Prayer and Meditation for Walter Mondale by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen

At the May 1, 2022 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, delivered the following prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

“Let us pray:”

 “Gracious God, we gather in this Easter season to give you thanks and   praise for the life and witness of Walter F. Mondale. In remembering him and his legacy of public service, help us recall the source of the values that guided him. You summon us to seek justice, to uphold the full humanity of all, to ensure equal access – and to do so with kindness and humility. Your servant Fritz embraced those gospel ideals.”

“As we face the mystery of death help us, we pray, to see the light of eternity, the light that now shines on Fritz, Joan, and Eleanor. With the power of a love that knows no bounds, hold them close, and comfort and encourage all who continue to struggle for the world you desire for the human community.”

 “ In your name we pray. Amen.”

 Meditation

“Fritz Mondale was born into a home steeped in biblical wisdom and solid, southern Minnesota common sense. Theodore, his Methodist-pastor father, would have trained for the ministry in the time when the social gospel was ascendant. The values of doing good and making the world a better place for all were taught in the Mondale household and in Sunday School by Fritz’s mother, Claribel, who also played the piano at church.”

“’I believe I attended more church services,’ Fritz once said, ‘Sang in more weddings and funerals, attended more Sunday Schools, than any public official in the history of southern Minnesota.’”

“His family drew from the well of Methodist teaching that linked passion, discipline, intellect, and concern for ‘the least of these.’ It was a potent combination of a heart aflame with rigorous commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society. That theological context formed young Fritz, and it would define his character all his life.”

“’My faith and my family have been my greatest blessings in my life,’ he said in a speech not long ago.  ‘I was taught that ours was a faith of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Like many of us in the Protestant world, Fritz did not wear religion on his sleeve. In fact, he was suspicious of anyone who did. His was a Beatitudes-based faith, drawing on the simple teaching of Jesus: ‘Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God.’”

“Fritz found the holy in what Wendell Berry calls ‘the peace of wild things,’ whether at their cabin in the St. Croix Valley or fishing up north. His work in protecting rivers was driven by home-grown Minnesota commitment to stewardship of the earth. ‘Wilderness is a spiritual necessity,’ Sigurd Olson said in words that Fritz lived, ‘A means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.’ An usher at church this morning told me how grateful he and his fishing buddies are for what Fritz did to protect the rivers of this land. He said he never got a chance to thank him in person. So, on his and his buddies’ behalf, Thank you, Fritz.”  (Olson, The Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness (1961))

“Every time Fritz referred to his upbringing – which he did regularly – it was his way of remembering what had shaped his life and formed the person he became.”

“The Mondales were faithful members of the church I serve, Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis. Joan’s father was a Presbyterian chaplain at Macalester College, which Fritz attended before the U of M. He met Joan on a blind date at Macalester. It was the start of their beautiful life together.”

“The nation saw and admired Fritz’ public service; I did, too, and as his pastor I also saw the husband and father who deeply loved his family. The loss of Eleanor tore open his heart, and Joan’s death took part of his life, as well. Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of whom are women. As Joan declined, Fritz tenderly cared for her right to the end, rarely leaving her side.”

“Toward the end of his life, he said he looked forward to being with them both again. Fritz trusted in the power of God’s love in this life and the next. He was not concerned about the state of his soul.”

“Shortly after his 90th birthday party, held here at the University, I had lunch with him. As I sometimes do with older parishioners, I asked if he ever thought about the end of life. He glanced around the noisy place, leaned forward, and said quietly, ‘In the strict confidentiality of this room, I will tell you that I will be the first person to live forever. I’ve made the arrangements.’”

“I thanked him for letting me in on the secret.”

“’Actually,’ he said, ‘I understand it happens to everyone at some point. Do you think Carter will come?’”

“President Carter has sent words we will hear later, but he was able to be here for Joan’s memorial service in Westminster’s sanctuary and gave a moving tribute to her and to the life partnership she had with Fritz.”

“Walter Mondale may not have been concerned about the state of his soul, but he was concerned about the state of his nation, especially in recent years.”

