Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First-ever worldwide Conference of U.S. Ambassadors

I had the privilege of attending the first-ever worldwide conference for U.S. Ambassadors. It was a historic event where we had the opportunity to hear from our top leadership and to compare notes with colleagues from every corner of the globe. Secretary Clinton challenged us “…to engage in renewing our alliances, forging new partnerships, and elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense as pillars of American foreign policy and national security.” She laid out clearly the budget difficulties we confront and shared her thinking on how we can accomplish our mission by taking fresh approaches to the way we do business, especially through interagency coordination. Vice-President Biden spoke to us about the challenges we confront throughout the world but shared his optimism about our ability to work with our partner countries. Overall, it was a fantastic week of learning, sharing experiences, and hearing clear messages from our leadership.

Hablando español en Islandia

Yes, I had a chance to speak my native language with a group of vibrant Icelanders who are studying Spanish at the University of Iceland. I was impressed with their knowledge of the language as well as their interest in foreign affairs. This was part of the Embassy’s efforts to provide Icelandic students with information about studying in the United States. We were quite pleased to hear that several of them would like to do so.

Icelandic Federation of Trade’s annual meeting

The Federation honored me with an invitation to speak to the group at their annual meeting. I used the opportunity to share my views on Iceland’s enormous economic potential and the importance of having a clear and predictable business environment to attract investment (both domestic and foreign). I enjoyed meeting the federation’s leadership and several of its members.

The Love Walk

The closing event of the Winter Lights Festival was quite interesting and charming. There is something very European about walking around a pond following a musical band and a group of people holding torches. The walk was punctuated by fire breathers, spontaneous huggers, and a small group of singers. My family and I enjoyed it very much. In a very typical Reykjavik fashion, we had blue skies, sleet, and snow in the space of one hour.

Ambassador Arreaga with Spanish and French students from the University of Iceland.