 provinces including an autonomous region, America has fifty states. Behind me are those fifty flags – one flag for each state – that serve as a constant reminder that our diversity is our strength.  

When I first arrived in Papua New Guinea two years ago, whenever I asked where people where they were from I heard things like: my father is from Wewak and my mother from Alatou.  Or Mum is from West New Britian and Dad is from the Highlands.  That really surprised me.  I was not expecting that.  But then I realized that my background was no different:  my parents were from two different parts of the American– My father from Pennsylvania and my mother from Texas.  And so as I reflect on this year’s theme, strength in diversity, I am reminded of the origins of my home country, the state where I’m from, and the places that I call home.  On my father’s side, my great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Islands from Poland and settled in Pennsylvania— the flag is way over there with the original 13 colonies.  Right here is the state flag of Texas where my ancestors on my mother’s side settled in the 1840s and where I grew up.  I left Texas to go to university and then serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia. I won’t tell you what year, but it was quite some time ago. And ever since that time as I served my country all across the globe, I’ve seen the incredible human and natural diversity of this planet firsthand. What I’ve seen is that the people of the Pacific drive their own destiny. And I’ve also seen that despite our differences, we all swim in the same ocean.   


One of my first jobs after finishing my volunteer assignment in Mongolia was working at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington and then at our Peace Corps office in Solomon Islands. As a young man from Texas, the Pacific was new and exotic. I fell in love with the water, the music, the beaches, and of course, the people. 


From that job with Peace Corps I was invited to join the State Department and began my career as a U.S. diplomat which took me to Tashkent, Beijing, Shenyang, Berlin, Shanghai, back to Mongolia, Wuhan, Frankfurt and now, 25 years later, I came again to Melanesia because of my desire to partner with the people of Papua New Guinea to unlock PNG’s full potential. 


In the middle of my career, which spanned Europe and Asia and as my family grew, I looked back to the United States to find a place for our family to call home. I wanted a place that reflected the diversity of America and the values I had come to cherish as I travelled the world. The natural choice, the place where we bought our house, the place where my kids grew up, the place where I go to church, is the state of Hawaii. You can see the state flag of Hawaii hanging over there—the fiftieth state Hawaii 5-0. My family and I bought a house in the town of Kamuela, on the Big Island of Hawaii, because the waters and volcanoes, the craft markets and food stalls (just like we saw the other night at Harbourside), reminded me of my time in the Pacific so many years before.  


And the people of Kamuela are diverse. There are many indigenous Hawaiians, as well as people from all over Asia and the Pacific. It was the diversity that attracted us and welcomed us.  


And it is this diversity which makes Hawaii, and America, strong.  


We are different people who all share the same values and share same respect and dignity for human life. 


It truly is our differences that give us strength. In America, each state has votes in Congress, and each individual citizen has a vote. And in Papua New Guinea, each of the one thousand tribes has its own customs and rituals which weave together into a beautiful tapestry, much like a bilum woven with a thousand different threads.  


These different people of PNG come together to debate and vote in elections, discuss key issues in the media, and, like a choir of one thousand singers, come together with one voice.  


In PNG, diversity truly is strength. And it is our shared values and shared democracy that make PNG and America such strong partners.   


Through utilizing the diverse voices, skills, and talents, PNG will unlock her full potential. And our embassy is committed to supporting PNG’s cultural and economic independence.  


This year has been one of significant progress for us at the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby.  


One year ago, during our Independence Day event, we celebrated the founding the American Chamber of Commerce—AmCham Coral Sea.  Let’s wish them a happy first birthday!  (Peter, Ian, Materua)  (Applause.)    


Many of you were here with us in November when we opened this beautiful new $250 million dollar facility in front of me. I want to clap for that one. (Applause) 


We have also established a new embassy in Honiara in Solomon Islands, where Russ Comeau is our Chargé d’Affaires.  


In Vanuatu, we plan to open a new embassy in Port Villa later this year and to bring back the Peace Corps volunteers very soon.  


Last September in Washington, President Biden held the first Pacific Island Leaders’ Summit at the White House, and has invited all the Pacific leaders back to Washington again in just a few months for a second Pacific Islands Leaders’ Summit.  


Our presence is increasing. Our investment in human capital is increasing. Our commitment to the Pacific is increasing. But I believe that the future of the Pacific is in the hands of the people of the Pacific. Papua New Guinea is driving the change.  


The proud and diverse people of PNG are the driving force of development.  


Investment and tourism will come to PNG based on the promise, the strength, and the beauty of the people and culture of PNG.  


PNG will use its diverse strengths to forge its own future. We, the embassy of the United States and the people of America, will support whatever sovereign decisions PNG makes. We will partner when invited to partner. As PNG drives forward on the road to progress, the United States is there to support and assist, but as always, Papua New Guinea is in the driver’s seat.  


Papau New Guinea is in the driver’s seat. 


Let us never forget that while we different people, we are connected. Birds know nothing about national borders.  


And neither do fish, they swim where they may.   


Water does not know to stop flowing when it reaches a line on a map – water follows the course of the current and tide.   


When I’m in Hawaii, I look out onto the same Pacific ocean we have here. Standing on our lanai together at the end of the day, my family and I enjoy the same sunset as you do. So, despite the lines on the map and the flags that fly above those lines that tell us that we are different, in fact we are all connected. We are all one. We all breathe the same air. We all feel the warmth of the same sun. We all swim in the same ocean.   


The rights enshrined in America’s Constitution extend to all Americans. The rights established in PNG’s constitution extend to all Papua New Guinean citizens irrespective of, “race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, color, creed, religion or sex.” The rights upheld in the UN Declaration of Human Rights demand dignity and respect for every human being blessed by the Creator with life. 


We all breathe the same air.  


We all feel the warmth of the same sun.  


We all swim in the same ocean.   


Thank you.