Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 2:30 p.m.
Thanks Cindy, thanks for pulling everybody together, and especially thanks to our partners at AmCham for putting this together. Niko, as always, it’s terrific that we’ve got such a robust program of cooperation. I see Pascal, I see Myladie, Pakis. I’ve got to scroll over to see everybody else on my Zoom screen here, but we’ve got a terrific turnout from AmCham, so thank you for that.
I also want to thank all of our speakers who joined today to offer their personal perspectives and experiences. We hoped to do this in June during Pride Month, and June, as Niko and Cindy know, was just crazy busy. But I’m really glad that we were able to put it together now, in July. It also reinforces the point that there’s never a bad time to talk about how we make our workplaces more inclusive, diverse, but also more competitive.
I’d like to start with that point, that President Biden is strongly committed to our work with Greece to help ensure that both our countries enjoy a sustainable economic growth trajectory as we begin to climb our way out of the global pandemic and all of the disruption that that has caused. The Biden administration, and Secretary Blinken in particular, has also emphasized our commitment, as the United States, to working with American business around the world to advance our common commitment to human rights, democratic values, and tolerance.
And part of that, of course, is fostering a workplace culture in which everybody feels involved: women, minorities, LGBTQI+, and creating a workplace where employees are motivated to do their very best. And I will say from my own experience as a manager, an organizational leader, this is not just morally the right thing to do; it’s about producing the strongest outcomes. If we don’t have broad participation, it’s the equivalent in business terms of leaving money on the table.
So it’s important that we talk about how we advance our common inclusivity agenda including the LGBTQI+ community. I would also note, for our American companies, they’re all sensitive to the fact that this is increasingly a marketplace demand. Consumers want to know that the brands they’re doing business with are committed to a tolerant and inclusive corporate policy.
I want to make a special mention in this context of Alex Patelis, who has been a great partner for the Embassy, for my economic team, on some of the most important issues that Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his government are working on. But he’s also one of the very first senior Greek officials to declare publicly his LGBT status, and much credit is due in that regard.
In February, President Biden signed a Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World, which reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to promote and protect these rights and to build coalitions of like-minded nations. In this regard, we’ve very proud to count Prime Minister Mitsotakis as a partner. I have been impressed to see the work that he has done to lift up LGBTQI+ issues in Greece, the commitment to developing a Greek national strategy, and also working on these issues in a European context, including Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ leadership at the last EU Summit on the question of Hungary and some of the policies that that government was pursuing.
So this is very much part of our government-to-government agenda, but it’s also very much part of what we do at the people-to-people level, and the work that Cindy and her team do every day. I was very proud that last month, the United States Embassy for the first time had the Pride banner that we put up on the front of our Embassy to mark the month. We did the same thing with the rainbow flag at our Consulate in Thessaloniki. This was an initiative which grew out of the Embassy’s Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which is a group at our Mission which has helped us think through how we can advance the work that we do as an Embassy on these issues.
And speaking of the Embassy, I also want to say how proud I am of our Consul General up in Thessaloniki, Liz Lee, for leading by example, for demonstrating every single day the U.S. government commitment to LGBT rights, but also for sharing her own personal story and her life as a lesbian woman. I know she’s going to offer some comments at the end, but I would encourage everybody who has not, to read the Op-Ed that she wrote for Pride Month in Parallaxi, which was also reprinted in the Pappas Post in English, in which she described her own personal experience, and the work she had to do in that regard. I’m also really glad that Liz’s personal story is featured in the work that Thess Pride is doing for the “It Gets Better” video campaign, which will launch in September. So congratulations, Liz, for being a real standard bearer for the Mission, but also for the U.S. State Department in this regard.
I know Liz and our Public Affairs Officer Cindy have met with the leadership from Thess Pride. I remember working with former Consul General Greg Pfleger on Thess Pride a year and a half ago before we had heard of the pandemic and when we thought things were going to unfold differently in 2020. But I know we’ve got plans now for a film festival and a conference in Thessaloniki in September, and we will continue to work with our NGO partners on this basket of issues, including up in Thessaloniki with Liz and her team.
To conclude, I just want to first of all thank everybody for joining us today, and Niko, congratulations to you and AmCham for joining us to push forward the conversation on these important issues, and figuring out how we don’t just talk about them, but really incorporate them in the work that our organizations do every day. I look forward to hearing the conversation over the course of the afternoon.