Roderick Moore: Our Friendship is Deep and Will PersistDiplomatic Channel | November 2, 2015, Monday // 10:15| views
Photo: US Embassy in Sofia
Novinite is publishing a farewell message submitted by Roderick W Moore, Charg? d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Sofia. Mr Moore, who has had a number of diplomatic appointments to Bulgaria over the past 25 years, arrived in August to run the embassy until a successor to Ms Marcie Ries has been appointed. In mid-September, US President Barack Obama nominated Eric Seth Rubin as the country's next ambassador to Bulgaria.
The Statement, which the US Embassy has sent to Novinite's English and Bulgarian-language services, is published here without abridgement:
It is hard for me to believe that three months have passed since I arrived for my third diplomatic assignment here in Bulgaria. My stay, which has been longer than the State Department or I had originally intended, has nonetheless gone by in the blink of an eye – lending great truth to the old saying: “time flies when you’re having fun.” Indeed, I have had loads of fun during my all-too-brief stay here, thanks to the legendary warmth, friendship, and hospitality of the amazing people of this country.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness first-hand Bulgaria’s transformation over the last three decades – first as a backpack-toting student tourist in the mid-1980s, then as a young wide-eyed diplomat during the first two years of the post-Zhivkov transition, then during the first three years of the millennium, and now, over the last three months. The positive changes that have occurred in this country are simply astonishing. I frequently say to my Bulgarian friends who live here that they may not appreciate them how fundamentally this country has metamorphosed due to the incremental nature of change. However, if you disappear for a decade, as I did following my last visit in 2005, I can assure you that the change here has been jaw-dropping.
Some of that change is, of course, tangible. The improved roads, the beautiful metro, the new airport terminal, the glistening new malls and office buildings, the spruced-up parks and squares, and the ubiquitous cranes and construction sites are all perceptible signs of progress. But I sense other, less palpable, forms of change as well. In many ways, the people I meet speak differently, act differently, and, I believe, think differently from the Bulgarians I met a generation ago in the early 1990s. I attribute this to the fact that Bulgarians today are exposed to so many new influences that didn’t exist before –the proliferation of the internet and media (remember when there were only 2 or 3 TV channels and a couple of major newspapers?), greater opportunities for education and travel, and a burgeoning private sector that has become more and more integrated with the global economy. Moreover, today’s Bulgaria is a country ensconced within the EU, bringing to Bulgaria a system of rules and values that affects the way life is lived here.
The expansion of English language knowledge is remarkable. I remember well the days when only a sprinkling of Embassy contacts could converse proficiently in English. Nowadays, it seems that fluency in English is an ordinary phenomenon.
I have also been encouraged to encounter so many Bulgarians here who have lived or studied abroad and who are today contributing in so many wonderful, constructive ways to this country’s future. I do not know how widespread this “reverse brain drain” is, but I hope it will continue. Bulgaria will only profit from the experiences and expertise they bring home with them.
It has been extraordinarily, almost giddily, rewarding for me to have had the opportunity to serve over these past months in a Bulgaria that is a member of NATO. Before I left your country upon the completion of my last assignment in 2003, I regularly used to say how proud I would be when our two countries became formal allies. With that dream fulfilled, I can assure you that seeing our two countries working together to take on the huge security challenges facing us fills me with great pride. I only regret that there are still forces in this country that seem intent on trying to undermine this partnership that is so precious and so important.
I recognize, of course, that there are some areas of Bulgaria’s transformation have been lagging. I have frequently spoken, publicly and privately, about my concern about shortcomings in the rule of law. I also know that, despite the amazing progress of the last quarter century, there are still too many families who are struggling to make ends meet. I don’t want to underestimate these, and other, important challenges, and I hope that your leaders will take them on with renewed effort. Everyone will benefit if they do.
I have but two regrets about my time here. First, I have not traveled around the country as broadly as I would have liked during my brief stint here. I have so much nostalgia for the many gorgeous places I have visited in Bulgaria that are simply too numerous to name. And so many fond memories of the many, many good people I have met around the country. That brings me to my second regret. I am sorry that I have not had the opportunity to see all of my friends and acquaintances from my previous periods in Bulgaria. To them, I extend my sincerest apologies and hope that our paths will cross again soon.
I have absolutely no concern, however, about the future of our bilateral relationship. The roots are deep and will persist. Just as importantly, the people in charge of that relationship are first-rate. On the U.S. side, the team at our Embassy – Americans and Bulgarians - is absolutely fantastic. They are committed professionals who are passionate about moving our relationship ever forward. My deputy, Martina Strong, will do a superb job of running our Embassy after my departure. In addition, we are all truly fortunate that President Obama has announced Eric Rubin, an extremely talented diplomat whom I have known for over two decades, as his nominee to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador here.
One thing I’ve learned is never to say “farewell” to Bulgaria. There is something wonderful about this country that makes one yearn to come back. I am certainly an unrepentant recidivist, having returned many times to Bulgaria over the last quarter century. In fact, I recently calculated that, since I graduated from university, I have spent more time living in Bulgaria than I have in my own country! I can’t imagine that there won’t be future opportunities for me to come see you again.