Celebrating the 246th Anniversary of American Independence Day

Remarks by Consul General David J. Ranz
June 30, 2022 | Mumbai

(As prepared)

Good evening and thank you to everyone here for joining us to celebrate the birthday of the United States.
As many of you are aware, I am departing Mumbai in a few short weeks.  I’m thrilled that for the first time in my tenure, we’re able to gather together on this important day to share stories, and get reacquainted. That in and of itself is worth celebrating!

Also, this speech is doing double duty, marking both our independence day and my farewell.  So buckle up; it’s going to be a bit of a long ride.

I wish I could personally thank each and every one of you here tonight, but there are a couple of people who deserve special mention. It’s an honor to be joined by our Chargé d’Affaires Pat Lacina, who came from Delhi just to be with us tonight. I want to thank Pat for her steady leadership of the U.S. Mission in India and wise counsel during her time as Chargé.

I also want to thank BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal for graciously agreeing to be our chief guest tonight. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Commissioner Chahal is one of the heroes of the Indian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has worked tirelessly and successfully to balance managing the health crisis with keeping one of the world’s largest cities running and functioning smoothly.  During the darkest days of the pandemic, Commissioner Chahal and his staff provided tremendous support to my team. The demands on his time and resources have been unfathomable, and yet whenever I have called, he has answered the phone; and whatever the problem, he has solved it efficiently and effectively.  His leadership was critical to saving countless lives.  So please join me in expressing our profound appreciation tonight to Commissioner Chahal.

I also want to thank my wife Taly, who flew in yesterday from Islamabad to join us in saying goodbye.  Taly has been my partner in this thirty-year (and counting) journey in the Foreign Service, a constant source of sage advice and support.  While working full time for USAID, Taly enthusiastically volunteered to support the consular team in the evacuation of over 2,000 American citizens in April 2020; and throughout her time here, she tutored young Indian women in political science, taking advantage of that opportunity to educate herself about India’s rich constitutional traditions.  Taly, thank you for your contributions to our community here in Mumbai, and for a lifetime of love and partnership.

And I want to thank Yasmina Chergui, Kevin Barlow, and Matthew Jernstedt, who did a phenomenal job heading the consulate committee that made tonight possible.  And so many others in the consulate, from the Regional Security Office to all our volunteers; it takes a team to put this kind of event together, and I’m blessed to have an outstanding one.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of U.S.-India diplomatic ties. As you look around the room tonight, you will see a variety of displays celebrating those 75 years together. And as I look at those photos, I see a couple of overarching themes—namely: diversity, shared values, and commitment to democracy.

When it gets down to the basics, these three things are what make our two democracies uniquely special, forming the basis of our partnership.

Of these, I would like to focus tonight on diversity.  As I have often commented, I do not think it a coincidence that New York, my birthplace, and Mumbai, my adopted Indian home, are among the most diverse cities in the world; and among the most economically prosperous and culturally vibrant cities in the world.  Our diversity is the source of our strength.  India’s incredible diversity of people, religions, cultural and political traditions, food – all this and more – are what make this country such an amazing, dynamic place.

For our part, diversity in America begins with our people. We are a nation of immigrants.  With the exception of native Americans, every one of us comes from somewhere else, if not personally, then through our ancestors. Just within our own consulate community, while each of our diplomats are American citizens, many of us are also first-generation immigrants hailing from countries around the world, including Korea, China, Ethiopia, Morocco, Bulgaria, Jordan, as well as India.  And this list would be much longer if we included the first-generation immigrant family members among us, include Taly.  Their disparate faces are the face of America.

So how fitting, then, that our Independence Day comes on the heels of a month in which we celebrate—and reflect on —the value of our diversity.  June is Pride Month, an opportunity to show support for the self-affirmation, dignity, and equality of LGBTQI+ persons.  And on June 19, we celebrated Juneteenth, a new federal holiday in which we commemorate the final and true emancipation of enslaved Black people in the furthest reaches of the Confederacy who received delayed news of their freedom from slavery two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The flag marking that occasion is currently displayed in our atrium, along with the Black Lives Matter flag.

Promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility infuses everything we do in Mumbai; and of all our achievements, I am perhaps most proud that we have established ourselves as allies and supporters of historically marginalized communities in India, including women, religious minorities, victims of caste and color discrimination, and people with disabilities.

Our Public Diplomacy Section has been particularly active in supporting India’s queer community through a nine-month dialogue series entitled “Beyond the Binary,” which brought together Indian and American leaders in civil society, law, business, and academia to share their experiences supporting the LGBTQI+ community, and celebrate their achievements.

We’ve also done tremendous work advancing women’s economic empowerment. Our USAID team and Public Diplomacy Section, in support of the U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment, brought together private sector leaders to address bridging the gender gap in STEM employment and education.  Our Development Finance Corporation team has collaborated with innovative Indian companies to assist women in agricultural regions in opening their own bank accounts, empowering women to control finances for their families. From the entrepreneurial business leaders I met in Goa, to the computer engineers I held a fireside chat with at General Electric’s “Brilliant Factory” in Pune, I have been encouraged by how India’s private sector is empowering women.

