Remarks by Thessaloniki Consul General Pfleger at Digital Influencers Hub, USATIF 2018

Thessaloniki Consul General Pfleger delivers remarks at Digital Influncers Hub, USATIF 2018 (State Department Photo)

September 13, 2018

Wow.  I had no idea what to expect this morning.  I didn’t expect that.  Especially dancing in my name in the morning.  [Laughter].  Well done.

Good morning, everybody.  I was going to say something in Greek but then I realized it’s a very international audience and I should just stick to English and not embarrass myself with my Greek.

It really is a tremendous honor to be here today with you all at this conference.  As I walked in and had the opportunity to talk to many of you, I’m starting to learn in a much more in-depth way how important the work that you all are doing is.  The individual pieces that you’re all doing, but more importantly, the collective actions that you’re all taking.

I look forward to learning more about that important work.  About the way in which you are developing the tools, about the ways that you are dreaming up new ideas, and about the ways that you’re developing new programs and new products.  You make the internet individual communication space more accessible, more transparent, more open, and more useful for society.

This forum is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State among many others, and it fits perfectly with the theme of the USA Pavilion which I hope you’ve gone by to see, that we are, that we have here at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair.  Harnessing the Power of Innovation and Creativity.

We’re excited that this conference is taking place here as part of the celebration of the U.S. as the Honored Country at the TIF.  And as I am brand new to Thessaloniki, brand new to this position as the Consul General here in Thessaloniki, I’m starting to learn about the history, and starting to learn about the culture of Greece and of Thessaloniki.  And one thing that I’ve learned, where we are right now, at the Velidio Conference Center, it’s actually quite appropriate that this conference is taking place here in this conference center named after one of Thessaloniki’s most important journalists and publishers, Yannis Vellidis.

I’m happy that the Global Learning Organization and the Digital Communication Network decided to organize this event in Thessaloniki.  One, because I understand it’s the first time in Greece, and being held here in Greece, especially at this time, I think it’s very [inaudible] area.  But too, Thessaloniki itself has a tremendous history.  It’s a crossroads, a cultural, economic, communications crossroads in the world, and what better place to really delve into communications, to delve into making those connections than here in Thessaloniki?

And while TIF will end in a couple of days, the Thessaloniki International Fair will end in a couple of days, I want to assure all of you that my work here is not done.  My colleagues’ work here is not done.  Our goal is to maintain momentum, and I hope that you will do the same, through the connections that you make here today.  To seek new ways to present digital communication as a way to combat disinformation and to serve its societies.

It’s a trope that we are entering a period of profound change, but it feels very real these days.  I know that our Ambassador will speak to you, Ambassador Pyatt will speak to you.  He and I had the honor of serving together in Ukraine from 2015-2016, and he will, I’m sure, address that experience with you.

For me personally, it was a very formative time in understanding the power of social media, the power of digital communication, but also the power of crowd source information, the power of misinformation and disinformation, but also more importantly the power of social networks and individual responsibility in combating misinformation and disinformation.

So while the changes that we see going on may amplify the power of those who wish to mislead and sow confusion, I believe, the Department of State still believes, that the proliferation of social platforms that you all are focused on and developing empowers individuals as well.  And that makes your mission, the collective mission of uncovering and sharing truth all that much more important, and that much more challenging.

So the connections that you make here today at the Digital Communication Network program, are tremendous important to us at Department of State, but also in general, I feel, to all of us.

We hope that the collaborative connections that you make across Europe and Central Asia will work to strengthen both your communication skills, but also develop [inaudible] digital content.

We are proud to support this and we believe that networking such as you are doing right now is tremendously important for the future.

So putting aside the prepared remarks, this is actually very exciting not only for me, but as I told many of you when I walked in, for the Ambassador and for the entire Mission here, and for the Department of State.  This is the future.  This is now, the present.  And what you are doing is important for us to help amplify and support.  So in any way that we can, we will certainly look forward to doing that in the future.  And I thank you all for your attention and for the work that you’re doing.  I appreciate it.


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