U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick’s As Delivered Remarks at a Thanksgiving Gala Dinner


For Immediate Release

Monday, November 25, 2019
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Corinthia Hotel
Budapest, Hungary
November 25, 2019

Friends, good evening everyone, and thank you to all of you for joining us here. And thank you to the Hungarian Government for this wonderful dinner.

As you all know, this week in the United States we are preparing to celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, which commemorates a feast held by Pilgrims who fled religious persecution in Europe four hundred years ago in search of freedom in the New World across the Atlantic.

It should be no surprise, then, that the freedom to worship according to the tenets of our faith is an essential part of our national self-identity. Its unequivocal priority as the very first line in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution is, I believe, one of America’s great gifts to human civilization.

This freedom means something different to every American who has something to be thankful for. I want to tell you a little about what it means to me, but not because it’s unique. In fact, my story is the classic American story of immigration, assimilation, and striving for a better life.

Some of the particulars of my family history, however, are particularly relevant today, as I stand here in Budapest at an event supporting the freedom for Christians to follow their beliefs. That is because I am the grand-daughter of men and women who, like the Pilgrims, crossed the Atlantic to escape religious persecution. But in their cases, it was the early 1900s, and they were fleeing from the persecution of Jews in Europe. My ancestors all fled from European shores - like the original Pilgrims - but to escape anti-semitism. America offered hope, a better life, and freedom to worship without fear. And this is what we, in my family and in families like mine all across America, will gather to celebrate on Thursday.

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking about religious persecution around the world, and the efforts of courageous people and governments to counter it.

I will be speaking about celebrating the progress that the United States and Hungary have made recently, working side-by-side, in helping to restore the ancient mosaic of faiths in northern Iraq. That very special area, the Nineveh Plains, is home to many peoples, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Assyrians and others, that coexisted for millennia before being nearly flattened by ISIS four years ago.

And so tonight, as we celebrate Thanksgiving together, we should do so wholeheartedly, but under no illusions about the magnitude of the work that lies before us. In Europe and Iraq…. and also in support of Uighur Muslims in China, of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, of Christians in Northern Nigeria, and in so many other places where faith is practiced under oppression. The truest test of our devotion to religious freedom, after all, lies in our dedication to securing it … for others.

We face challenges as champions of peace and freedom for all of God’s children.

The common denominator in all of these cases.... is human liberty and dignity. Hungary has found its own freedom over the past several decades, and should take pride in its role in extending it to lift up the victims of persecution in the Nineveh Plain and around the world. We are proud to partner alongside Hungary in this noble work.

President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” Working together, we have the opportunity to rise together above stories of suffering under oppression, and to help make that vision a reality in troubled parts of the world.

And that, my friends, is indeed something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Last updated: March 24, 2020

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