That same commitment to diversity is also reflected in how we engage, recruit and enable Indian students to study in the United States.  As we work to facilitate greater student exchange and collaboration between U.S. and Indian higher education institutions, we are committed to increasing the ranks of women, students with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Roughly 20% of all foreign students in the United States – currently around 220,000 – are Indian.  We are, of course, thrilled that the future leaders of India are coming to develop and share their intellectual talents with the future leaders of the United States, and we are committed to supporting this in every way we can.

Earlier this month, our Consular Team held its annual Student Visa Day—the first since 2019—issuing more than 1,300 student visas in a single day. These students and tens of thousands more will receive visas by summer’s end. That is our commitment to you.

Many of those students will go on to start companies, join investment firms, or move into executive positions with some of the world’s largest multinationals. These graduates recognize the enormous potential of the U.S.-India economic relationship. In fact, U.S. companies are so bullish on India that cumulative U.S. direct investment in India reached about $41 billion in 2020, and U.S. companies have remained the largest investors in India.

Meanwhile, India’s share of Foreign Direct Investment into the U.S. totals almost $13 billion, contributing over $2 billion to U.S. exports each year and supporting more than 70,000 American jobs.  Just this week, our Foreign Commercial Service team led the largest-ever Indian delegation to attend the annual Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, DC.

And we continue to be India’s most important trading partner.  Over the past two decades, our two-way trade has grown by leaps and bounds, creating jobs, and benefiting Indians and Americans alike. Our bilateral trade in goods and services increased by more than 23 percent from 2019 to 2021, setting a record high of $159 billion, despite the pandemic.  For the first quarter of this year, we have seen bilateral goods trade increase by more than 27% over the first quarter of 2021.

And our Foreign Agricultural Service team has not only afforded me the opportunity to fulfill a bucket list item, appearing on multiple cooking shows with such Indian culinary icons as Sanjeev Kapoor and Rakhee Vaswani; they have also been instrumental in generating a massive increase of U.S. agricultural exports to India, providing access for Indian consumers to a wider variety of choice and high-quality foods and beverages, some of which we are all enjoying today.  All of this bodes well for the continued expansion of economic ties between India and the United States.

And our most important area of expanding cooperation: addressing the climate crisis.  We are working tirelessly with our Indian partners to achieve the goals laid out by India and the United States at COP26 in Glasgow. Frankly, the world is counting on India and the United States to lead.  We are rising to that challenge.

Our Political-Economic Section has supported a flood water mapping project that will help mitigate the effects of flooding in coastal Maharashtra; we helped a U.S. non-profit partner with the Maharashtra government to promote electric vehicles; and we have provided over $1 billion in financing and investment for renewable energy in India.

In the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, our Management team has systematically made our consulate footprint more eco-friendly, to include replacing petrol vehicles and equipment with electric; landscaping with native plants to reduce water usage; and maximizing the recycling of materials and wastewater.  I am proud to announce that these efforts have earned our consulate grounds official certification as a Wildlife Habitat by the U.S. National Wildlife Federation.

And Taly and I have been impressed by the myriad ways India is promoting environmentally-sustainable tourism, from the women-owned e-rickshaws we enjoyed during our memorable visit to the Statue of Unity; to projects to ensure local tribal communities have an economic stake in tourism and conservation at the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

And speaking of tourism, I think it is clear to everyone who knows me that my family and I have taken maximum advantage of the infinite travel opportunities India has to offer.  We have had the privilege of visiting twelve Indian states.  We’ve eaten at hundreds of restaurants, truck stops and road-side stands.  We’ve had the incredible good fortune to see dozens of wild tigers, scores of rhinos, hundreds of species of spectacular birds, and even a black leopard, all in their natural habitats.  We’ve stayed in some of India’s most storied heritage hotels, and in village homes.  We’ve visited Buddhist stupas, Hindu and Jain temples, Sikh gurdwaras, Muslim mosques, Christian cathedrals, Jewish synagogues, and more palaces and forts than I can count.  We’ve traveled the length and breadth of this glorious country, truly experiencing its extraordinary diversity.

I’ve worked with amazing colleagues, and made friends from every corner of the country, who I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Many are here today.  Three years wasn’t enough – particularly given the lockdowns – but it was a start.  We will miss you and Mumbai; and will be back, and often.  Meanwhile, I look forward to staying in touch as Taly and I move to our next assignment in Hawaii.

As I prepare to depart India, I leave with a sense of accomplishment, and full of optimism, absolutely confident in the bright future of our two nations, and in the strength of the U.S.-India partnership.  Our people and indeed the world is counting on this relationship to thrive.  As we march forward together, the world’s oldest and largest democracies, we must continue to remind ourselves that we are not flawless.  We strive every day to improve, to hold ourselves accountable, and to become more perfect unions.  In so doing, we will become even deeper partners, and even better friends.

And that is something to celebrate – so please join me in raising a glass and toasting to the 75th anniversary of U.S.-India relations and to our continued enduring friendship.

Thank you again for coming tonight, and a heartfelt farewell until we meet again.