May 16, 2022, 7:30 p.m.
Your Excellency Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance and National Economy; Ambassadors; Vice Admiral Cooper; distinguished officials; members of the diplomatic corps; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen; Massa Al Kheyr, wa Ahlan wa Sahlan.
I would first like to honor the memory of United Arab Emirates President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. President Biden described Shaikh Khalifa as a true partner and friend of the United States for decades. May he rest in peace. We look forward to working with His Highness Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as president of the UAE.
It is my great honor to welcome you to our 2022 Independence Day celebration. How good does it feel to come together – in person – for this event? Thank goodness we made it to this moment.
Before I jump into the speech, I want to thank the many people who worked hard to put this magnificent event together. First, to my colleagues at the US Embassy, especially Shawn Bush and Timitri Owens, who led the effort. And the Embassy personnel who carried out the many, many tasks. Thank you all. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and creative touches of the team here at the Ritz-Carlton.
I would like to formally thank the many corporations that sponsored this event. Their names are listed on banners around the room. Thanks to you all for supporting the 2022 US Independence Day celebration. We couldn’t do it without you.
And last but certainly not least, I want to thank my Embassy partner Maggie Nardi. Maggie is well known to you all, having served with distinction at the Embassy the past three years as Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission. Maggie will depart Bahrain soon to take up a position in Washington. I thank you, Maggie. Please join me in a round of applause!
I am delighted to see you all as we celebrate 246 years of American independence. As you may know, I served in Bahrain earlier, 15 years ago, and my wife Meghan and I feel like we have returned home. It is such a joy to be back, reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and see the country’s miraculous development.
Even as we celebrate this joyous occasion together, we must acknowledge our losses. Covid-19 has upended everyone’s life in some way. We all have struggled with the isolation. Social distancing helped keep us safe, but it also imposed costs. It hampered our ability to engage one another as individuals.
I am very grateful to be serving in Bahrain, which deserves the international acclaim it receives for its Covid response. We all have benefited from the leadership and wisdom of His Majesty King Hamad, His Royal Highness Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman, and the superb teams they built.
On a global scale, the pandemic inhibited our ability to relate to and connect with one another at the national and international levels. Kings, presidents, and prime ministers met over Zoom, and officials tried to build and strengthen relationships — virtually.
We have to acknowledge that this was hard, very hard. To quote US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “Diplomacy is a contact sport.” Diplomacy means meeting our counterparts face to face, shaking hands, looking each other in the eye, and reading body language. Diplomacy requires human connection.
The idea of community connections has been on my mind a lot lately, as we emerge from our Covid-induced seclusion. I am reminded of how precious the connection is between the United States and Bahrain.
The U.S.-Bahrain friendship is one of the oldest and closest in the region, based on a partnership that started in the late 1800s. It began with the arrival of American missionaries providing healthcare and education to the people of Bahrain. January 2023 will mark exactly 120 years since the founding of the American Mission Hospital.
Our economic relationship grew exponentially when Standard Oil of California drilled the first productive oil well in Bahrain in October 1931. Chevron, a successor corporation to SOCAL, celebrates its 90th anniversary in Bahrain this year. Our security relationship advanced quickly as U.S. Navy ships called on Bahrain for fueling and resupply after World War II. We continue to benefit from the presence of the magnificent US Fifth Fleet and American service members here.
As these significant milestones indicate, the U.S.-Bahrain relationship started with the people of our two nations joining hands and working together for their mutual benefit. This spirit of partnership, friendship, and connection continues to this day.
In March of this year, we were honored to host the Crown Prince and Prime Minister in Washington, which gave us an opportunity to engage in substantive discussions and build upon our already strong ties. The personal engagement of His Royal Highness greatly strengthened relations and opened the door to ever-closer connections.
We’ve seen unprecedented government-to-government cooperation in the last year. I want to again thank the Bahraini government for its swift action in support of the Afghanistan evacuation last summer. Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin lauded Bahrain’s efforts in facilitating the safe transit of over 7,000 American citizens and other evacuees through the Kingdom.
The United States is focused on supporting the developing ties between Bahrain and Israel since the historic signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2021. Our two close friends and allies have demonstrated their commitment to a warm peace by opening embassies, exchanging ambassadors, launching regular flights, and formalizing cooperative agreements that bring tangible benefits to the lives of citizens of both countries.
On the economic front, our companies are more connected now than ever. In 2021, U.S.-Bahrain bilateral trade exceeded $2 billion – up from $1.5 billion the year before.
We work daily with the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain and the U.S.-Bahrain Business Council to advance these commercial links – including, notably, this February’s inauguration of the U.S. Trade Zone, which promises to be home to significant American corporate investments in the Kingdom.
We are happy to see so many Bahrainis taking advantage of the 10-year U.S. visa as we continue to deepen our people-to-people ties. With the conclusion of an agreement to extend the Global Entry Trusted-Traveler program to Bahraini citizens, entering the United States can be as easy as strolling through a gate.
Our educational and cultural partnerships are a standout part of our relationship. This year, we’re sending dozens of Bahrainis to the United States on cultural, academic, and professional programs. We’re also bringing more American students and scholars to Bahrain.
In the education realm, we work together for the benefit of our youth, whether it’s training teachers, developing new curricula, collaborating on standards, or expanding university partnerships. These endeavors ensure that we are working together to advance critical thinking, problem solving, and innovation.
Our cultural exchange is constant. Bahrainis have ways to experience American food at local restaurants, and films at cinemas. I am a big sports fan, and it was great to see American athletes playing in the recent Bahrain league basketball championship and cup tournament. And we all loved seeing the Crown Prince at the recent Miami Formula One race – the Super Bowl of the super sport!
I was reminded of the importance of human connections, of people-to-people engagement, when the Embassy hosted an Iftar for Bahraini youth involved in our exchange programs. These bright, ambitious Bahrainis took inspiration from America, added their own energy and ideas, and created something new in Bahrain. Now they’re addressing today’s challenges in innovative ways.
During Ramadan, Meghan and I were invited into the homes of Bahraini friends, some of whom are here this evening. We got to know each other’s families, learned about Ramadan traditions, shared specialty foods, and talked and laughed. These experiences remind me of Bahrainis’ traditional openness, welcoming nature, and eagerness to share their culture.
These connections are rooted in our shared values. And they stem from our two countries’ enduring commitment to work together, with respect, as equal partners.
At the heart of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship are the ties that connect individual citizens. Our shared history of cooperation has created deep relationships between us. People don’t engage because of national security or foreign policy interests, but rather because they’re neighbors, colleagues, and friends who check in when someone is ill, help with a household task, or celebrate life milestones together. May this spirit of friendship, respect, and connection continue long into the future.
Thank you all for coming today, and happy Independence Day!