Thank you, Under Secretary Kennedy, not only for your kind remarks, but also for your support for me over the years and in particular for the part you played in furthering my nomination. I am also deeply grateful to President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the honor and privilege of representing my country as Ambassador in Timor-Leste, and I am humbled to be able at long last to take up the task of strengthening America’s ties with Asia’s newest sovereign nation.
Acting Charge d’Affaires Sonia Maia of Timor-Leste, bemvindu, welcome to the State Department. My first experience with Timor-Leste was in 2002, when on an earlier tour in the East Asia Bureau, I worked on opening our then-new Embassy in Dili. I remember wondering how this new country would overcome so many daunting challenges. But Timor-Leste has made significant progress since then. It is, in many ways, a remarkable success story.
Since regaining its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has shown that it is possible for a country to leave behind the atrocities of war to build a better nation founded on commitment to democracy and respect for human rights. Even as it works to serve the interests of its people at home, Timor-Leste remains a global advocate for human rights and democracy, and has led by example, most recently, in contributions to support free and fair elections in Guinea-Bissau and the fight against Ebola. As a leader of the G7+ fragile states,Timor-Leste has redefined how post-conflict societies rebuild, and how they best work with international development partners in the process.
The United States is honored to partner with the Timorese to ensure that the country consolidates its gains and continues its advancement. We remain committed to helping build a prosperous and stable Timor-Leste, through our efforts to support effective law enforcement, a skilled judiciary, and a professional military; to create economic growth through sustainable agriculture; to ensure the health and wellbeing of the population through maternal and child health programs; and to strengthen capacity at all levels of Timorese society to promote development. I am personally excited to reopen our Peace Corps Mission in Timor-Leste in the coming year as an embodiment of the American people’s dedication to the Timorese people and as tangible evidence of the growing bond between our two countries.
Thank all of you here for coming today to cheer me on. My mom and brothers are here from Michigan. My mom gets considerable credit for encouraging me to take the path that led me to the Foreign Service. Of course, what she really wanted was for me to be a doctor. Now tradition has it that you thank your family for all their sacrifices, but when I asked Ellie what I should thank her for, she mentioned her advice on pop culture. And actually, I think that Ellie and her sister Kate would be the first to say that for them as for me, the Foreign Service has been an incredible adventure – and an experience we wouldn’t trade for anything. Kate and my husband Bill are far away across the Pacific but we’ll be together soon in Hawaii and we’ll celebrate then. And thank you to my colleagues from the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, under the able leadership of Danny Russel, and before him Kurt Campbell who encouraged me and recommended me to the Secretary. I also want to give a particular shout out to the team in the EAP Executive Office with whom I have worked for a cumulative nine years. I’ll miss you all. And finally, my sincere thanks to desk officer Jane Gamble and PMO Randy Peale who are trying so hard to get me out of here.
Again let me thank everyone here for helping me to celebrate the next exciting chapter in my personal adventure. Sadly I can’t mention everyone by name but know that your support and encouragement have made this moment possible. Now let’s wind this up and have a glass of champagne. Thank you