“The rise of the religious Right as a powerful force in American politics was a source of considerable consternation to him. ‘Tell me what’s going on with these fundamentalist preachers,’ he would say to me – as if I knew.”

“Fritz understood neither the Christianity they espoused nor the politics they practiced. Both were utterly foreign to his way of living out a quiet faith through public policy aimed squarely at justice for those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history. His Christianity was kind and humble. It confounded him when fellow believers were neither.”

“Once when we were at a meal in a restaurant word got out in the kitchen that the vice-president was eating there.  The kitchen door opened and one-by-one the dishwashers and bussers, all of them immigrants, came out to shake his hand and thank him for his service to the nation. Fritz treated each one with respect and dignity.”

“On his office desk, Fritz had taped some lines from Psalm 15. The Hebrew poet provided the scriptural framing of the politics he practiced. As I read these words, contrast them with much of what passes for political leadership today (present company excepted):

Lord, who can be trusted with power, and who may act in your place? Those with a passion for justice, who speak the truth from their hearts; who have let go of selfish interests and grown beyond their own lives; who see the wretched as their family and the poor as their flesh and blood. They alone are impartial and worthy of the people’s trust. Their compassion lights up the whole earth, and their kindness endures forever.”

“Theodore and Claribel’s son, born 94 years ago, grew up and entered political life and served his beloved Minnesota and our nation for decades, never wandering far from his roots.”

Thanks be to God for the life of Fritz Mondale.

“Thanks be to God for love that cannot be taken from us.

 “Thanks be to God.

  “Amen.”

Background on Westminster Presbyterian Church[1]

Westminster was founded in Minneapolis in 1857 by eight people of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh heritage and moved to its current location at 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1883 and its current Sanctuary at that location in 1897. Its latest expansion was in 2018, when a modern two-story  40,000 square-foot wing was added with church bells crafted in France. (Here are photographs of the church.)

With over 3,000 members today, Westminster is “an engaged, urban partner sharing good news with a world in need of God’s peace, love, and justice [as a] vibrant, open-minded congregation.” It “is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds deepen their faith and make a difference in the world.” It “offers ministries in adult, children, and youth education; music and the arts; and social justice, with a highly engaged congregation that welcomes and cares deeply for all people within and beyond its walls.”

Westminster is “an open and affirming congregation” that “because of our commitment to the love and justice of Jesus Christ, . . .fully welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.” It “was involved in the movement to change the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards to allow any church member to freely serve and be elected as a minster, elder, or deacon. Our church was a leader in the movement for marriage equality in the State of Minnesota and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to the legalization of marriage equality, Westminster’s pastors celebrated the love and commitment of same-sex couples, and continue now to happily officiate at weddings recognized by the State of Minnesota.”

Westminster has “heightened awareness of the systemic and critical issues affecting our community, brought to greater attention in recent years, most especially in response to the murder of George Floyd. Through [adult education] we will learn about long-standing needs, and become more prepared to support all members of our community. In arriving at this theme, we are guided by the beliefs we share with congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), “God sends the Church to work for justice in the world: exercising its power for the common good…seeking dignity and freedom for all people” (Book of Order, W-5.0304). And with this theme we are reconnecting with Westminster’s hope for a just (Micah 6:8), loving (I Corinthians 16:14), joyful (Galatians 5:22), sustainable (Psalm 8), and peaceful (John 14:27) community.”

Since 1980 the church has sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum, which is broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, to discuss “key issues of our day in an ethical perspective.” Speakers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Friedman, Cornel West, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David McCullough, Marcus Borg, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Gwen Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson.

Westminster’s Global Partners Ministry Team nurtures the church’s long-standing relationships with faith communities in Cameroon, Cuba, and Palestine (West Bank). The team plans opportunities for Westminster members to visit sister congregations and related Christian organizations in these communities to share friendship, prayer, worship, and community service. These global partnerships have resulted not only in treasured congregational relationships, but also in deepening of our shared faith.

