July 4, 1776 is considered the birthday of the United States of America. Since that day 239 years ago, each July 4th people around the world reflect on what independence, freedom, and democracy mean to them. Because this year marks the 25th anniversary of Mongolia’s Decision for Democracy, the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar explored both Mongolian and U.S. democratic values at its annual 4th of July celebration. The event featured a joint exhibition of paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell and Mongolian artist L. Khadbaatar. In addition, Mongolian and U.S. perspectives on democracy and the history of U.S.-Mongolia relations were on display.
Norman Rockwell was inspired to create his Four Freedoms series by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to Congress in January 1941. In his address, President Roosevelt laid out his vision for a postwar world founded on four basic freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Likewise, L.Khadbaatar created his Pioneers series to depict those who fought courageously for democracy and freedom in Mongolia. Through his paintings, Mr. Khadbaatar compels us all to ask ourselves, “If we don’t create history, who will?”
In the weeks leading up to the 4th of July celebration, the U.S. Embassy also sponsored an online essay contest in which Mongolian young people were invited to answer the question “What does democracy mean to you?” Five of the essay writers were invited to attend the 4th of July celebration and their essays were featured in an outdoor exhibition. Shown alongside these essays were the recollections of former U.S. Embassy Mongolia community members, including former Ambassador Joseph E. Lake, and Assistant Secretary Victory Nuland, who wrote about their experiences during the Mongolian Democratic Revolution in early 1990s.
Since no July 4th Independence Day celebration would be complete without music, this year the U.S. 8th Army Band’s “Alliance Brass” traveled to Mongolia to take part in the celebration. Also on hand was N. Enkhbayar, a member of the original “Bell” band, who moved and inspired those in attendance with his famous “Bell Song,” which was the unofficial anthem for the Mongolian Democratic Revolution. Let freedom ring!