Ladies and Gentlemen, Presidents, Ministers, wonderful colleagues –
First and foremost, I want to say Thank You to each and every one of you – for being here this evening, and for your partnership these last four years. I want to express my sincere appreciation …
- To those across the governments at all levels who worked with us to move Bosnia and Herzegovina forward,
- To citizens who have had the courage to step forward and lead on making your country better,
- To international colleagues who have sought to help BiH progress, and move along its chosen path of Euro-Atlantic integration,
- And to my great team at U.S. Embassy Sarajevo for their hard work and dedication to the future of their country and to U.S.-BiH relations.
As I prepare to leave after almost four years, I take with me an overwhelming sense of the great potential of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The beauty of the country and the kindness and wisdom of the people will be my strongest memories. The growth of the economy, the progress in the tourism industry, the progress just this week toward NATO, important steps toward the European Union – these all make clear that this country can advance. What is equally clear – I know to all of you as well – is that the impediments remain significant; and largely internal to BiH. Political manipulation and corruption, rhetoric that incites fear and stokes nationalism, a bloated and expensive public sector that provides almost no services to citizens – all of these things are chasing people away from the beauty and possibilities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The significant success of BiH’s growing diaspora around the world makes clear that the problem is not the citizens of this country – for they are talented, hardworking and highly successful in the right environment. Rather, it is the corrupt political and economic framework put in place by too many politicians who seek to destabilize the country in order to remain in power at all costs for personal profit and protection.
So in this context, what do I wish for the future of BiH?
- I wish for leaders to step forward who truly represent the people, and not themselves, and who have the courage – because it will be needed — to finally begin a real campaign against corruption – that step alone will most immediately transform the future of this country for the better.
- I wish for parents, students, ministers and all concerned citizens to come together to give youth in BiH an education that prepares them for 21st century jobs, teaches them critical thinking skills, enriches their cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and brings them together in shared classrooms to build a shared future together.
- I wish for cultural institutions like the National Museum to be funded, given proper status, and supported to enable all citizens of BiH to understand that a shared future is built firmly on a shared past.
- And I wish for progress for BiH on its path to the EU and NATO – for leaders to come together around reforms, whether economic, social or political – that actually address BiH’s problems, build a private sector economy, address structural political issues, and allow normalcy and stability, rather than crisis and insecurity, to become the atmosphere across the country.
And last but not least, I wish all citizens a shared future of peace, prosperity and happiness in this beautiful land I have come to love.
With many thanks to all.