Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at the Welcome Reception for the American Council of Young Political Leaders

Good afternoon. Welcome to this special reception in honor of a distinct group of young American political leaders.

This group from the United States is here in Timor-Leste through a partnership between the Government of Timor-Leste and the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), with support from the U.S. Department of State. First, I would like to invite our guests of honor from the United States to stand and introduce themselves. If you can do it in Tetum, you will receive a special prize (but I cannot tell you what it is yet). Thank you all very much. As you can see, this is a diverse group that includes women and men; urban and rural; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. With their wealth of knowledge and experience, you can see why we are excited to have them here in Timor-Leste.

This is the second ACYPL delegation from the United States to visit Timor-Leste since the official start of this partnership in 2017. I want to thank the remarkable team at the Maritime Boundary Office, our friends at DLA Piper, the U.S. Embassy and all others working to ensure the success of this mutually beneficial exchange program. This is a two-way exchange. ACYPL brings U.S. delegations to Timor-Leste. ACYPL welcomed its first Timorese delegation to the United States in May 2018. That group of young Timorese leaders is here this evening. Please join me in a round of applause for: Felismina Carvalho dos Reis, Savio Lopes Guterres, Nina Soares Trindade, Manuel Pereira, Francisca Maia, and Iriana Freitas De Jesus Ximenes. These six young Timorese leaders – representing different backgrounds, political parties, and views – served as ambassadors for Timor-Leste while visiting the U.S. states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wyoming and Washington, DC. They experienced the vast diversity of the United States of America and its people. They noted the level of decentralization in the United States, the relative autonomy of state governments, and the responsiveness of U.S. politicians to their constituents.  The group also experienced some very exciting cultural activities in the United States: they went to a baseball game, participated in a volunteer service project, and tried American food like “chicken and waffles.” They even made an appearance on a local TV station in the state of Wyoming, located in the western part of the United States. Congratulations to the inaugural Timorese delegation.

The United States looks forward to welcoming the NEXT group of young political leaders from Timor-Leste in the near future. That group will witness the dynamism of the U.S. political process, in which our recent mid-term elections reflected the diversity of the American people and offered a more inclusive path to political leadership. To our American delegation here tonight: We hope after your visit you come away with a deeper appreciation for Timor-Leste and the Timorese people. This includes Timor-Leste’s long and difficult – and very recent – struggle for independence and democracy. For this reason, we here at the U.S. Embassy work closely with the Timorese government and people in the spirit of utmost respect – and indeed – humility. Our work here supports Timorese goals and objectives. This country is working to strengthen democratic institutions, diversify its economy, expand the private sector, provide opportunities to its growing youth population, strengthen its health sector, develop infrastructure, and mitigate poverty and all of its effects. When our American delegation returns home, I hope you leave Timor-Leste with a profound respect for what the Timorese have achieved in just 17 years of independence, and for their work to overcome the challenges they face. And I also hope you come away with profound respect for the Americans at this Mission — and their families.

We have many U.S. government agencies within our Mission: the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy Seabees, and others. Here we are all Americans, with one common purpose: we are here in Timor-Leste working every day to strengthen the ties between Timor-Leste and the United States, which are growing in a very positive way. Our aim is not just to support Timor-Leste in its goals, but to help Timor-Leste move toward its own self-reliance. The journey to self-reliance is the concept of our development assistance programs not only in Timor-Leste, but throughout the world. Yesterday, I had planned to share a long list of all of our programs in Timor-Leste. However, I did not want all of you standing and listening to a longer speech! So instead, we have these photos highlighting the programs. It is important to note this evening that the U.S. Government continues to support a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchange opportunities for young Timorese. Many of the people here this evening are alumni or current participants of these programs, such as the Fulbright Program, the U.S. – Timor-Leste Scholarship, the International Visitor Leadership Program, and others.

We are also very proud that in June 2018, the United States welcomed Timor-Leste into its signature program for youth leadership development in Southeast Asia – the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). More than 700 young Timorese leaders have already joined YSEALI and many have been selected to participate in regional workshops as well as fellowship programs in the United States. This includes Apolinario dos Santos, the first from Timor-Leste to participate in the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program on Governance and Society, which will also be implemented by ACYPL. Apolinario will complete a five-week fellowship in Columbia, South Carolina and then participate in the Spring 2019 Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, DC. So, Apolinario, you must make sure to meet Anne Bailey, who represents South Carolina! Just as Apolinario will have the opportunity to educate Americans about Timor-Leste, the visiting U.S. delegation will be able to engage with the Timorese people. They can share views on many topics related to our shared commitment to strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, and making the rule of law and a rules-based international order a reality for all. This is why we see Timor-Leste and this region as an important part of U.S. foreign policy. The United States is dedicated to promoting a free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific. We support Timor-Leste’s desire to join ASEAN and become part of this important regional organization in the heart of the Indo-Pacific region.

In closing, I have a challenge for the U.S. delegation. Please take time this evening to talk to as many people as possible to learn more about these efforts. Afterwards, share these stories with friends, families, and even political leaders so that they will better understand the importance of Americans serving abroad and the profound impact that the American people make in countries like Timor-Leste.

Thank you again for coming; enjoy your time and safe travels when you return home.