175 Years of U.S.-Austrian Diplomatic Relations
Diplomatic Academy, February 13, 2013
Sehr geehrter Herr Bundespräsident, sehr geehrter Herr Generalsekretär, sehr geehrter Botschafter Winkler, sehr geehrte Exzellenzen, meine Damen und Herren:
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to celebrate with us, 175 years since the start of U.S.-Austrian diplomatic relations. And it is very fitting that we celebrate this at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Thank you, Ambassador Winkler for hosting this gala event and for your excellent cooperation and support.
I also would like to thank the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Relations for being our partner in this event. This is indeed evidence of our continued, strong partnership and close diplomatic relationship. I’d like to extend special thanks to Ambassador Eichtinger, who, from the very beginning, was supportive of this project. So much so, that he’s well featured in our exhibit and video.
I would like to tell you a little bit about our commemorative project. The Public Affairs staff at the U.S. Embassy has worked for the last year compiling documents, photos, letters and other memorabilia to put together a multimedia exhibit to tell the story of U.S-Austrian diplomatic relations.
This information is included in the exhibit that you walked by on your way in – and I promise, you will have more time to view it this evening. All of the information is included in a commemorative booklet, which everyone will receive. Tonight also happens to be opening night for our 175th anniversary video. Incidentally, the video is 17.5 minutes long. I was told that was only a coincidence.
From the outset, we knew it would be impossible to compile a full historical documentation of the last 175 years. Many historians and academics have already done that very well. Some are here tonight and I would like to say thank you for your contributions to our exhibit and for sharing your vast knowledge, research and even items from your collections. Instead, our exhibit is a visual journey, showing the highlights of U.S.-Austrian relations. As you’ll see, our exhibit depicts some of the challenges that we, as two nations, have faced over the years.
Our intent, however, is to focus on the building, and at times, rebuilding of this relationship, which has brought us to the continued cooperation and recognition of shared values on which our two countries thrive today. And just recently we learned about our new Secretary of State’s Austrian roots.
According to news reports, Secretary Kerry’s family was originally from Mödling and the Styrian village of Altaussee. So there’s one more Austrian-American success story.
In 2008, as then-Senator Obama said, “True partnership and true progress require constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require the burdens of development and diplomacy, of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other, and, most of all, trust each other.” Sometimes, this takes years to develop.
As many of you know, formal relations between our countries date back to February 8, 1838, when Henry A. Muhlenberg was sent to Vienna, Austria, as our first diplomatic envoy here.
Since then, there have been about 50 more American envoys, ministers, charges d’affaires and Ambassadors who have come to Vienna to carry on this work. Each did his or her part to further the relationship. I’m proud to be one in this long line of outstanding public servants.
Four years ago when President Obama asked me to be the Ambassador to Austria, I was very excited to come here, meet all of you, and continue the relationship begun and developed by my predecessors. Our two countries have not always agreed on everything, but, for the most part, we have the same ideas about moving our nations forward and spreading democratic ideals and shared values to the rest of the world.
Looking back at the past 175 years, we have come a long way and accomplished much. I’m proud to have maintained the pace during my time here and am pleased to note that U.S.-Austria trade and investment has continued to grow, we see record numbers of Austrian tourists in the U.S. and U.S. tourists in Austria; and we have signed more than a few bilateral cooperation accords during the last few years. We want to continue these strong relations, promoting a peaceful, safe and prosperous world for future generations.
During my time in Austria, I have had the privilege of attending many events, where we increased cooperation and deepened the relationship between Austria and the United States. Several of these events have dealt with a topic that is very important to both our countries: promoting green energy and protecting the environment, while fostering economic growth. I have been able to see this through visits to the town of Güssing and to the Borealis Innovation headquarters in Linz.
Now we must continue and amplify these successes by sharing our ideas and innovations and setting an example of cooperation with other parts of the world. A proven, effective way to do this is through exchange programs.
Since I’ve been here, we have had four major celebrations of exchange programs between Austria and the United States. We have commemorated the 60th anniversaries of the Institute for the International Education of Students and the Fulbright Program, the 70th anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program, and the 85th anniversary of the Austro-American Institute of Education. Many of you, as alumni, have first-hand knowledge of the value of these outstanding programs that have enabled students and professionals to share their cultures and ideas while creating a lasting foundation upon which future relations can prosper. For the United States and Austria, those foundations were laid long ago, but in other parts of the world, relationships had a more recent beginning. Occasionally in these cases, our military forces have played an important role in foreign relations.
In the past few years, I have witnessed this cooperation first hand, visiting the Austrian troops in Kosovo and Bosnia. I was very impressed with the troops and reminded of the valuable service that they perform for all of us. You’ll see photos from these programs, visits and events and many more in our exhibit here and in the video. I’d like to invite all of you to also visit the U.S. Embassy Vienna website, where we’re uploading a virtual exhibit to include all of the materials we’ve collected. And, if you have other photos, documents and memorabilia related to U.S.-Austrian diplomatic relations, I invite you to share it with us electronically. We’ll add that to this ongoing, virtual exhibit. As you can see, the role of Ambassador has changed in many ways over the past 175 years. Some of our communication is now done electronically, through websites and social media. In fact, you can also find me on Twitter. But I’m happy to say that even in the 21st century, face-to-face meetings, visits and opportunities to commemorate and celebrate together, continue to provide the foundation of a long-standing and solid relationship such as ours.
I hope you enjoy our exhibit tonight and have a chance to participate in more U.S. Embassy-sponsored commemorative events throughout this year. And now it is a great honor for me to introduce a true friend of the United States, Bundespräsident Professor Dr. Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria, to say a few words.