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Europe and Eurasia: Remarks in Honor of Poland's National Day

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Polish Ambassador's Residence
Washington, DC
April 25, 2012

Well, this is kind of the equivalent of a block party – (laughter) – held for a very good and auspicious reason, to not only celebrate the formal opening of this new residence for the ambassador from Poland to the United States, but also to mark the – Poland’s Constitution Day, a little bit early but a good occasion to do so. And so Ambassador, we are very grateful to be your guests here this evening. And I, too, shared the excitement about the President’s announcement regarding Jan Karski and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. What a fitting tribute and a great way of acknowledging the contributions of a very special man.

I’m also looking forward to welcoming my counterpart, Minister Sikorski, who could not be with us tonight, but I also heard from him, along with your president, to the NATO summit in Chicago, which has the distinction, as you’re well aware, of being the second-largest Polish city in the world. So we will be especially pleased to have the leaders of a dynamic, democratic, free, prosperous, increasingly significant Poland in Chicago. And I’m sure there’ll be opportunity for some interactions with the Polish-American community.

I want to make just three serious points. As the ambassador said, our quest for freedom goes back together to the late 18th century. We, of course, were fortunate in being able to not only seek but establish our freedom at an early time so that we now are the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Poland’s history was much more challenging over the course of the succeeding years, and that is why it is especially fitting and so satisfying to see Poland today, to see the extraordinary progress that the Polish people have made, to see their resilience rewarded. The diplomatic relations between our two countries stretches back nearly a century, but the ties between Polish and American people go back much, much further.

Today, we are close allies, working together on everything from defense to sustainable energy to innovation to information technology. And Poland does play a critical role, not only within Europe and the Euro-Atlantic alliance, but globally in helping us address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. And we continue to cherish our person-to-person ties, the great connections of family and friendship, culture, history, ideals, and values that truly binds us together.

So I am delighted to be among the many here tonight who are not only congratulating you on surviving the real estate issues incumbent upon renovating an old house – (laughter) – dealing with contractors. You’ve survived that. You can survive whatever your next assignment might be, Ambassador. (Laughter.) But also to acknowledge in front of Polish media and so many friends of Poland, how highly we value this relationship, how much we look to Polish leadership, not only in diplomacy, but in economic matters, in cultural and other issues and to look forward to the next century of our close ties and working relationship.

We are very much looking forward to our trip to Chicago, to the exchange of ideas, and the charting of the path forward for NATO. Poland is one of the critical members of NATO, the most successful alliance in the history of the world. Poland has stood with us in Afghanistan. Polish soldiers have sacrificed their lives. We really rely – we rely on Poland. And I am just one of the many people in the Obama Administration who are grateful for the leadership that we see coming from Poland in Europe, and that we expect to see helping so many places as they struggle to realize democracy.

Poland ended, just a few months ago, its chair – its presidency of the European Union. And during that presidency, the Arab Awakening occurred. And it was quite touching to me that in speaking with many of the activists from Egypt to Libya to Tunisia to beyond about what they needed to understand the path ahead of them, they were very grateful for the example and the support of the United States. But they were particularly interested in working with countries like yours that had been, in the recent years, able to achieve the solidarity necessary to chart their own course. They wanted to hear from Polish activists, Polish lawmakers, Polish diplomats, Polish businesspeople. And that was a great vote of validation to what you have achieved.

So it may not have worked at the end of the 18th century, but in the 21st century, the future and potential of Poland, in my view, is limitless. So welcome to the neighborhood. I will reciprocate your offer if you need, it would seem, probably, a bushel of sugar. (Laughter.) Just come on over. I’ll do the best I can. We’ll take up a collection along the street. (Laughter.) But we are very proud to have you representing your great country here in this neighborhood, here in this city, and here working with us side by side for the kind of future we both seek. Thank you, Ambassador. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/645