Most recently Westminster with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches has become a co-sponsor of an Afghan family.

Rev. Hart-Andersen is a member of the Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy of Minneapolis along with religious leaders of faith traditions that include Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Humanism. One example of their work was the prompt condemnation of the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd.

Rev. Hart-Andersen has been Westminster’s Senior Pastor since 1999 and “is passionate about Westminster’s mission to be fully engaged in the life of the city and in transforming lives and systems in pursuit of the love and justice of Jesus Christ. ‘Westminster is a community thoroughly engaged in living faithfully in complex times. I am grateful that the church is willing to learn and change, to grow and take risks, all in an effort to fulfill the gospel mandate to ‘love God and neighbor.’”

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[1] Westminster Presbyterian Church, History; Westminster, What we believe; Westminster. Social Justice Forum; Westminster Town Hall Forum; Westminster Global Partners Ministry TeamMinneapolis Religious Leaders Condemn Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 8, 2020); Westminster, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen. This blogger is a Westminster member and non-ruling elder who has been involved in leading our Global Partners Ministry Team and has been on  mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon and is now involved in our co-sponsorship of an Afghan family. (See these posts about religion, Cuba and Cameroon.)

 

 

 

President Biden’s Eulogy of Walter Mondale

On May 1, 2022, President Joe Biden traveled to Minneapolis to deliver his eulogy of Walter Mondale at the latter’s memorial service. Here are the highlights of the President’s remarks. [1]

“I’m moved to be with you here today  . . .[to] honor one of the great giants in American history.  And that’s not hyperbole.  Fritz was a giant in American political history.”

“I speak of a friend of five decades, about . . . the light of [our] friendship and what it meant to me personally, to my family.”

“Fritz and I first met in one of the darkest moments of my life. [After I had been elected for the first time to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and before I was sworn in,] I was at the U.S. Senate on December 18th to hire staff when I received a phone call from my fire department in Delaware [and was told,] ‘You got to come home.  There’s been an accident. . . .Your wife and daughter are dead, and your two boys may not make it.’  Fritz and Joan . . . embraced me and came to the hospital to see my boys.  They [and others] helped me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain. [They urged me to stay in the Senate for at least six months and then decide whether to stay in the Senate or not.]”

“My life changed again five years later.  No man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two, but I met and married Jill Biden.  I had to ask her five times. But being a spouse of a Senator who was relatively well known, because of the celebrity of how I got there and the accident, and inheriting two beautiful young boys wasn’t easy.”

“Once again, Fritz and Joan were there spreading the light.  Joan was one of the first people to reach out to Jill, and it meant the world to us.”

“Fritz was a master legislator who shone a light on those who needed it most.  The desire to lift up others stemmed from his youth, from his service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, and those early days organizing for Hubert Humphrey in parts of Minnesota that Democrats didn’t win.”

“Fritz learned early the power of bringing people together.  And I know for Fritz, no moment was brighter than when he joined forces with an African American senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Brooke, and they passed the Fair Housing Act. When the Act passed, Fritz spoke on the Senate floor [and said,] ‘The words ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ will mean more to millions of our fellow Americans [today with this legislation]. That was Fritz spreading . . . the light of our country, to families who had never truly known its warmth.”

“At every stage of our lives, at every inflection point, Fritz and Joan . . . were there for Jill and me and my family —on a personal level.”

“In 2008 Barack Obama called me after it was clear he was the de facto nominee and said he’d liked me to join him on the ticket, at least consider it; could he do a background check on me.  And I said, ‘No thanks, Barack.’ [But he said,] ‘there’s only one other person I’m considering.’  I said, ‘Barack, I don’t want to be Vice President.’  He said, ‘Why?’  I said, ‘Because [the VP is] basically just standby equipment. I can help you a lot more as a senator.  I’ll do everything I can.  I’ll campaign throughout the country for you.’”

Barack responded, ‘Look, would you go home and talk it over with your family?  Just talk it over.’”

