Remarks of Ambassador Mark Gilbert at the 240th Anniversary of American Independence Day

Independence Day in Auckland, 2016. Photo credit U.S. State Department.

Remarks of Ambassador Mark Gilbert on the Occasion of the 240th Anniversary of American Independence Day, July 7, 2016

E ngā mana

E ngā reo

E ngā manuhiri taiea

Kia ora koutou katoa

Tēnā koutou mai tōku whenua America

Tēnā koutou mai tōku Rangatira Matua Barack Obama

Ko ngā Rocky Mountains ōku Maunga
Ko te Atlantic Ocean tōku moana

Ko Te Reo o Te Kāwanatanga o America, Mark Gilbert, ahau

Tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā koutou katoa


Members of Parliament

Colleagues in the Diplomatic Corps

…and our distinguished guests; dear friends, fellow Americans:

Today – for Independence Day – we are not celebrating the birthday of a leader or a famous battle.  We are celebrating an idea – so beautifully expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence 240 years ago.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men are created equal

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights – that among these are Life – Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Tonight – and throughout this year – we are celebrating another idea – our National Parks.  American Author Wallace Stegner said “National Parks are the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American; absolutely democratic; they reflect us at our best rather than our worst”.

August 25th marks the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service.

100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

And is there any better place to celebrate our pursuit of Life – Liberty – and Happiness than outside – in a glorious national park in the U.S. – or here in New Zealand?

As Ambassador – I have the privilege of traveling all throughout this magnificent country – and when I have a wee bit of free time – you are likely to find Nancy and me on a track exploring New Zealand’s breathtaking natural beauty.

When I think about the many things New Zealand and The United States have in common – right at the top of the list would be our countries’ nature and cultural heritage – and our commitment to preserving them.

E whakawhetai ana ahau

ki o koutou katoa i konei,

I would like to thank everyone here…

from national and local governments – Maori communities – and environmental and community associations – for the important work you do every day – to preserve and protect your natural and cultural heritage for Kiwis and visitors alike.

You all know how much I love photography – Twitter – Instagram – and the more than occasional selfie.  But capturing the beauty of our National Parks – that is something you just have to do in person!

Today – with so many new direct routes – American Airlines is now flying from Auckland to Los Angeles – and United Airlines flies to San Francisco – it has never been easier for Kiwis to experience America’s great outdoors.

I hope you will be inspired by some of the spectacular images of national parks around us tonight – and visit us – any time – any season.

So many times – including our embassy’s amazing tramp of the Tongariro Crossing – I’ve seen and learned firsthand how the Department of Conservation and the diverse people of New Zealand  are committed to maintaining these special places for the benefit – use – and enjoyment of all – just like our parks back home.  

Being in the ‘Great Outdoors’ gives us time to reflect – refresh – and rededicate ourselves to making the world a better place.

That’s exactly what happened near the turn of the last century – when John Muir – Naturalist – Environmental Philosopher – and early advocate of preservation of the wilderness – took President Teddy Roosevelt camping for four days in Yosemite.

After that hike – Roosevelt vowed to make Muir’s dream of National Parks a reality.

Around this same time – New Zealand also recognized the need to preserve natural spaces for future generations.  In 1887 – Tongariro became the first National Park in New Zealand – one of the first in the world – and the first to be gifted by a country’s indigenous people.

Ko Tongariro te maunga
Ko Taupo te moana
Ko Tuwharetoa te iwi
Ko Te Heuheu te tangata

Tongariro is the mountain
Taupo is the inland sea

Tuwharetoa is the tribe
Te Heuheu is the Chief

My chief – President Obama – returned to Yosemite last month to thank the National Park Service for 100 years of incredible dedication and service.  And like President Roosevelt – President Obama is making history when it comes to conservation.

The United States has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters.

100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

And since President Obama took office – we have protected more wildlife under the Endangered Species Act than ever before.

President Obama understands that the biggest threat to our parks is something that threatens us all:  climate change.  Rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Franz-Josef here in New Zealand – or at Glacier National Park in Montana – where scientists predict that there will be no more active glaciers by 2030.  Rising temperatures have threatened the survival of the iconic Joshua Trees in their southwestern desert habitat.

Wildfires – once a normal and beneficial part of our ecosystem – have nearly doubled in number and intensity since the 1980s – with devastating environmental – financial – and human costs. Imagine – no more Kauri trees – no more Tane Mahuta in Northland.

Nō tātou katoa ēnei papa rehia.

Nō tātou katoa hoki tēnei ao atea.

These parks belong to all of us.

This planet belongs to all of us.

Ka mahia te mahi inaianei

ki te tiaki me te whakangungu

i to tatou papa rēhia , ao atea,

mo ngā whakatupuranga e heke mai nei .

We have to act now to make sure that we protect our parks, and our planet, for future generations.

Today – there is hope on the horizon – and reason to believe that we can work together to make the next century one of cooperation and collaboration in protecting our parks.

In the U.S. – our greenhouse gas pollution is down to the lowest levels in twenty years – and we have cut carbon pollution more than any other nation.

And since President Obama took office – we have twenty times more solar and three times as much wind power.  The Trans Pacific Partnership includes stronger wildlife protections and environmental standards than any other international trade deal.  And the United States joined with New Zealand and 175 countries on Earth Day in April – signing the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.

In his trip to Yosemite – President Obama said that “the beauty of the national park system is it belongs to everybody.

It is a true expression of our democracy…

there’s this part of us that is part of everybody – something we have in common – something we share — a place where we connect with each other – and to connect to something bigger than ourselves.  What an incredible idea.  What a worthy investment.  What a precious thing we have to pass on to the next generation.”

100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
100th anniversary of our National Park Service. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

The people of Whanganui have a saying.

Ko au te awa ko te awa ko au
I am the river – the river is me

On this special 100th anniversary – thank you for joining Nancy and me to celebrate two ideas for which we remain eternally grateful: a vision of freedom that gave birth to a new nation – and the idea that our incredible natural and cultural wonders should be protected and accessible to all.

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