Article written by United States Congressman Morgan Griffith, Chairman of The Friends of Wales Caucus and member of the Freedom and Liberty Caucuses.
This mission stems in part from my own background. Like many in the Appalachian region of the United States, I am of Welsh descent and proud of this fact. One can still hear family names in my hometown of Salem, Virginia that would not sound out of place in Swansea.
Forming the Congressional Friends of Wales Caucus when I arrived in the U.S. House of Representatives helped create a new forum for representing the thousands of Americans with Welsh background. It also provided a way to promote further cooperation in a relationship that has deeply affected both countries.
One need not have Welsh ancestry to understand how important this relationship has been. The ties that bind Wales and the United States predate the American founding, when Welsh settlers undertook the long voyage across the ocean to make a new life.
A look at a map of the United States today can reveal this story, but more importantly, Welsh Americans helped map the destiny of the new country.
Thomas Jefferson penned the majority of the Declaration of Independence, which outlined the creed of the new nation that “all men are created equal.” He was joined in this task by John Adams. Both had Welsh ancestry.
Eleven years later, James Madison was instrumental in organizing the Constitutional Convention, creating the document, and urging its ratification. He was another American of Welsh background.
These individuals and others with Welsh ancestry shaped the American system of government, designed to preserve liberty, check arbitrary power, and let the people govern themselves. That is a legacy worth celebrating in both of our countries.
Further, it is a legacy we can build upon today.
Brexit presents one notable opportunity to do so. As a choice made in accord with the principles of self-government, Brexit must be respected by American leaders. Britain’s departure from the European Union opens the door to closer cooperation in a variety of areas with the United States.
This door is opening at the right time.
In the United States, questions about our relationship with China are highlighting the perils of economic partnership with countries lacking our respect for the rule of law, self-government, and free markets. In contrast, the partnership between Wales and the United States is anchored in our mutual values and produces mutual benefits. The United States offers Wales its largest export market outside of Europe and invests substantially in the Welsh economy.
For each of our countries, the economic challenges of the 21st century can be resolved in part by recommitting to what is tried and true, the exchange of goods and services between our countries that creates jobs and new economic opportunities.
Thousands of Americans of Welsh background trace their descent from men and women who came to the United States to make their own way, whether in the coal mines of Appalachia, agriculture, or other industries. Their path to prosperity entailed crossing the Atlantic under frequently arduous conditions.
Today, it can be followed by lowering barriers to trade and investment, encouraging economic and cultural exchange, and formalizing a trade deal between the United States and Britain.
In Congress, I will continue to use my role as Chairman of the Friends of Wales Caucus to work toward our shared goals, building upon our economic, political, and cultural links that have long brought our two countries together.