Dear Prime Minister, Dear Ministers, Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Thank you for joining us to celebrate America’s birthday. Thank you for the support and cooperation that each and every one of you has brought to the task of strengthening U.S-Georgia relations.
I will be brief, because my heart is full of mixed emotions on what is to be my last Fourth of July as Ambassador to Georgia. I am full of admiration for how far Georgia has come in building its democracy — not only in the 22 years since I was here the first time, but even in the last three years since Mary and I arrived.
I feel deeply enriched by the friendships we have made among the people of this ancient land with its incredibly rich and diverse cultural heritage.
And of course, although we are sad to be leaving Georgia, we look forward to returning home where we will be nearer to our children and grandchildren, at least for a while — and where I will give our daughter’s hand away in marriage on September 12.
Yet I am conscious that we depart even as many challenges still stand before Georgia: an unstable regional security picture, combined with economic and political uncertainties at home and abroad that the best minds in Government and Opposition and Civil Society must now try to address.
And I regret that I never had a chance to get back to the beautiful mountains North of Tskhinvali, or to Sokhumi, both of which I visited when I worked here in 1993. It is my fervent wish that Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians will be given the chance they deserve to live and thrive together in peace on the land they all share in common.
So I very much feel mixed emotions — yet one thing is clear: the United States stands with Georgia, today just as strongly as when Georgia’s independence was restored 24 years ago.
When your sovereignty and territorial integrity are questioned, we are with you.
When floods come, we are with you.
When your armed forces ask to be strengthened and modernized, we are with you – just as you have been with us on the battlefield, displaying courage and valor.
When your children need education and jobs, we are with you — along with your friends in Europe, the Far East and elsewhere.
Georgia is a key piece in a vast new effort to rebuild East-West ties across Eurasia, and we are proud to work with our strategic partner in unlocking these new opportunities, just as we are proud to work together to strengthen global security.
Ambassador Ian Kelly, my successor, and his wife Francesca are looking forward to picking up this dynamic relationship where Mary and I leave it off. He will inherit a team of superb professionals at our Embassy — and I cannot thank enough my American colleagues from across the U.S. Government inter-agency community, as well as our dedicated local staff whose continuity and support are indispensable to our mission.
I also want to use this occasion to thank my wife Mary for her support and engagement during this tour. Her advice has been indispensable to me — anything you think I did right over the past three years is probably thanks to her; anything I did wrong was my own fault.
To our friends from around Georgia, thank you in advance for extending to Ian and Francesca the world-famous hospitality you have shown to Mary and me and to all of us at the Embassy.
Good luck as you continue to build a stronger, more prosperous, more secure Georgian state — and please know that no matter where we are, Mary and I will always carry a little part of Georgia in our hearts.
Until we meet again: Sakartvelos Gaumarjos!