I’ve fallen behind in posting to my blog because we’ve had a very busy two weeks here at the Embassy, as always happens around American Independence Day. Each year we hold three big receptions (in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch) which take a good deal of time to plan, produce, and stage. Although hectic, the process is always great fun because we pick a different and hopefully interesting theme each year. Last year’s theme was the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American forces in New Zealand during World War II. This year we focused on superheroes and what they reveal about our societies.

Independence Day 2013 at Reading Cinemas in Wellington.

Early in the evening as guests begin to arrive.

Our Wellington reception came first this year, a few days before July 4th. We scheduled early and picked the Reading Cinemas on Courtney Place as our venue so that we could snare the New Zealand pre-premier of the summer blockbuster Man of Steel, which thus far has grossed more than US$ 600 million.

Click through for image source. http://manofsteel.warnerbros.com/downloads/1sheet/1sheet_poster.jpg

To capture a full range of American superhero archetypes, we celebrated five literary creations paired with historical figures who exhibited certain similar qualities – Spider Man & Billie Jean King, Wonder Woman & Eleanor Roosevelt, Iron Man & Elon Musk, Batman & Abraham Lincoln, and Superman & Martin Luther King, Jr.

Independence Day 2013.

A few of our featured icons.

For about an hour more than 500 guests enjoyed conversation, mingling, and tastings of the product of several of Tennessee and Kentucky’s finest distilleries. Then our good friends Karishma, Ariel, Finlay, and Helayna – a.k.a. The Rookies, an award-winning barbership quartet from Aotea College – opened the formal program by leading us in singing The Star-Spangled Banner and God Defend New Zealand.

Aotea College’s ‘The Rookies’ singing the National Anthems.

‘The Rookies’ singing the National Anthems.

I delivered a few minutes of remarks about our theme and the state of U.S.-New Zealand bilateral relations, and then our good friend the Minister of Defence, Dr Jonathan Coleman, spoke on behalf of the Government of New Zealand. The Minister and I exchanged toasts to our respective People and Heads of State.

On stage during my independence Day address to the guests.

On stage to deliver my remarks.

I closed the formal proceedings by thanking our sponsors who helped make the evening possible, including Anadarko, Boeing Australia and South Pacific, CB Richard Ellis, Citibank, Coca-Cola Amatil, Distilled Spirits Association of New Zealand, General Electric, Home Entertainment Association of New Zealand, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft New Zealand, Millenium Technology, Motion Pictures Distributors Association of New Zealand, New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft, the Swindells Organization and former Ambassador Charles Swindells, UPS, Visa, and Village Roadshow.

Bjorn from Hancocks mixing a Big Joe’s Lynchburg Lemonade with Jack Daniels Single Barrel.

Bjorn from Hancocks mixing a Big Joe’s Lynchburg Lemonade with Jack Daniels Single Barrel.

Attendees then returned to enjoying each other’s company, fine Kentucky and Tennessee libations, and the jazz stylings of the Oscar Laven Quartet. Many of the guests took the opportunity to pose individually or in groups in front of a green screen for photos of a drive-in movie Metroplis in honor of the evening’s theme and main event. After another hour or so, we took our seats in the theater to enjoy Man of Steel.

Enjoying a big screen appearance.

Enjoying a big screen appearance.

As always, Dr McWaine and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. From the smiles on people’s faces as they left the theater, I assume that our guests did as well. There is nothing quite like bringing so many Kiwi and American friends together to toast the common civic values we hold, the aspirations we share, and the kind of heroes we embrace. And to watch an action flick.

Oscar Laven Quartet.

Half of the Oscar Laven Quartet.

As I said in my remarks, there is certainly much to celebrate in 2013 as we mark the 175th anniversary of American diplomatic presence in Aotearoa. U.S.-New Zealand bilateral relations are as deep, broad, and strong as at any time since the mid 1940s. Bedrock people-to-people contact and economic engagement are prodigious and expanding. And our governments are working closely together on a wide range of strategic and scientific issues of utmost importance to the Pacific region and the planet.

One of New Zealand’s real superheroes - Minister of Defence Dr. Jonathan Coleman.

Minister of Defence Dr Jonathan Coleman addresses the gathering.

As momentum continues to build, I’m very much looking forward to what the rest of 2013 and then next year will bring. For now, though, I’ll leave you with a few more photos from our Independence Day reception in Wellington while I pull together photos for my next post, about our subsequent celebrations in Auckland and Christchurch.

Calem and Ian from Beam Global preparing Superman’s favorite family tipples – Pa Kent’s Spiced Cooler & Ma Kent’s Iced Honey Tea for a group of discerning guests.

Calem and Ian from Beam Global mix Spiced Coolers & Iced Honey Teas for discerning guests.

Dr. McWaine talks with one of our guests under the watchful eye of Elon Musk, CEO of Telsa Motors and Space X.

Dr McWaine chats with a guest under the powerful hands of Iron Man and Elon Musk.

Embassy Economic Officer Dorothy Mayhew with Antony Royal.

My colleague Dorothy Mayhew with Antony Royal (at right).

Lucy Craymer, Wall St Journal, with journalist Laura McQuilian.

Lucy Craymer of the Wall St Journal with journalist Laura McQuilian.

Me and my deputy Marie Damour pose with NZFACT’s Tony Eaton in front of our sponsor’s banner.

With my deputy Marie Damour and NZFACT’s Tony Eaton in front of the event sponsors banner.

The crowd enjoying the evening.

Guests enjoying the evening.

The crowd listening to the speeches.

Settled down for the speeches. At left, my good friend the French Ambassador.

Our Media Guy Sean Gillespie with Social Media superhero DK.

My colleague Sean Gillespie with social media superhero DK (at right).

Nice tie, Sean. Thanks for the thumbs up, DK.dh sig