Remarks by AIT Acting Director Brent Christensen at AIT Independence Day Reception

July 2, 2015
AIT Official Text #: OT-1515


Speaker Wang, Secretary General Kao, Deputy Minister Kao, Chairperson Chang, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon and welcome.

We are honored to have all of you with us today, as we celebrate the 239thbirthday of the United States of America.  We are especially pleased to have U.S. House Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson here today to join our celebration.  I encourage you to meet and interact with her later.

Before we begin our celebration today, I want to take a moment to express the American Institute in Taiwan’s heartfelt condolences to the victims and families affected by the tragic incident at the Formosa Fun Coast water park last week.  While this July 4 event today is a happy occasion, we want the people of Taiwan to know that we stand with them at this time of sorrow.

On the Fourth of July, we reflect upon the values of freedom, democracy, equality, and justice that shape the United States – values that we share with Taiwan.  The friendship between the people of Taiwan and the United States has only grown closer through the years, and the U.S.-Taiwan relationship today is stronger than ever.

This day is also an opportunity to recall the major strides we have made together over this past year.  We have worked together to not only strengthen the traditional areas of cooperation in our unofficial relationship, but also to address new transnational issues, such as environmental protection, disaster relief, health security, development assistance, and combating human trafficking.  Time and again, Taiwan has demonstrated its generosity as a donor and its willingness to contribute to global relief and assistance efforts.  It became a member of the international anti-ISIL coalition and provided relief to refugees in northern Iraq.  When the Ebola outbreak struck, Taiwan, in coordination with the United States, made donations to meet the most urgent needs of patients in affected countries.  It then established a training center to help equip health workers in the Asia-Pacific region with the tools needed to contain infectious disease outbreaks.

Last month, we signed the Global Cooperation and Training Framework MOU, which will further strengthen our collaboration to expand Taiwan’s constructive regional and global influence.  Taiwan has a wealth of expertise and experience to share with the world, and we look forward to continuing to help Taiwan elevate its international profile and earn the respect and dignity it deserves from the international community.

What stands out in all of these examples are the core values underpinning the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.  Our people value hard work and innovation, we cherish individual freedoms, and we share a commitment to democracy, human rights, rule of law, and transparency.  As our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton so fittingly said in remarks a few months ago, we consider Taiwan to be a vital partner of the United States.  It is a democratic success story and a force for good in the world.  Taiwan shares our values, has earned our respect, and will continue to merit our support.

The United States and Taiwan both place great emphasis on preserving and protecting the environment and natural heritage.  In fact, I just climbed Mt. Jade a few days ago and was deeply impressed by its breathtaking beauty.  Therefore, it is very appropriate that the theme of this year’s celebration be national parks.  Some of the national parks in the United States were the first government-protected wilderness areas ever to exist in the world.  These parks embody American values and the adventurous spirit that we hold so dear.  The list of U.S. national parks literally runs from A to Z, from Acadia National Park in New England to Zion National Park in my home state of Utah.  They are not only windows into the wonders of nature, but also sacred grounds that tell the story of the American experience and reveal the histories of our indigenous peoples.  We encourage you all to visit these national treasures.

I also wanted to note that this month marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, the world’s first comprehensive law guaranteeing equal rights to people with disabilities.  The ADA has inspired the world to see disability issues through the lens of equality and opportunity.  We commend Taiwan for its decision to voluntarily adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and look forward to working together to promote inclusion, access, and equal opportunity for everyone.

Since I will soon be leaving Taiwan, I would like to take this opportunity to bid you all a fond farewell.  I first came to Taiwan in the late 1970s and then returned in 1989 for my first assignment in the Foreign Service.  In this most recent assignment, I not only found that Taiwan remained the friendly, welcoming place I remembered from my previous visits, but that it has continued to evolve into a vibrant and diverse democracy.

And now, I would like to offer a toast: To the deep and abiding relationship between the people of the United States of America and the people of Taiwan.