“So I did.  I called Jill from the train on my cell phone. And when I got home, .. . the first person I called was Fritz before the family gathered in the back porch.  And I asked, ‘Fritz, what should I do?’  And he went into great detail. As a matter of fact, he sent me a long memorandum he prepared for President Carter when they were deciding how their relationship would work. He told me, in essence, that the vice presidency holds no inherent power.  None.  Zero.  The Vice President is merely — and it’s true — a reflection of your relationship with the President of the United States.”

“About seven years ago, I joined Fritz at a forum in his honor at George Washington University.  Fritz recounted that his greatest strength wasn’t his expertise in a particular policy area; it was the genuine personal relationship he built with President Jimmy Carter — a relationship built on real affection and trust.They sat down for lunch together every week.  Fritz said to me, ‘Make sure you get a commitment from Barack: Once a week, you have lunch to discuss whatever is on either of your minds.’”

“He was the first Vice President to have an office in the West Wing, just a few steps away from the Oval Office.”

“That was the true strength of the vice presidency, he said, a strength that Barack and I replicated in our time in office and what Kamala and I are doing today.  And she sends her regards to the whole family.  She called me before I got in the plane.”

“It was Fritz who lit the way.  [At] his core, Fritz embraced everybody with a belief that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity — everybody.  Dignity.  Not just the right to vote, dignity.”

“He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people, especially the people of Minnesota. You know, every senator wears on his or her sleeve the state they serve.  But the love Fritz had for the people of Minnesota ran deeper than that.  He loved you all, and you loved him back — it was obvious — because Fritz reflected the very best qualities of this state: the warmth and optimism that you reflect.”

“At every turn, Fritz reflected the light of this nation, who we are and what we can be.  He called me [after] I had said [at my] inauguration that we’re the most unique nation in all of history.  We’re the only nation founded on an idea.  Every other nation in the world is based on geography, ethnicity, religion, race.  We’re founded on an idea.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.’  And it goes on.”

“Fritz believed that in his gut.  I watched him every day for over 35 years in the Senate and when he was Vice President.  He united people, sharing the same light, the same hopes.  Even when we disagree, he thought that was important.”

“I’ll never forget, on a personal level, what it meant to have a friend like Fritz.  Less than four years after losing Eleanor to brain cancer and just a year after losing Joan, Fritz was there to help me again when Jill and I lost our son Beau to brain cancer after a year in Iraq.”

“I’ll never forget how Fritz reflected so much love and light into our family — again, at our darkest moments — nor will I forget coming here to Minneapolis eight years ago to say goodbye to Joan.”

“Most of you remember that Fritz went to the Mayo Clinic for quadruple bypass the very next day.  He had delayed the surgery so he could be with all of us to reflect her light.  And he put off treating his own heart because, as all you know, his heart belonged to Joan.”

“As I’ve said many times — I say to the family, seeing your mom and dad together reminded me of that great line from Christopher Marlowe’s poem: ‘Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove.’ You can tell when a couple has been together a long time.  So each looks at the other with love — deep love.”

“It’s been said that memory is the power to gather roses in winter.  Well, Ted and William, your dad blessed you with an endless garden of those memories and, most of all, the memory of two extraordinary loves: a love of more than 58 years he spent together with your mom, and a love of 51 years with your sister, Eleanor. In his farewell letter, Fritz wrote that he was eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor, two unbreakable loves.”

“Jill Biden wanted to do a garden at the Vice President’s Residence so that every family that ever had lived there would have stones [engraved with the names of] the couple and their children. When I called Fritz to tell him about it, he came over to the [White House]. He asked if he could go inside.  I said, ‘Of course.’  He wanted to walk up to the third floor. [There he] stopped in front of a door and opened it and just stared.  After  a few minutes, he came down and said, ‘That was Eleanor’s room.  I so miss her.’”

“Well, they’re all together now, for all time.”

“Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.’ There is no doubt that the institution of the Senate and the institution of the Vice President reflect the profound legacy of Fritz Mondale. But it’s not a lengthened shadow; it’s his light.  And it’s up to each of us now to reflect that light that Fritz was all about, to reflect Fritz’s goodness and grace, the way he made people feel no matter who you were.”

“Just imagine what our nation could achieve if we followed Fritz’s example of honor, decency, integrity, literally just the service to the common good.  There would be nothing — nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our reach.”

“I hope we all can be Fritz’s mirror, continue to spread his light.  Because you know he was one of the finest men you’ve ever known, one of the most decent people I ever dealt with, and one of the toughest, smartest men I’ve ever worked with.”

“You were lucky to have had him.  Look at things, he was lucky to have had you.”

“God bless you, my dear friend.  Among the greatest of all Americans.”

“The highest compliment, my Grandfather Finnegan used to say, you can give a man or a woman — he was a good man.”

“Fritz Mondale was a good man.”

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[1] Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Memorial Service for Walter Mondale, dwkcommentaries.com (May 4, 2020).

 

Memorial Service for Walter Mondale 

On May 1, 2022, a memorial service for Walter “Fritz” Mondale was held at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium. He had died on April 19, 2021, but a service at that time was not possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his son, Ted, said his father “didn’t want to lie in state; he didn’t want to be in Washington, he wanted to be here with you” because “you reflected what he would care about and who he is.”[1]

Remarks at the Service

Remarks at this service were provided by U.S. President Joe Biden, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, Larry Jacobs (the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota), Jon Meacham (the Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University), Josie Johnson (Minnesota civil rights icon), Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen (senior pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian) and Mondale’s sons, Ted and William. (Some of these comments will be contained in subsequent posts.)

Similar comments were voiced by others in the Washington Post.[2]

The Song “Tomorrow”[3]

The song “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” one of Mondale’s favorite songs, was sung at the memorial service by 14-year-old Lillian Hochman from Hopkins, Minnesota. She had met Mondale when she was in preschool with his granddaughter and subsequently joined her family for weekend breakfasts with Mondale while he followed her budding stage career with Minneapolis’ Children’s Theater Company. Although he was out of town when she performed in “Annie” in 2017, he told her that the show was his favorite.

Lillian is pretty sure she knows why this song was a favorite for Mondale. She said the title character in the show sings this song to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, promising that despite the Great Depression, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” The song is “really about bringing hope to a nation and to the president, which I think is one reason for it’s [being Mondale’s] favorite song and show.”

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[1] Bierschbach & Nelson, Leaders, family and friends remember “Fritz” Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Vice President Walter F. Mondale ’56 Eulogized at Memorial Service at Northrup, University of Minnesota (May 1, 2022); Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Baker, Biden Extols Mondale as ‘One of the Great Giants of American History,’ N.Y. Times (May 1, 2022); Regan & Viser, Biden pays tribute to friend and mentor Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (May 1, 2020); Mena, Biden Honors Walter Mondale at Memorial, W.S.J. (May 1, 2022); Klobuchar Delivers Remarks At Memorial Service for Former Vice President Walter Mondale (May 1, 2022); Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022); Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

[2] Mannes, Analysis: Her’s what Kamala Harris owes to Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (April 25, 2021); Balz, Mondale lost the presidency but permanently changed the office of vice presidency, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021); Tumulty, Opinion: Walter Mondale reinvented the vice presidency. Both Biden and Harris should thank him for it, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021).

[3] Hewitt, ‘Annie’ star sang tribute to family friend Walter Mondale at memorial, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

 

 

 

 

The Reopening of U.S. and Cuba Embassies

On the morning of July 20, 2015, Cuba officially opened its Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the United States did likewise in Havana although the ceremonial opening of the latter will be on August 14 when Secretary of State John Kerry goes to Havana to preside over that event.[1]

This post will focus on the ceremonial opening of the Cuban Embassy; subsequent posts will discuss the afternoon’s joint press conference at the U.S. Department of State by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez as well as reactions to the reopening of the embassies.

