Speech by Ambassador Paul Jones at U.S. Independence Day Celebration
Yang Berhormat Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities
Yang Amat Berhormat Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, Chief Minister of Selangor
Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri Jamaludin Jarjis, Special Envoy to the United States of America
Excellencies, Deputy Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Salam Sejahtera dan selamat petang. A very warm welcome to all.
Izinkan saya berpantun:Sirih pinang atas jambatanKemas digubah tampak berseriSelamat datang saya ucapkanKepada hadirin ke majlis ini.
It’s been an amazing year for the friendship between our peoples and our countries. The photos rolling across the screens offer glimpses of what we’ve done together.
This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the arrival of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers in Malaysia with a photo exhibit that is traveling all across the country. Wherever it’s been, the exhibit has brought together the thousands of former Volunteers and Malaysians who treasured knowing each other – I hope the exhibit rekindles memories for many of you this evening as you view it in the foyer.
Also this year, 50 bright, energetic, American college graduates are helping teach English in Malaysian schools across Pahang, Johor and Terengganu – in a program inspired by a conversation between Prime Minister Najib and President Obama. Next year, 75 American volunteers will come to help teach English, experience Malaysia’s remarkable culture, and form life-long bonds. And the English Teaching Assistant program will continue to grow.
Two nights ago, I welcomed home 40 Malaysian students who just spent six months living with American families and attending American high schools all across the United States. Maybe some of you have seen the hit reality TV show “Field Trip USA” on TV7 chronicling the amazing experiences of these YES exchange students. The alumni of this annual program have created an extraordinary alumni association that contributes to communities and supports educational exchanges. I’m delighted that several of these YES alumni are here this evening – each has stories to tell and you’ll recognize them by their enthusiastic smiles.
And there is so much more we are doing together – in entrepreneurship, science and technology, the arts, English teaching –building understanding, now and for generations to come. When I see how engaged our people are, when I meet the younger generation of Malaysians and Americans, I can’t help but be optimistic for our future.
Our leaders have been doing their part too. President Obama and Prime Minister Najib continued to meet and exchange views; President Obama’s sister Dr Maya Soetoro Ng opened a stunning exhibit of their mother’s batik collection here at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (you can still see it through July 20!); U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta and Defense Minister Dato Seri Zahid met last month; two senior U.S. Senators, McCain and Lieberman, visited Malaysia in May; US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, a member of President Obama’s cabinet, was here in April; two recent delegations of U.S. businesspeople opened new avenues for trade and investment. The list goes on and on.
In short, our ties are warm, close, and dynamic, which contributes to prosperity and security for our peoples.
To celebrate America’s 236th birthday this year, we’ve tried to give you a sense for a July 4th picnic on the south lawn of the White House – which is right behind me. Now you may say that you’d never go to a picnic with a thousand people, but I’ve been in Washington picnicking with tens of thousands, on a beautiful summer evening, listening to American music and waiting for the fireworks to begin. You’d look across to see the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. You’d probably see some folks on Harley Davidson motor cycles, just like the ones out in the foyer. You’d enjoy American picnic food, maybe a Philly Cheese steak or a hamburger, which you can taste this evening.
Hanging to your right is a flag with a personal story – it was a gift to me from my grandmother, who was a schoolteacher for almost 50 years. This flag has 48 stars, which became the standard American flag exactly 100 years ago, after the states of New Mexico and Arizona joined the Union. For half my grandmother’s life, the American flag had just those 48 stars, until Alaska and Hawaii joined the United States in 1959.
This lovely event would not be possible without outstanding support from 51 American and Malaysian businesses – you saw their names on a billboard as you came in the ballroom. Their representatives are here this evening, with star lapel pins in case you’d like to say ‘thank you.’ Let’s give them all a huge round of applause.
Now, a sneak preview of something very special. Singing our national anthems, in a cappella duet, will be Caitlynn and Caleb Savari, two talented Malaysian-Americans who studied at International School Kuala Lumpur, International College of Music in Kuala Lumpur, and are headed to the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the United States Embassy Marine Corps Color Guard – Gunnery Sergeant McNiesh!
Tan Sri, may I invite you to propose a toast?
[after American anthem] To the President.
Tan Sri, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. May I invite you to join me in a toast for the good health and well-being of His Majesty, the King, the Yang di Pertuan Agong, and the success and prosperity of the government and the people of Malaysia.
[after Malaysian anthem] To the King.
Gunnery Sergeant, retire the colors.
Thank you Caitlynn and Caleb – that was beautiful. Special thanks to the outstanding Royal Malaysian Police band. Thank you as well to our friends at the Marriot. Thanks again to our sponsors, as well as to everyone at the American embassy who put on this lovely evening.
Most of all, thank you, our guests, for honoring us with your presence.
Salam mesra. Please enjoy the evening.