For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
LAREDO, TEXAS—Today Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson delivered keynote remarks at the annual International Bridge Ceremony in Laredo, Texas. The event, also known as the “Abrazo Ceremony,” is part of a 119-year-old tradition to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. It is highlighted by two children from the U.S. side and two children from the Mexican side who meet midway across the Lincoln-Juarez bridge and hug.
The following is an excerpt from Secretary Johnson’s keynote remarks:“Buenos días,This is an annual ritual to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, and to symbolize, here on this bridge, the enduring friendship between two great countries.I will be brief, and to the point.What is a bridge? Qué es un puente?It is a structure to connect two lands. It is a structure to enable people and things to cross from one land to the other. It is a structure that enables commerce, relationships and friendships. It enables the people of one land to know the other. Build bridges and we build friendships.This bridge and this ceremony are both a real and symbolic sign of the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Mexico. In a few moments the youth of our two countries will come together for the abrazo exchange to further symbolize that enduring friendship. We’ve been doing this for over 100 years.Now, there is something that must be said at this particular ceremony, this particular year.There is no amount of overheated rhetoric, hurtful and offensive commentary, or hot air, that can blow this bridge down.A year from now, no matter what happens the rest of this year, this bridge will still be here. No matter what happens over the next year, a year from now two children from the United States and two children from Mexico will meet on this bridge and give each other a hug. The youth of our two countries have been doing this here for over 100 years, and they will do it for 100 more.And we are building more bridges between the United States and Mexico. We are building bigger, wider and stronger bridges. Just 16 days ago President Pena Nieto and I met on this border, northwest of here near El Paso, to open a new six-lane bridge to replace a two-lane one. That bridge and this one, and the ceremony that occurs on this spot very year, is the symbolic and real nature of our relationship, our friendship, and our respect for each other.Thank you.”
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