July 4, 1995
July 4, 1995
On July 4, 1995, Roberto C. Goizueta, chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, delivered the keynote address at the Fourth of July celebration at Monticello. On this occasion, 67 new Americans took the oath of citizenship on Monticello’s west lawn. The Independence Day event celebrates the life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson, who saw naturalized citizenship as a means to continually renew the nation with new cultures and ideas.
Remarks by Roberto C. Goizueta Independence Day Ceremonies
Independence Day Ceremonies
Standing before you today – here in this hallowed place – I feel compelled to quote Thomas Jefferson himself who said, “Speeches measured by the hour … die by the hour.
I am also reminded of my wife’s frequent observation that no one ever comes away from listening to a speech saying, “That was great … but I wish it had been longer.”
So, in acknowledgment of the wisdom of Mr. Jefferson – as well as the insightfulness of Mrs. Goizueta – my message to you will be brief and to the point.
I must start by recognizing the vision and determination of those of you who are to be naturalized today as citizens of this great country.
For me, looking into your eyes this morning is like looking into a mirror … a mirror that takes me back 26 years … back to a hot, muggy day in 1969 at the Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia.
And in that mirror of your eyes, I see my own eyes … eyes focused on a solitary flag as I pledged allegiance to my new country … eyes wide with an immeasurable sense of anticipation, excitement and opportunity … eyes brightened by a deep sense of gratitude … and, yes, eyes determined to remain dry despite the sobering knowledge of the tragic fate being on the Cuban people by a communist regime.
It is your vision of a better life that has brought you to this place today. And it is your decisiveness … as the masters of your own destiny … that has made this moment a reality.
I congratulate you on this accomplishment. I salute you for your resolve. And I am indebted to you for providing me with this vivid reminder of one of the most significant days in my own history.
Together, we share a truly magical gift … the magical gift of freedom … and with it, its corollary we refer to as “opportunity”.
When my family and I came to this country, we had to leave everything behind. Back in Havana, our family photographs hung on the walls. Our wedding gifts sat on the shelves. Every material property we owned … overnight became government property.
But amid that turmoil, two treasured possessions remained mine, because they simply could not be taken away by the newly arrived Cuban rulers.
Firstly, even though I had to leave behind my diploma from Yale … and even though I had to leave behind the specially engraved dictionary I earned as valedictorian of my high school graduating class … I carried with me, safely in my head, the meaning of that diploma and of the dictionary.
I still had my education.
And secondly, even though the Havana Coca-Cola bottling plant where I had worked was to be confiscated, I still had a job. And it wasn’t just any job. It was a job with
The Coca-Cola Company.
From that point on – as you might guess – the story improves significantly. And that story - my story – boils down to a single, inspiring reality … the reality that a young immigrant could come to this country, be given a chance to work hard and apply his skills, and ultimately earn the opportunity to lead not only a large corporation, but an institution that actually symbolizes the very essence of America and American ideals.
Not a bad story … but what has it taught me?
Let me tell you – it has taught me a great deal. But first and foremost, it has taught me that opportunity always comes accompanied by obligations.
And what are the obligations that come with opportunity, you may ask? Each of us, of course, must answer that question on our own. But in my life, I have found that every opportunity I have ever encountered has implied three fundamental obligations.
The first obligation implied in opportunity is that you must seize it. You must reach out to the opportunity … take it in your hands … and mold it into a work that brings value to your society.
To do otherwise is not just a waste … it is a crime against the human spirit. Squandering what the rest of the world covets is not only foolish … it is immoral.
The second obligation that naturally follows opportunity is that you must live it … you must carry it on your back all day long … you must sense the opportunity in your nostrils with every breath, and you must see it in your dreams when you are asleep.
Because even though opportunity – much like freedom itself – is born only out of ideals … it is nurtured only by action. Without action, opportunity and freedom soon shrivel and fade to a slow death.
Finally, the third obligation that inherently comes with opportunity is that you must defend it. Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” And, yes – from time to time – that is unfortunately true … painfully true.
But the tree of liberty must also be irrigated – every single day – with the sweat off the brows of enterprising men and women … men and women working hard to further prove the inherent superiority of a democratic society … working hard to demonstrate the lasting stability of a democratic capitalistic system … working hard to preserve the sanctity of private property … working hard to continue to show the world that people can indeed be trusted with governing themselves. And, as the man who built this house said, men and women working hard to put the interests of our nation ahead of their own personal interests.
To my mind, those are the three obligations we owe opportunity.
They are simple. They are undeniable. They are demanding. And, most of all, they are yours and mine to embrace … or to reject.
Opportunity … ours to seize … ours to live … and ours to defend. Or otherwise – ultimately – ours to lose.
Like many of you here today, I know what it’s like to lose what had taken many years to build. And just like you, I refuse to suffer through that kind of loss ever again.
And so, I challenge you and every other citizen across our nation – whether native-born or naturalized – to embrace your individual obligations … to embrace your individual obligations as if the fate of the United States depended on it.
And you know why? Because – in reality – it does.