Thank you so much, Ambassador. And oh my goodness, it’s wonderful to see you in these absolutely fabulous surroundings. I am so pleased to have this opportunity to express in person my gratitude for the work that you do every day. I want to start with Ambassador Garber. Thank you for the last three years and your leadership. You’re wrapping your time up, but it is certainly going to be a loss for many, because you’ve been such an active, engaged ambassador. And I thank you for that.
I’m told that this has been quite a challenge to move into such beautiful surroundings in the winter. (Laughter.) But I assume that we’ll get the insulation brought up to date. The Ambassador’s office, I understand, was pretty cold. But I appreciate everything you’re doing because this new Embassy compound is a real testament to the importance we place on our relationship. And so many of you are working in the security area, improving strategic cooperation with Latvia as our NATO ally. You’re working on trade and investment, and you’re working to strengthen those bonds between our people. Cultural and educational exchanges are increasing; outreach to Latvian schools is helping young people in this country learn more about our own country. And I don’t know how many American ambassadors have presented the equivalent of a Grammy award in their host country – (laughter) – but that certainly earns a place in the annals of people-to-people diplomacy.
Now, a strong embassy community makes all of that possible. And I know today marks a somber anniversary of the passing of DCM Bruce Rogers. I know how much he contributed to this Embassy family. And the way that you all supported each other, recovered from that terrible tragedy, and moved forward in his memory was very impressive.
I want to also thank not only those who serve here at the Embassy, but every one of you who supports those who serve. So I’m particularly pleased to see family members and young people here as well. And let me especially thank our locally employed staff, the Latvians, who keep this Embassy going year after year. Because as you know, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, but the Latvian staff are really the continuity. You are the brain center, or the memory center, of everything that we are doing. And I want you to know that back in Washington, President Obama and I and everybody in the foreign relations team appreciates greatly what you’re doing.
This is a critical relationship. This country has been totally free and independent for a relatively short period of time. It’s made an enormous amount of progress. It has integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community. It has just gone through a terrible economic crisis and all the adjustments and tough decisions that were required to not only survive it, but get back on their feet and keep moving forward. So we want to continually make clear how much we value Latvia, value our relationship, and we want to broaden and deepen it at every turn.
So I can come and make that message in a very public way, as I’ve tried to do today, but the day-to-day work is really up to each and every one of you. And I greatly appreciate all you are doing. And I look forward to hearing about the continuing good work that will come out of this great Embassy. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)