Ambassador’s Remarks at the Alumni Open House, March 2, 2016

Thank you, Mark, and thank you very much to all of you for joining us this evening.  As some of you know, my father was an architect, and I grew up with a special interest in and appreciation for design.  This is my second time here at the National Library, and I can still say that this is one of the most … unique architectural designs that I have ever seen.  Perhaps some of you have mixed feelings about this space—but I hope we all can agree that this is an … iconic building and just the right location for American Corner Pristina—one of our Embassy’s most important partners in Kosovo.

I hope you’ll take a moment tonight to visit the American Corner downstairs.  It is one of three in Kosovo—the other two are in Prizren and North Mitrovica.  They are designed as American-style libraries and community centers, with programs and resources that are open and available to the public.  But I hope you’ll see the American Corners as more than that.  I hope you’ll see them as places for you to meet and to network, to share your knowledge and experiences, but also to collaborate and develop new ideas.

When Secretary Kerry visited Kosovo last December, he said that the more than 1,000 United States Government Exchange Alumni were terrific examples of our shared investments in your future.  I couldn’t agree more.  All of you were selected for exchange programs because of your potential.  When the U.S. taxpayers invested in your education, your training or your career, they were not only investing in you, but also investing in the future of Kosovo.  Now, you are leaders in your fields—government, business, education, civil society, and more—and we still value the shared investment that we have made.

Together, we are working to build a better future for Kosovo’s democracy. We are improving regional security by working to normalize relations with Serbia, countering violent extremism, and promoting integration and inclusion for all minority groups within Kosovo.  Together, we are working to achieve Kosovo’s full integration into European and international institutions.  We are promoting economic development in Kosovo—not only by encouraging investment and job creation, but more importantly, by promoting the conditions that make such investment possible.  We are promoting a competitive and credible higher education system, as well as English-language programs and sharing best practices for a skilled workforce.  We are also working on energy security, transparency in government, and justice sector reforms—all essential factors to economic growth.

And of course, my top priority, we are strengthening the rule of law–helping to build a well-functioning, multi-ethnic government and justice sector that is free from corruption.  Because Kosovo’s democracy and future in Europe depend on getting corruption under control.

So, now that I have explained to you my motivations and priorities, I want to encourage you to help us understand what your priorities are.  I want to encourage you to think about how you can work with our Embassy, to help us understand your challenges and to ask for our support with your projects.  But I also want you to work together.  This is one of the reasons we have invited you this evening.  If I may be so bold for a moment– our alumni network is one of the most successful and influential networks in Kosovo.  On a daily basis, all of you, as well as the other 900 plus alumni who are not in the room tonight, help shape the future of Kosovo.

Your work and your activities inform policies, develop institutions and inspire the next generation of Kosovo leaders.  You may have different views about where Kosovo is and where it’s heading—but if you work together, I bet that there isn’t a single challenge that you face as a state that could not be addressed by the people in this room.  We want to support you, and we can be a resource for you.  I want to challenge each of you to work together to come up with your own ideas about projects that will help build a better future for Kosovo.

I know that Mark will talk a bit more in a moment about the Embassy’s latest initiative to help you achieve your dreams for Kosovo, but I want to encourage you to take advantage of this network, of the Embassy, and as I mentioned before, of the American Corner.  I believe that the future of Kosovo is bright– and I believe in you to help lead that future.

Thank you all again for coming tonight, and thank you for your dedication and for your hard-work for the future of Kosovo.  I look forward to talking more with each of you in a few minutes.