Welcome. I thank you all for being here with us to celebrate this important day in Mexico’s history.

It is extremely fortunate that we do this today here at the Mexican Cultural Institute when it hosts an exhibition of the extraordinary genius of the chiaroscuro: cinephotographer Gabriel Figueroa. Figueroa’s extensive filmography portrays, like no one else, the magic of Mexico’s light, landscape and identity.  Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the exhibit.

Two hundred and four years ago, in the small town of Dolores in Guanajuato, Mexicans began their struggle for an independent republic based on the liberal values of the Enlightenment.

If that sounds familiar, it is because the values that Mexicans hold dear are the very same values that Americans treasure—liberty, equality, democracy, freedom of religion and of the press.

Our similarities don’t stop there. Each of our countries is a rich mix of people and traditions that, despite their differences, are united by shared values and a strong sense of patriotism.

Of course, all democracies are works in progress. We must continue to grow and meet new challenges that come our way. In the past few decades, Mexico has learned that opening itself up to the world does not mean turning our back on what makes us Mexican.

Sovereignty is a fundamental principle of our history and identity, but sovereignty is based upon the legitimacy of the State, not in rejecting the rest of the world.

Legitimacy can only come from the ability to enhance well-being for all citizens in a sustained and consistent way.

The bold transformation that is taking place in Mexico today is aimed to increase the well-being of Mexicans. It is the result of a combination of strong leadership and the willingness of political actors to engage in understanding and compromise with their adversaries. The Nation is then strengthened and our democracy continues to grow and evolve.

In the perspective of our bilateral relationship, 2014 should not go down in history simply as the twentieth anniversary of our free trade pact.  It is undoubtedly a strong trade relationship, but this powerful and positive perspective has sometimes contributed to our lack of awareness of what is really happening between Mexico and the United States.

And while economic growth, market opportunities and industrial prowess are all important aspects of our North American integration, the single most important element that binds Mexico and the United States together is people.

In our people lie our strengths, our potential and our future prosperity.

For all those reasons today’s independence celebration is not just a celebration of Mexico; it is a celebration of the beliefs that gave birth to both our democracies, values that we continue to share more than 200 years later.

Thank you, and Viva Mexico!