It’s great to see you all. Thank you all for coming. It’s really great to be back in Thessaloniki and with such a great crowd, and especially on this occasion which is to welcome our new Consul General, Rebecca Fong. I know, many of you have met her already but I wanted to come up here and make it official. Thessaloniki has been important not only in Greece but in the entire Balkan area and we have had this Consulate here for over a hundred years. And I think that is a testament to the importance of this region for the United States. And the Consul General plays a key role in ensuring not only that our Embassy, our region programming is effectively delivered up here, but also making sure that we are aware of the trends and all the initiatives coming from here, so that we are not just sitting down there in Athens without a good idea of what is happening up here. Every single week, in fact a couple of times a week; we have a country-team meeting and we have Rebecca with us by a video teleconference. So, we are getting regular reports from her about everything that is going on up here.
I don’t need to tell anybody in this room but I want to say it anyway: What happens in Greece is important to the United States. We have supported Greece from the earliest days of its independence and we have been steadfast friends, I think, with Greece through good times and through bad. World War II three U.S. Consulate employees were interned, sent to camps, and one was executed and that is a sacrifice that we honor every year by spending a day of remembering that, and focusing on ways to prevent that kind of intolerance from ever happening again. After the war, the United States worked with Greece to rebuild, and again the Consulate in northern Greece played a central role in all the programing at that time. And today I think our central job, as the U.S. Mission in Greece, is to try to do everything we can to help Greece to emerge from this long, blessed economic crisis, stronger and stable and playing a stabilizing role in this region which is the proper role of this country and its traditional role.
So, it is very important to do that, that we have a Consul General, who can support the various aspects of our relationship, commercial, educational, humanitarian and political. And I think that Rebecca is the right person for that job. She has worked on some of the toughest Foreign Service jobs we have and I know because I have done a lot of the same things myself. I, for example, like her, have served in Afghanistan and in Syria and in Iraq and in Algeria and like Rebecca I was in the private sector for a decade before joining the Foreign Service.
Before Greece, Rebecca managed the political, economic and military affairs in our Herat Consulate in western Afghanistan, where she survived a terrorist attack that destroyed the Consulate. And, when the majority of her colleagues were evacuated, and I used to be the Assistant Chief of Mission in Afghanistan I supervised the folks out there. When the majority of her colleagues were evacuated, she stayed in Herat to monitor the Afghan National Elections, to help women in starting small businesses, to promote educational exchanges and secure training for the justice sector. And before that she was our Regional Refugee Director for Iraqi and Syrian refugees at our Embassy in Damascus in Syria of course. Obviously that is experience, which is very useful to have for anyone right now.
Prior to that she served for four years in Bagdad as the Deputy Political Counsellor for northern Iraq. We both had the pleasure of serving in Algeria, where Rebecca was focused on Al Qaeda’s recruitment