Opening of Cuba’s Embassy

Cuban Embassy
Cuban Embassy (Photo by Andrew Hamik)

Cuba’s opening was celebrated in the morning by the raising of its flag in front of its former Interests Section building. It was the same flag that was removed 54 years ago when the two countries severed diplomatic relations.

The event was attended by more than 500 people, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who led the U.S. delegation in negotiations with Cuba after the December 17, 2014, announcement of rapprochement; Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department, who has participated in those negotiations; Jeffrey DeLaurentis, current charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Havana; Ben Rhodes, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor who led 18 months of behind-the-scenes secret negotiations with Cuban officials with the aim of restoring diplomatic ties; Wayne Smith, a Cuban expert who was forced to leave the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 1961 when the two countries broke diplomatic ties; U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (Dem, VT), Amy Klobuchar (Dem., MN) and Jeff Flake (Rep., AZ) along with U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (Dem., CA), Donna Edwards (Dem., MD), Kathy Castor (Dem., FL), Karen Bass (Dem., CA) and Raul Grijalva (Dem., AZ).[2]

Afterwards Senator Klobuchar, the author of a bill to end the U.S. embargo (Freedom to Export to Cuba Act), said in a press release, “The opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC, marks an important step in modernizing our relationship with Cuba after more than 50 years of isolation. This evolution in our relationship with 11 million people 90 miles off of our shore was long overdue, and it is now time to not only open our own fully equipped and staffed embassy in Havana, but to lift the trade embargo once and for all. Passing my bipartisan bill to lift the embargo would benefit the people of both of our countries by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods.”[3]

Foreign Minister Rodriguez’s Speech

The attendees then went inside the Embassy, where they heard a speech by Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez. Here are excerpts from those remarks.

The Cuban flag now flying in front of the Embassy “embodies the generous blood that was shed, the sacrifices made and the struggle waged for more than one hundred years by our people for their national independence and full self-determination, facing the most serious challenges and risks. Today we pay homage to all those who died in its defense and renew the commitment of the present generations, fully confident on the newer ones, to serve it with honor.”

“We evoke the memory of José Martí, who was fully devoted to the struggle for the freedom of Cuba and managed to get a profound knowledge about the United States: In his “North American Scenes” he made a vivid description of the great nation to the North and extolled its virtues. He also bequeathed to us a warning against its excessive craving for domination [over Cuba] which was confirmed by a long history of disagreements.”

“We’ve been able to make it through this date thanks to the firm and wise leadership of Fidel Castro Ruz, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, whose ideas we will always revere with utmost loyalty. We now recall his presence in this city, in April of 1959, with the purpose of promoting fair bilateral relations, as well as the sincere tribute he paid to Lincoln and Washington. The purposes that brought him to this country on such an early time [of the Cuban Revolution] are the same that have pursued throughout these decades and coincide exactly with the ones that we pursue today.”

“This ceremony has been possible thanks to the free and unshakable will, unity, sacrifice, selflessness, heroic resistance and work of our people and also the strength of the Cuban Nation and its culture.”

“I bring greetings from President Raúl Castro, as an expression of the good will and sound determination to move forward, through a dialogue based on mutual respect and sovereign equality, to a civilized coexistence, even despite the differences that exist between both governments, which makes it possible to solve bilateral problems and promote cooperation and the development of mutually beneficial relations, just as both peoples desire and deserve.”

“We know that this [rapprochement] would contribute to peace, development, equity and stability in the continent; the implementation of the purposes and principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter and in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, which was signed at the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States held in Havana.”

“Today, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the re-opening of embassies complete the first stage of the bilateral dialogue and pave the way to the complex and certainly long process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.”

“The challenge is huge because there have never been normal relations between the United States of America and Cuba, in spite of the one and a half century of intensive and enriching links that have existed between both peoples.”

“The Platt Amendment, imposed [on Cuba by the U.S.] in 1902 under a military occupation, thwarted the liberation efforts that had counted on the participation or the sympathy of quite a few American citizens and led to the usurpation of a piece of Cuban territory in Guantánamo. Its nefarious consequences left an indelible mark in our common history.”

