US ambassador’s fantastic adventure in Portugal

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

The United States Ambassador to Portugal praised the kindness, generosity and hospitality shown by the Portuguese in the 14 months he has been in the post.

Allan J. Katz was addressing hundreds of guests at the US Embassy in Lisbon last week at a party to celebrate the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence Day from British colonial rule.

During the evening’s events, the colours were presented by the US Embassy in Portugal’s Marine Corps Detachment followed by the singing of both countries’ national anthems sung by Joe Coronado.

The theme of the annual US Embassy Independence Day party was ‘The Spirit of American Music’ from rock and roll to jazz and from Broadway to bluegrass. The rich diversity of American music was played throughout the evening by the Navy band Topside, which travelled from Naples especially to perform at the event.

Allan Katz reminded guests that whether the US service men and women were playing the best of American music in Lisbon or serving alongside NATO allies in Afghanistan, they were “exceptional” and that they were proud of their work and “grateful for their sacrifice”.

The ambassador said his time in Portugal had been a fantastic adventure.

“We have travelled the length and breadth of the country from Ponto Delgada to Porto, from Lisbon to Faro,” he said. Calling Portugal a “notable country”, he added that the Portuguese were even more special.

“Throughout the year, Nancy and I have met many people who always welcomed us with open arms, with kindness and generosity. Thank you for your hospitality, Portugal for us already feels like home,” he said.

It had been a remarkable year in which the close ties that bind the two countries had been witnessed time and time again. The ambassador said he was continually impressed by Portuguese institutions which served as partners, highlighting American culture and fostering exchanges between Portugal and the United States.

In January, the ambassador was invited to an opening concert of a year devoted to American music at the Casa da Música in Porto.  In the area of entrepreneurship, efforts had been strengthened to bring together Portuguese and American business people seeking to develop working partnerships in Lusofone Africa.

In education, the ambassador had been impressed by the creation of new and dynamic relationships, between American and Portuguese universities, working to create increased opportunities in educational exchanges.

“I am convinced that educational partnerships play an important role in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship and that this benefits both Portugal and the United States. During President Obama’s visit to Lisbon last November, our militaries reaffirmed their common mission and defined NATO’s new strategic alliance.

“Around that time, an agreement was completed based on several months of discussion, allowing the expansion of the bi-lateral commission, to increase collaboration on issues of shared interest, such as technology and innovation, education and renewable energy,” he continued.

“I have been extremely gratified by the close working relationship between our countries which has produced such positive results,” he added.

Allan Katz said that in the time he had been in Portugal, he had often reflected on the path that Portugal had taken since 1974, economically, socially and politically. “Portugal in 1974 was a different country than it is today. Some younger guests at the commemorations born after 1974 could not even imagine Portugal as it existed before this defining moment,” he said.

From an outsider’s perspective, it was astounding to see what Portugal had accomplished in 37 years of democracy. In the United States, it had taken a devastating civil war to lay a ground work for a truly unified nation.

Portugal, however, in the space of a few years, had the courage and fortitude to overthrow dictatorship, resist a communist takeover and avoid a civil war.  The Portuguese revolution, which resulted in a democratic government, influenced the outcome in neighbouring Spain and then set the example for transitions in Latin America.

The international repercussions of the Portuguese revolution were a positive force for democracy throughout the world.