I can’t believe this is it – three and a half years have gone by in a flash. I know that time goes faster as one ages, but this is ridiculous!
It has been a great honor and a huge privilege to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, and I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone here for their partnership and friendship.
From the beginning, when I jumped immediately into the Pacific Islands Forum, and cruised with the U.S. Navy Destroyer USS Momsen when it made a ship visit to all four states (the only time that has happened since FSM declared independence in 1986),
To the last historic and pivotal year, a year of firsts – the first time an FSM President met with the U.S. President in the White House, the first time a U.S. Presidential Cabinet level Secretary (Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie) traveled to the FSM, and the first time a Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) traveled to the FSM, a week after Secretary Wilkie. Secretary Pompeo also brought the momentous news that there would be future negotiations of the expiring financial provisions of the Compact. And then, all of the many wonderful events that occurred in between – Pacific Partnership in Yap and Chuuk, Koa Moana in Yap, many Coast Guard Search and Rescue missions, bilateral Joint Committee Meetings that pushed the ball forward significantly in the defense and security realm; and many, many more joint events and programs too numerous to fully catalogue here, that really highlighted our special relationship and profound partnership. It has been a joy working with all of you to accomplish our mutual goals, and I will be following closely events in the FSM in the years to come.
And there is much to follow: the Army version of Pacific Partnership, called Pacific Pathways, which will take place simultaneously in Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae; the Marine exercise Koa Moana in Chuuk and Yap; the future negotiations of the expiring Compact financial provisions; and the 75th anniversaries of Liberation during World War II in September. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many to thank for their friendship – President Panuelo, Vice President George, Chief Justice Yamase, Governor Oliver, members of the FSM National Congress and the Pohnpei Legislature, so many others – I could mention every person here. It has truly been a pleasure knowing all of you, and I will remember you for the rest of my life. But in this crucible, there are some with whom I work every day, who always get the job done, even in the most trying circumstances, who I must give special recognition – the U.S. Embassy staff.
With all of the increase in activity, our staff has grown substantially – we now have a four person Defense Attaché Office and a Public Affairs Officer, and will soon have a USAID office – requiring more of pretty much everything – money, office space, housing, utilities, vehicles, furniture and equipment. The management section has, under great duress, and with constant logistical challenges, made it all happen. They often don’t get the credit they deserve because they work behind the scenes, so I wanted to make sure they were recognized for their excellent work first. Similarly, our security section works 24 hours a day with little fanfare but great effectiveness to ensure that we are protected – thank you, local guard force. I am sure you all are familiar with the philosophical question, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Our Public Affairs section ensures that no such quandaries exist regarding our many embassy activities, and they do so with flair and creativity. Our political and military folks have worked overtime plus time that theoretically doesn’t even exist to bring to the FSM the many wonderful exercises and workshops on the defense and security side. The Consular section must deal with unique and thorny problems every day, and they always are resolved perfectly. I could not have done what I have been able to do without my Executive Assistant, who has been a lynchpin in everything I do. And then there is the person who must coordinate all of this, while at the same time respond to all of my whims, and who does these incredible acrobatics with panache and the utmost of ease and competence, the DCM. I have been the outward facing Embassy exterior in all of this, but my staff have been the engine and transmission, and they really run the show.
Then we also have all of the other agencies that work on the ground – DOD, DOI, and USDA – plus many more from Guam, Honolulu, Manila, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Washington, DC – some 50 US Government entities in all. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the amazing contributions you make in the FSM.
Finally, I thank my loving, beloved, and beautiful wife Timmy, who has literally kept me afloat during my Ambassadorship – among many other amazing qualities, she is the most organized person I know. Without her I would have drowned.
So as many of you already know, I depart the FSM on January 29 – next Wednesday. The next day, my successor Carmen Cantor arrives, so there will be no gap in coverage. I travel to Washington, DC and will spend two months there before I retire on March 31. The US Foreign Service has a mandatory retirement age of 65, and I passed that landmark several weeks ago. Then – we will see. At this point, I have no plans, except that I hope to continue working in some fashion.
I will miss the FSM, and I will miss all of you. I do hope to stay in touch with you all, and even, at some point, return to the FSM. In the meantime, thank you again from the bottom of my heart for the friendship, partnership, laughter, and many memorable moments.
I do believe dinner is served.