Ambassador’s Remarks at the AMCHAM Thanksgiving Dinner

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

8:30 pm

Ecali Club, Athens, Greece

As delivered


Καλησπέρα σας. Thank you for those warm wishes, Simos.  It is a huge honor for me and Mary to be with you here tonight for our first Thanksgiving in Athens and to celebrate with you a uniquely American holiday, which, in many ways is perhaps the most American of our holidays.

There’s always something special for an American when you’re celebrating Thanksgiving overseas.  It’s a chance to share some of our tradition, our food.  And thank you to the Farm School for the turkeys; I should mention that as well.  I was at the Farm School about three weeks ago, which is a fantastic asset.  Fortunately, I did not see any of the turkeys, because I would feel bad about eating them now.  I saw the cows, though, I did see the cows.

And of course, Thanksgiving overseas is an opportunity to adopt new traditions.  In the case of Mary and me, one of those traditions is we’re getting on a plane early tomorrow morning to fly down to Chania, so we’re going to spend the holiday getting a little bit of sunshine in Crete.  But this is a fantastic opportunity to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

But more than a place or more than a meal, Thanksgiving is ultimately about a principle – it’s about taking the opportunity to reflect on all that we have, and to share with those who are less fortunate.  President Obama talked about some of these same ideas last week in his historic speech at the Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center when he said and pointed out that despite all of the challenges that Greece has faced over the past few years, the Greek people continued to demonstrate extraordinary generosity towards their fellow human beings.

President Obama also talked about “philotimo” – the idea of doing good, doing the right thing, which is so important to Greek culture and Greek traditions.  President Obama noted in his remarks that love and respect and kindness for family and community and country, a sense that we’re all in this together and with obligations to each other, is a set of ideas that gives hope for the future, which is, I think, is a very important principle as we look into 2017.

I know that many of the businesses are partners from the AmCham and organizations that are represented here tonight, including, of course, the Propeller Club, have done tremendous philanthropic work to support the people of Greece during this particularly challenging time.  I was particularly honored a couple of weeks ago to join George and his wife and the team from the Propeller Club to speak at the AMVER Awards, where we had the opportunity to recognize the heroism, and I mean real heroism, heroic actions by individual Greek citizens who have saved lives at sea, including the lives of many migrants and refugees.  I think we can all draw on these virtues, the ideas of “philotimo” and “philanthropia” to inspire and to help us all to make the best decisions as we go forward.

In my case, I want to say in a personal vein, how extraordinarily thankful I am to be here in Athens at this particularly important, indeed, historic moment.  I’m thankful to have had the extraordinary opportunity to have served now twice as an Ambassador representing someone who I think will be remembered to have been one of our truly great Presidents, Barack Obama.

I’m very grateful for the extraordinarily talented team that I have been given to work with here.  George mentioned some of you, but Brian, Karen Grissette is here as well with her husband, Colonel Palm, Rob, Steve, and of course, the indispensable Daisy who is out there somewhere, who has been such a pillar of our mission for so many years.  That is a team that is deeply, deeply committed to building the strategic relationship, the alliance between the people of Greece and the United States.  We are a group of people who believe that there are challenges ahead of us, but also extraordinary opportunities, and I am committed to doing as much as I can to tackle those challenges, to capitalize on those opportunities, and, of course, I look forward to working with many of you in that capacity.

I think if there is one thing that came shining through in President Obama’s visit to Athens it was the strength and depth of the relationship between our two countries.  And, certainly, as I look to 2017 and my three years in Athens, I’m going to be doing everything I can to build on what I think, in many ways, is a really amazing moment in the history of our countries.  An opportunity to imagine where we want to go together and to really fulfill the enormous possibility that I see in the travels and the conversations that I have been honored to be part of in my first two months.

So, I want to conclude, since I know I’m standing in the way of both the ceremony, but also the food!  I want to conclude by wishing everybody a truly happy Thanksgiving and the best to all of you and to your families as we begin this holiday season. Στην υγειά σας!