Ambassador’s Remarks at the Irakleion Town Hall, February 11, 2016

Nerorion Conference Room Megaron Hotel

February 11, 2016

Thank you, Rosemary.  Let me add my greeting to all of you here tonight. I have visited Chania in the past, but a trip to Irakleion has been on my bucket list since I arrived in Greece in 2013.  I had a fascinating tour of your famous archeology museum yesterday.  Unfortunately I was only able to stay about an hour.  I could have spent a week.  And of course the museum whetted my appetite for today’s visit to the Palace of Knossos and Archanes.  I also met with the Deputy Regional Governor, the Chamber of Commerce, Archbishop Eirinaios and visited the University of Crete’s Technology Park.  And while these stops were diverse, they had one thing in common.  Cretan hospitality.  I experienced it again tonight as you warmly greeted me.  I look forward to meeting more people and seeing more sights on this wonderful island tomorrow.  And the food here is fantastic!

When Rosemary introduced me a minute ago, she could have said “Ambassador Pearce, I present you the opportunity to speak to your fellow ambassadors.”  Confused?  Don’t be.  I am convinced that U.S. citizens, and Greek citizens who have lived and worked in the United States, are our most effective ambassadors.  You do more to strengthen the bonds between our countries than our Embassy ever could.

Before I became a diplomat, I worked as a journalist.  We journalists had a role model in a reporter named Edward R. Murrow.  Most of you have probably heard of him and a few of you may even remember his news broadcasts in the 1940s and 50s.  He was a highly respected and distinguished reporter.  Murrow enjoyed an illustrious career and eventually landed a top spot at one of the major television networks – CBS.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked him to serve his country as director of the U.S. Information Agency.  Incidentally, this call to service cost him a 90 percent cut in pay from what he was making at CBS. Anyhow, the mission of the U.S. Information Agency was to communicate American policy to the world.  Now we refer to the work as public diplomacy.

In that job, Murrow told the staff who worked with him to focus on communicating directly with the public.  “The real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.”

The Embassy in Athens and our Consulate in Thessaloniki seek to build mutual understanding between the United States and Greece by bringing Greeks and Americans together through educational and cultural exchanges.  Greek college students work in the United States on their school breaks through the Summer Work and Travel Program, U.S. youth study in Greece.  Greek youth study in the U.S.  We send Greek governmental leaders to the United States to see our government in action.  Through this people-to-people contact we come to understand and appreciate each other’s values and cultures.  Each of you conduct this kind of public diplomacy every time you travel to the United States and every time your friends and family in the United States visit you in Greece.  You are even doing it as you send emails, interact on Social Media, or talk across the Atlantic by phone.

On personal and governmental levels Greece and the United States have remained steadfast friends, through the good times and the bad, and we remain standing by Greece today, during the current crisis.

The path out of all these difficulties will not be easy.  But it is in the United States’ interest that Greece emerges from the current crisis stronger, stable, and playing a stabilizing role in the wider region.  In short, Greece matters.

Thank you for coming out tonight.  I love these opportunities to interact with Americans and Greeks who have lived in the United States.  In a moment representatives from the U.S. Embassy will inform you about social security, immigration and consular issues and take your questions. One area that we hope you will find particularly important deals with how you can exercise your right to vote during this U.S. Presidential election year.  The United States was founded based on principles of democracy that the ancient Greeks first put into practice not so far from here.  Twenty sixteen is turning out to be a very exciting election year.  Even though you live overseas, you still enjoy the privilege voting via absentee ballot.  Not every country affords its citizens that right when they are abroad.  I hope you will take advantage of it.

In fact, our American Citizen Services team and I hope this year will break all prior records for the number of U.S. citizens in Greece exercising their right to vote.  The U.S. government is constantly looking for ways to make overseas voting easier and more convenient.  But I will let the experts tell you more about that.

Finally, I will close with the famous words that Edward Murrow used to sign off his news broadcasts: “Good night, and good luck.”  Only I will alter that slightly and say, “Καλησπέρα και Χρόνια Πολλά!”