Let me first say – welcome! How good it is to see all of you and celebrate together. Second – Happy Independence Day. Today, we celebrate the 246th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. Tonight, the oldest republic in the hemisphere parties with the youngest. Minister, the dance-off begins immediately after the speeches.
In all seriousness, tonight is a celebration of democracy, not just ours – but the democratic history and heritage that define this region – and the brave women and men from Boston to Bridgetown who sacrificed so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we have today.
This is my seventh Independence Day as the United States Ambassador to Barbados. That’s longer than most diplomatic tours. However, our first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, served nine years in Paris. So, two more years in the Caribbean sounds perfect to me.
We celebrate tonight in the month of June, which is Caribbean-American Heritage Month. We began this month together, as mentioned, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. There President Biden and Vice President Harris met with CARICOM leaders to address the overlapping challenges of COVID-19, the impact of climate change, food and energy insecurity, and lack of access to financing.
Those conversations and the commitments that followed are grounded in the hard work we have done together here on this island. All of you – in one way or another – have contributed to the partnership between Barbados and the United States, and our cooperation produces results.
Barbadians are better protected against COVID-19 because of the 140,000 vaccines donated by the United States and the delivery of 100,000 more through COVAX. But those shots are not useful in a box. The men and women of the Ministry of Health; frontline workers in hospitals, polyclinics, and pop-up sites; and community leaders and members of the media brought lifesaving vaccines to the people of Barbados.
On climate, another challenge that does not respect borders, communities in Holetown and Trents have not seen water enter their homes over the last few days because of $5.3 million in flooding resilience funding from USAID. But we cannot fight climate change alone. Only through partners like CDEMA and CIMH are we able to support Caribbean climate resilience and response. Their skills, knowledge, and networks will continue to guide our collaborative efforts. Whether through drones to gather climate data or automatic weather stations for forecasting, we have and we will continue to provide the tools necessary to keep Barbadians safe.
It is not surprising then at the Summit of the Americas that President Biden agreed that Barbados and the countries of the Caribbean need flexible tools to meet the challenges of climate change, food security, and economic development. He announced $28 million in new food security assistance for the Caribbean. He pledged to work with international financial institutions to respond to the Caribbean’s unique challenges.
Prime Minister Mottley reminded us in L.A. that “There’s so much trouble in the world.” And the rising prices at the pump and the grocery store stem in part from COVID-disrupted supply chains and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Barbados and the United States have stood together on both of these crises – the pandemic and the war in Europe – recognizing the dignity of the human person, and the birthright of everyone to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must continue to stand together – for the health of our people and the health of an international system that stands up to unprovoked aggression.
It has been 80 years since Errol Barrow took to the skies to defend democracy, 80 years since supply chains were threatened in this region – not by COVID but by Nazi submarines. And to those who would say “well that’s a long time ago,” I will remind you that this country is home to many of the world’s centenarians. History is important. Memory is important.
History and memory are not limiting but liberating. They have brought us together tonight under a rainbow of colors that celebrates the human right to be who we are. They have shaped and molded the strong U.S.-Barbados relationship since the time of our first diplomatic mission on Lower Broad Street nearly two centuries ago to Wildey tonight.
So with one foot grounded in that shared history of partnership, and the other poised to take the next step in our journey together, let me offer a toast:
To the people of the United States as we celebrate the anniversary of our independence;
And to the people of Barbados as you continue your own republican journey;
To our friendship and its bright future;
-U.S. Ambassador Ambassador Linda Taglialatela on the occasion of the 4th July Celebrations in Barbados