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SPEECH FOR SWEARING-IN
Ambassador Gnehm, thank you for the kind words, and for the support the Department has given to me in the process leading up to selection and confirmation. A special word of thanks is due to Sharon Bisdee, Chief of the Presidential Appointments Staff and a friend from my time in Personnel, who makes all the stuff like this swearing-in work. Those who have worked with Sharon know what a true pro she is. Thanks especially to all of you for coming here today. I would like to welcome as a special guest Ambassador Petrit Bushati, the Albanian Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Bushati, a wise and experienced diplomat, has been extraordinarily generous and candid in sharing with me his insights into Albania, its people, culture and politics.
I grew up in Nebraska, where my great great grandfather Bill Edwards settled in 1859, before statehood, with his full blood Indian wife. They farmed and raised 16 kids in a one room log cabin. We Nebraskans like to think we're just down to earth hard-working folks, and my grandfather Guy Edwards was certainly that, putting in 42 years doing track maintenance for the Burlington Railroad in a succession of small towns across southeast Nebraska. He passed away in 1987 at the age of 95, and I can tell you, he had some terrific stories to tell about a way of life that's pretty much gone. All of us in our family owe a lot to his quiet, straightforward approach to life.
I wish my father, who passed away more than six years ago, could be here today; I know he would be very proud. We didn't always see eye to eye on everything, but I'm pretty sure we respected each other's viewpoints. He was a sports writer, and a science writer, and a crime writer, and ultimately a commentator on life from a very self-consciously Midwestern point of view. He wrote for the Omaha World-Herald for 40 years. I’m pleased that the World-Herald is represented here today by its Washington Bureau rep, Jake Thompson. I am really grateful for all the support Nebraskans, including the World-Herald and Senators Bob Kerrey and Chuck Hagel, have extended to me since this appointment was announced. Nebraskans really do stick together and stand up for each other, and I’ve always been proud to call myself one.
Nancy and I began this Foreign Service life in 1975. Along the way, I have run across a few people that I have really learned a lot from. Most of this, I have to say, has been about how to treat other people with genuine respect -- something one ought to do automatically but sometimes one has to learn how to do. I think at least two of them, Ambassador Beth Jones and Ambassador Johnny Young, are here today. Two others were never in the Foreign Service – retired Sergeant Major Steve Rabourn, who has lived in Berlin since 1952 and knows everybody in that great city, and Bob Traister, who has run counter-narcotics programs in Peshawar in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province since I hired him away from USAID in 1989. And finally, it would be a terrible omission not to say something about the two ambassadors I worked with the past three years in Tashkent -- Stan Escudero, who is in Baku now, and Joe Presel, who's still in Tashkent. Each of these guys is about as far as you can get from the public's view, at least, of the Central Casting Foreign Service officer. Both, however, know how to do a great job, and each was a delight to serve as a DCM. I salute them both.
It is an obvious cliche to say that Albania is filled with challenges and opportunities, but, like most cliches, it is also true. At the beginning of this decade, Albania emerged from over 45 years of isolation, xenophobia and rigid Stalinism. Ready to embrace democracy and free market economics, Albania for a time made remarkable progress, despite the upheavals going on in nearby Yugoslavia and its successor states. Then, in 1997, with the collapse of the financial pyramid schemes, civil chaos ensued, and people questioned whether economic and political reform could ever be put back on track. Now, thanks to a determined government and a concerted program of international assistance and guidance, Albania, having provided important support to NATO in the Kosovo conflict, is once again on the long road back toward sustained political progress and economic development.
The U.S. is committed to helping strengthen the countries in the region in their efforts to foster peace, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity in order to achieve stability in the whole region. Lasting peace and stability in South Eastern Europe will only become possible when democratic principles and values, which are already actively promoted in many countries in the region including Albania, have taken root throughout. International efforts, such as the Friends of Albania meeting which took place today in Brussels with the Government of Albania participating, are focused on consolidating and linking areas of stability in the region to lay a firm foundation for the transition of the region as a whole to a peaceful and democratic future. I look forward to working within this overall regional policy framework to advance U.S.-Albanian friendship and cooperation.
In closing, I’d like to recognize the members of my family who are here today. Our daughters Alma Limprecht Klein, who got married to Josh Klein less than two weeks ago and who works in Internet publishing in Chicago, and Eleanor Limprecht, who graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech in May. Even though they have chosen to live in the U.S., growing up as Foreign Service kids seemed to agree with them. They’re interesting, independent, successful people, and we like them a lot. My sister Jane, who with her husband Brad Waller lives and works here in Washington. And my Mom, Marge Limprecht, who has always been this family’s biggest booster, and who still lives in Omaha. She stayed on after Alma’s wedding just so she could be at the swearing in. Thanks for everything, Mom. We love you a lot.
And most important, my wife and partner in just about everything for 30 years, the former Nancy Silverman of Omaha. We went to the same high school in Omaha, though at different times, and we have been together a long time. Her own contribution to the Department of State has been significant, most recently based in Tashkent but travelling to American embassies in the 14 NIS countries training and consulting with their young, eager FSNs in computer software. On at least one issue I have a definite agenda with regard to Tirana – and that’s to get adult dependents allowed back at post so that Nancy can join me there. I need her help. Thank you all very much.