Remarks by Ambassador Mamet at his Welcome Reception

Welcome reception
Ambassador’s Residence
Thursday, February 5th, 2015 – 7 PM

Good evening everyone and welcome to the Bosch Palace. First, I ask your forgiveness because my Spanish isn’t perfect yet. But I am very happy to be here in Buenos Aires finally. Thanks to all of you for being here today and for this warm welcome to Argentina.

Before arriving in Buenos Aires, I practiced my Spanish, although some of you may not notice. I know that in “soccer,” what counts are the goals, but I hope that at least with my Spanish, you will give me some points for effort.   That said, it will be much easier for me to give my first speech in English.   And certainly less painful for you all as well.

[Delivered in English:] As in most countries, all United States Ambassadors have to take an oath of service to our country before starting our missions. Usually, our Ambassadors are sworn in during a standard ceremony at our Department of State,  so you can imagine how honored I felt when I was invited to be sworn in by Vice President Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, next to the Oval Office. It was truly an honor for me but also for Argentina—a clear indication of the importance of this bilateral relationship to the Obama Administration.

Before departing for Argentina, I discussed with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry the opportunities I see to strengthen our bilateral relationship, especially given the renewed focus of the White House and the State Department on this region. The re-establishment of relations with Cuba is the boldest example of a new partnership with Latin America, based on mutual respect and multilateralism…a fresh start, un nuevo comienzo.

The presence of each and every one of you here this evening is a true sign of the breadth of our bilateral ties. I am honored that all of you are here tonight – distinguished representatives of the national and local government, political parties, the private sector, universities, the media and the arts. Through your presence you are demonstrating that you too believe in the importance of this relationship. We in our Mission will continue to work with you in crucial areas like science and technology, energy, trade, tourism, entertainment and culture. And I am committed to increasing our connections in all of these areas and more. In fact, increasing connectivity between our two societies at every level will be my top priority over these next years.

I mentioned the importance of science in our relationship, and it is my honor to announce that in just a few days, we will be welcoming back to Argentina the head of NASA, Administrator (and former astronaut) Charles Bolden. The cooperation between our countries in the field of space exploration, including recent successful joint satellite missions, is a model for the type of positive collaboration that we are capable of. I know that Argentina and the U.S. can successfully work side by side in many other areas as well.

While I want to focus on the positive tonight, I would be remiss if I did not express my sorrow at the recent, tragic death of Alberto Nisman that has so deeply affected Argentina, and his family in particular. He devoted much of his professional life to investigating the horrendous terrorist attack on the AMIA center and we in the U.S Government believe his death must not stop the pursuit of justice for the victims of that brutal attack.

Before concluding, I want to share with you just a little more about my personal history: I was born and raised in the beautiful state of California. During my childhood we talked about soccer more than we did about any other sport. This of course is not surprising in Argentina, but it’s pretty rare in the U.S.  My father was a well-known Youth League soccer coach and proudly led our team to win the California state championship. I myself played goalie and some might say that this prepared me for the role of Ambassador, since I expect to have some tough shots kicked in my direction on occasion. In fact, people have told me I should strive to be the diplomatic version of Amadeo Carrizo. I’ll do my best, but I know that’s a very high standard.

Throughout my professional life I have tried to take on new challenges and work hard for what I believe in, both in my political career as well as in the private sector, whether on the issue of education, renewable energy, trade, or the promotion of human rights. I hope my experience in these areas as well as my 20 years working in U.S. politics including my time in Washington DC will benefit our mission here in Argentina.

And speaking of the Embassy, I want to thank Kevin Sullivan, who has been a fantastic Charge de Affaires. His outstanding leadership is widely recognized within the U.S. Government, by our Embassy staff here and by our many Argentine friends and colleagues. Of course, he will continue to work closely with me as the Deputy Chief of Mission, which is something I am very grateful for. Thank you, Kevin.

[Delivered in Spanish:] In conclusion, before arriving in Argentina, I spoke with several of my predecessors and other diplomats who have served here.  Every single person told me how enamored they still are with this country and its people. They shared with me memories of their time here, even showing me the precious memorabilia they had collected, like soccer jerseys, framed photographs, mate gourds and art. Even after many years, the still retained a special affinity for Argentina. I hope with all of my heart that I will share this experience with them.

Thank you very much for your warm welcome to Argentina.