Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you very much. Salamatsyzdarby. I’m happy to be here. Thank you very, very much. I want to express my appreciation to everybody. Thank you for sitting out here for a little while.
Mr. Foreign Minister, Erlan, my friend, I’m happy to be here with you. And we had a chance just to catch up for a moment after we arrived. And my Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, who is here sitting in front, told me that you only get to see the mountains on your second visit to. But I can see over there. You see the little outline, so I’m cheating the proverb. It was a good excuse, very creative.
Ambassador Gwaltney, thank you for your leadership. Thanks for the outstanding job that you and your team are doing here in representing the United States of America in Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic. And we are really – I am personally very excited to be here in this very beautiful country. I know it is almost insulting to be here for such a short time; it whets my appetite. And someday, God willing, when Syria, North Korea, and Yemen, and a few other places quiet down, we’ll have more time to travel.
But this is a very important relationship, which is why I wanted to come here and it’s why I wanted to begin my visit here. And your excellencies all, thank you for coming to join us in the official opening of this very important and beautiful building. We – I want to congratulate all those who have been involved in helping to bring the construction of this building to a successful conclusion, and I hope you’ll all agree that the effort has been worthwhile. I don’t know if our security people will allow it, I don’t know what the rules are, but I was sitting here thinking I want to see some trees along these walls here, and maybe we can do some things that aesthetically grow it as we go forward.
But this new chancery looks great on its own. It’s a superb building. It is brilliantly designed. It’s bright; it’s open; it’s energy-efficient. And it’s going to give our team working here the space that the people who work here need and deserve, and we’re proud of that. This is, in short, a 21st century embassy with which, Mr. Foreign Minister, to implement a 21st century partnership. And we look forward to that.
It really symbolizes – and I want you to think about this. It really does symbolize in a very meaningful way the depth of the relationship and our commitment to a close and cooperative relationship with the Kyrgyz Government and the people. Diplomacy is about people. Relationships are about people. And we want our shared interests and the mutual respect of our people and our countries to define this relationship well into the future.
We all know that the United States was among the very first nations to recognize the Kyrgyz Republic’s independence. And as Erlan said, that was 24 years ago. It’s hard to believe now that so much time has passed so quickly. Since then we have proudly, staunchly supported this country’s independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity. And I can assure you that is not going to change.
It was only a couple of months ago after independence – after – a couple of months after the independence itself 24 years ago, obviously, that we first raised our flag at the U.S. Embassy building. I didn’t know it was a kindergarten at first. Maybe that’s appropriate for some diplomats running around. But it was on Erkendik Boulevard, and I am told that understands and translates, appropriately enough, into Freedom Boulevard.
In subsequent years, as our countries began to work together, obviously the needs of our embassy grew. And so in 1998, we moved to this, to the current location. And over time, our engagement has continued to expand and to include more arenas of shared concern and of endeavor: security, economic issues, the environment, education, people-to-people exchanges. We have an extraordinary number of students going from here to the United States to study. And all of this helps us to know each other and to understand each other better, which is what diplomacy and being in the Foreign Service is all about.
The fact is we’re really only just beginning. And in historical terms, obviously 25 years is the blink of an eye. I want you to know that just as we have built this embassy, we are definitively planning to build a stronger relationship and to find the ways to do it.
In the process of our growth and development of the relationship, obviously our locally based diplomatic staff has also continued to grow. We started with just a few people, and now we employ more than 300. And the majority of those are Kyrgyz citizens, as it should be. Some of them are here with us. And I just want to say how extremely grateful I am personally, President Obama is, and Americans are for the fact that you are willing to work with us, because your being with us is really at the core of helping us to be able to build real ties to the people here. And every day you help us to promote our goals of shared prosperity, our goals of mutual security based on a strong, democratic set of institution, and obviously support for the rule of law.
So before closing so we can get to the official job of cutting the ribbon, let me just mention how proud I am. I’ve been a longtime advocate for environmental responsibility all my life really. One of the first things I did when I returned from being a soldier – a sailor, actually, in the war in Vietnam – was to become involved in America’s environmental movement – way back, 1970s. I’m dating myself today. But for years I’ve been advocating for sustainability. And now with the challenge of climate change, we’re all about to meet in Paris next month. Well, not quite next month, a day or so away from next month. But we will be looking for a global commitment to deal with this challenge of climate change which involves all of us. And there’s so much that can be gained in terms of responsible energy policy in the design of buildings. And that’s one of the things we’re really proudest of in this building, because this building is a extraordinary model of green design and sustainability. It incorporates a number of environmental technologies that include harvesting rainwater, waste water treatment, solar panels. And these characteristics have not gone unnoticed. The new chancery received a silver rating on leadership in energy and environmental design, and I’m very proud of that. I was about to say that this building ought to be considered a model for the region, but frankly, it’s a model for anywhere. And I hope the Kyrgyz Republic will be proud of that fact as we are. It’s the kind of thoughtful design, respectful of nature, that we need to see more of in every building that is built anywhere in the world.
So my colleagues and friends, thank you so much for joining us for this moment of celebration. We not only celebrate the opening of the building; but even more than that, this is an occasion to affirm the special relationship between two countries that may be very different in many respects on the surface. But in terms of in our heart and in our gut and in our head as we think about life and the kind of governments we want and the way we want our people treated, we are very similar. We both care and we both are champions of democratic values. We are both builders of peace and both committed to a future of opportunity and of promise for our people. I hope this building will last, whether it’s a hundred years or way into a future that we can’t measure; but more than that, I want our relationship to last way beyond the length of this building and the next building and beyond.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of this celebration. May God bless this building and all who work in it and the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States of America. Thank you.