“In 1959, the [U.S.] refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring island and much less, a few years later, a socialist Revolution that was forced to defend itself and has embodied, ever since then, our people’s will.”

“I have referred to history to reaffirm that today an opportunity has opened up to begin working in order to establish new bilateral relations, quite different from whatever existed in the past. The Cuban government is fully committed to that.”

“Only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo; and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.”

“Every step forward will receive the recognition and the favorable acceptance of our people and government, and most certainly the encouragement and approval of Latin America and the Caribbean and the entire world.

“We reaffirm Cuba’s willingness to move towards the normalization of relations with the [U.S.] in a constructive spirit, but without any prejudice whatsoever to our independence or any interference in the affairs that fall under the exclusive sovereignty of Cubans.”

[For the U.S.] to insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimize them or favor the national interest of the [U.S.] or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we will be ready to face the challenge.”

“We will engage in this process, as was written by President Raúl Castro in his letter of July 1st to President Obama, “encouraged by the reciprocal intention of developing respectful and cooperative relations between our peoples and governments. From this Embassy, we will continue to work tirelessly to promote cultural, economic, scientific, academic and sports relations as well as friendly ties between our peoples.”

“We would like to convey the Cuban government’s respect and recognition to the President of the [U.S.] for urging the U.S. Congress to lift the blockade as well as for the change of policy that he has announced [last December], but in particular for the disposition he has showed to make use of his executive powers for that purpose.”

“We are particularly reminded of President Carter’s decision to open the respective Interests Sections back in September of 1977.” We also “express our gratitude to the members of Congress, scholars, religious leaders, activists, solidarity groups, business people and so many U.S. citizens who worked so hard for so many years so that this day would come.”

“To the majority of Cubans residing in the [U.S.] who have advocated and called for a different kind of relation of this country with our Nation, we would like to express our recognition. Deeply moved, they have told us that they would multiply their efforts and will remain faithful to the legacy of the patriotic emigration that supported the ideals of independence.”

“We would like to express our gratitude to our Latin American and Caribbean brothers and sisters who have resolutely supported our country and called for a new chapter in the relations between the [U.S.] and Cuba, as was done, with extraordinary perseverance, by a lot of friends from all over the world.”

“From this country José Martí organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party to conquer freedom, all the justice and the full dignity of human beings. His ideas, which were heroically vindicated in his centennial year, continue to be the main inspiration that moves us along the path that our people have sovereignly chosen.”

Opening of U.S. Embassy

 With the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana not happening until August 14, the changes there were subtler. There was no raising of the U.S. flag. There was no changing of the sign on the building. The U.S. diplomats who previously worked in the Interests Section now worked in the Embassy. A future post will review the ceremonial opening of the Embassy, now scheduled for August 14.

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[1] This post is based upon the following: Ahmed & Davis, U.S. and Cuba Reopen Long-Closed Embassies, N.Y. Times (July 20, 2015); Schwartz, Embassies Reopen, as U.S., Cuba Restore Ties, W.S.J. (July 20, 2015); Ayuso, ‘Mojito diplomacy’ as Cuba reboots US relations in reopened embassy, El Pais (July 21, 2015); Gómez, Cuban flag waves in U.S. capital, Granma (July 20, 2015); Gómez, The flag day, Granma (July 21, 2015).

[2] The famous Cuban-American jazz pianist and a resident of Minnesota, Nachito Herrera, was invited to attend the opening of the Cuban Embassy, but unfortunately had to decline because of previously scheduled performances at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis with his new group The Universals, featuring saxophonist Mike Phillips, who has worked with Prince and Stevie Wonder; Cuban drummer Raul Pineda; Senegal bassist Cheikh Ndoye; and violinist Karen Briggs. (Bream, On special day for Cuba, Nachito Herrera gets emotional at the Dakota, StarTribune (July 21, 2015).) As previously noted in this blog, Nachito has frequently performed at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church.

[3] A similar press release was issued by Senator Leahy.