Grande Bretagne Hotel
May 9, 2019, 10:00 p.m.
Καλησπέρα σας! Thank you, Athena, for that introduction. I wish I could have your energy at eleven o’clock at night. Minister Apostolakis, General Christodoulou, General Gambas, Shadow Minister Koumoutsakos, friends, thank you all for having me here. I should acknowledge Despina also who I see in the front and at the same time acknowledge my wife Mary. As both of them know, there’s the other part of these jobs, and certainly the better diplomat in my family, in my household, is my wife Mary.
I want to start what I promise will be very brief remarks by thanking Nick for all that you do to strengthen the ties between the United States and Greece and to bring our peoples closer together. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have allies like you and other leaders of the diaspora community who share our vision for this strategic relationship. I’m especially grateful and honored therefore to be here tonight at the American Hellenic Institute’s 15th gala.
AHI has been advocating for Greeks and Greek-Americans for almost half a century, promoting Greek public policy issues and highlighting the contributions of individuals and institutions to their communities.
The progress that we have made since President Trump’s White House Summit with Prime Minister Tsipras in October 2017 demonstrates that the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Greece has never been stronger.
This happy state of affairs is thanks in large part to our converging strategic interests, but it also benefits significantly from the ongoing efforts of diaspora organizations like AHI and AHEPA who are also represented here tonight, and the enduring ties of kinship, friendship, and common values between our peoples and societies.
I also want to recognize in particular AHI’s and Nick’s leadership in highlighting the defense and security aspects of our relationship, including their essential advocacy to support our IMET and security assistance programs, and the open door that AHI has offered to Greek military leaders visiting Washington.
As I mentioned in a speech earlier this week, these defense, security, and counterterrorism ties are one of the most dynamic pillars of our relationship. They help us to make a compelling case in Washington for our ongoing investments in the relationship here.
But the “secret ingredient” that really sets the U.S.-Greece relationship apart is our strong people-to-people ties. The Greek Americans that I encounter and work with on a daily basis are firmly rooted on both sides of the Atlantic.
Events like tonight’s gala give me a deep appreciation for the diaspora’s role as a builder of bridges, and that’s apparent this week in Nick’s schedule—I think he’s been everywhere in Athens over the course of the past few days.
The United States is fully invested in Greece’s economic recovery, as we believe a robust economy will strengthen Greece’s role as a pillar of stability in a difficult region and enable our nations to work side by side on common goals.
For that reason, a significant focus of my three years here has been to support Greek economic recovery and help grow Greece’s entrepreneurial sector. In countless meetings and events from Thessaloniki to Trikala, from Ioannina to Patras, I’ve witnessed the innovation sector bloom as resilient and resourceful young people embrace the uncertainty of startup environments and apply their tremendous talents to new ventures.
This is Greece’s untold success story, and it’s part of the new Greece that led to the record-breaking turnout at our American Pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair, which featured over 50 U.S. companies representing a wide array of innovative sectors and over 75 related events stretched over 10 days.
With our partners at the AmCham—and Simos, I can’t thank you enough for everything that AmCham did to make the Thessaloniki Fair a success—and strong support from Secretary of Commerce Ross, Senator Ron Johnson, senior leaders from the White House, from the Department of Energy, the State Department, and European Command, we highlighted Greece’s enormous potential as a gateway to the wider Balkans and initiated conversations between Greek and American businesses that continue to bear fruit.
I’ll be the first to admit, and I’m sure Simos will agree, that our vision for the USA as Honored Country at the Thessaloniki International Fair was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off, and I’m incredibly proud of how it all turned out, of the work done by the whole U.S. Embassy team, and the landmark success we achieved together. We are determined to keep going on that success and to help support Greece’s full economic recovery.
As U.S. Ambassador, I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively through this country and to meet thousands of ordinary Greek citizens. The energy and warmth of the reception that Mary and I have received is something that I will carry with me forever.
Greeks have a monumental sense of scale in matters of food and the heart, and that warmth of spirit persists on both sides of the Atlantic.
I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences I’ve had during my time here and the progress we’ve made in our bilateral relationship. And as I think you all know, I’m definitely not finished yet!
It’s a great privilege to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic at this historic time in our relationship and to have the opportunity to work with Greece’s proud and multifaceted society. I salute you, Nick, for all of the work that AHI does to strengthen the rich and textured relationship between our nations and all that you do to ensure that Greece is known not only for its colossal past but also for its bright and prosperous future. Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ!