July 6th, 2010
To tell you the truth, I tried mightily last summer to advance my Senate confirmation so I could be here in Ottawa by July 4. I had been told our party on the lawn of the Ambassador’s Residence is the largest 4th of July party in the world outside of the United States. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But today definitely made up for it!
4,000 friends joined Julie, our children Wynne and Jeremy, and I for the celebration of the 234th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. It was kind of special to be able to say to those assembled: “On behalf of President Barack Obama, I want to wish each of you a happy 4th of July!”
The party was a celebration of the home state of President Obama and his family and me and my family – Illinois. Since we couldn’t be in Chicago, we brought Chicago to Ottawa. Among the invitees were all the foods you would get at an Illinois 4th of July party: deep dish pizza, Italian beef, Polish sausage, Eli’s cheese cake, beer, etc……
The Governor General’s Band of the Ceremonial Guard played American patriotic songs – their repertoire is multi–national — as guests arrived and Julie and I shook MANY hands. O Canada and the Star Spangled Banner were sung by John McDermott, whose rendition has, with good cause, become a tradition at our celebration. And my friends from Chicago, blues greats, Lynne Jordan and the Shivers, thrilled the crowd with their set. At one point several of the guests were dancing up on the stage with them!
The 4th of July is an opportunity for Americans to give thanks to those whose foresight and determination shaped the course of our nation’s history. An opportunity to give thanks to those who defined freedom as a virtue and equality as a goal.
But those values have not come without enormous cost. And so it is also a day to give thanks to the men and women in our armed forces around the world whose service and sacrifice has protected those values that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago.
It was also a chance for Julie and I to express our gratitude to the Canadian people for the grace, the kindness, and the hospitality they have shown us since we arrived as guests in your country nine months ago. From the first day, when we presented our credentials to the Governor General, through our travels across your vast and beautiful country, to those glorious Olympic Games. (Though I will say you weren’t quite as gracious as I might have liked during that hockey overtime.)
For your warmth and your friendship Julie and I will be eternally grateful.