My wife Haruko and I will soon be leaving our final posting in the Dutch Caribbean after two years of living on Curaçao. Along with my dedicated colleagues here at the Consulate General, we did our best to fulfill our responsibilities covering not only Curaçao but Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba, under the challenging circumstances of an unprecedented global pandemic, which cast its shadow over more than half of our time here.
In spite of the pandemic, and in a sense because of it, I’m very proud of what our team was able to accomplish with the cooperation of a great many people on these islands. From evacuating American citizens back to the US while facilitating stranded residents of Curaçao to return home to dealing with the many difficulties that COVID-19 posed to American residents and travelers. At the same time, we successfully promoted American investment on the islands, and helped undocumented populations get proper health care. We opened an education information center in Aruba so that students could have better access to facts and funding to enable them to study in the U.S. Our colleagues in DEA and at the FOL at the Hato Airport persisted in the hard fight to stop drug trafficking, and our CBP Preclearance operation in Aruba played a key role in the rebounding of American tourism there. The list continues.
During this time, we all learned that hardship can unite people and make us stronger. Working at the consulate in Curacao has been an extremely positive experience for me.
As Consul General, I’ve tried to reach out to all sectors of the islands’ peoples to deepen America’s connection. This is the most important reason why the US mission is here. And that reason has been constant since all the way back to 1793, when our consulate was first established in Curaçao. Or back to 1776 when Sint Eustatius became the first place overseas to recognize America’s independence!
During my career of more than three decades, I learned to make the place we live our home, and the people we get to know our family. As Curaçao became our real home, and as we shared the problems and joys of the islands with our friends and neighbors, you became our family too.
While bidding farewell to our beloved home and its people is the hardest thing in a foreign service life, I’d like to share a hope I’ve developed during my time here.
It’s in the people themselves. I met so many talented, energetic, creative people on these islands. They impressed me immensely, as they are truly exemplary world citizens who speak several languages and seem to have an inclusive global mindset in their genes. They are amazingly adaptable and thoughtful human beings. My hope is that the people of the islands would do a little more to reach out to America. When I see the challenges America is facing now, I’m convinced that we have a lot to learn from you. My hope is that we’ll be able to focus on common goals and help each other to make ourselves and our countries better together as we go forward.
Recently the State Department announced an ambitious plan – to build a modern consulate office building next to the historic Roosevelt House where I’ve had the privilege of living.
Our blue print is out. The idea behind it is that the historic diplomatic post that has endured all these years of ups and downs, prosperity, war, hardship, and happiness should now develop into a more dynamic place for the exchange of ideas and cooperation for generations to come. We’ve outgrown our steady 20th century relationship that has been nurtured in the seven decades since the Roosevelt House was built. Now we need to jump boldly into new possibilities for cooperation that urgently matter to all of us.
But the project can only succeed if the people of the islands embrace it, feel it necessary, and join with us to make it a meaningful vessel for our working together.
We are ready to make this happen. Now I’m counting on you to make our common plan a reality.