Ambassador’s Remarks at America with Kosovo Event, April 24, 2018
Thank you all for coming here today. Thanks especially to Director Maloku; Principal Vishaj; and of course, all of the School Directors, guests, friends and students. I would also like to thank the Embassy’s Civil Military Support Element, which coordinated this event.
I really enjoy coming to America with Kosovo events to see young people like you. Interacting with Kosovo’s youth renews my energy and my hope that Kosovo’s future will be bright.
At these events I often talk about inspiring heroes from the past, like Martin Luther King Jr. who led the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. 50 years ago. But today, I’d like to share a story about a new American hero that you may not have heard of. Captain Tammie Jo Shults was piloting a commercial passenger flight last Tuesday when the engine exploded in midair, punching a hole in the plane and putting everyone’s lives in danger. Captain Shults was calm and reassuring to passengers throughout the traumatic experience while the plane was quickly dropping thousands of meters. Though tragically one person did die in this incident, amazingly Shults and her co-pilot were able to navigate the plane to a safe, emergency landing.
Many passengers on the plane and the air traffic controllers who spoke with Captain Shults have commended her incredible focus under pressure and very dangerous circumstances. Reading about her life story, I was struck by several things. Before she worked for the commercial airline industry, Captain Shults was among the first female fighter pilots for the U.S. Navy. Her love of flying dated back to her childhood.
When she was at a fair much like this one as a high school student, she spoke to a lecturer on aviation who asked her if she was lost because she was the only woman there. He went on to tell her that women just didn’t become pilots. Captain Shults did not let this person’s prejudices discourage her.
She faced many difficulties as a woman trying to become a military pilot. She was not able to join the Air Force, and after she passed the entry aviation exam for the Navy, it took a year before she found someone willing to process her application. Despite all of this, she had a successful career in the Navy, went on to continue being a professional pilot, and this week, saved 150 lives through her skill and courage.
I’m sharing Captain Shults’ story with you because she inspired me this week, and I hope her story inspires you. As you get close to completing your final year of secondary school, and get ready to move to the next phase of your life, there will be many people offering you guidance. Many of them will give you good advice, but others will try to tell you that you can’t do something because you are a woman, or too young, or from a certain area, or because no one from your family has done it before. Unfortunately, there are even forces that will push you toward criminal activity or religious extremism. Do not listen to those people.
You all are the future of Kosovo, and that future is bright. Be proud of how far Kosovo has come in the ten years since independence, and know that your country is counting on you to be the future leaders needed to ensure Kosovo continues down the right path. Be like Captain Shults, and do not listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something just because it hasn’t been done before, or because it will be difficult.
The “America with Kosovo” program has brought together U.S. Embassy offices, representatives of the Kosovo Security Force, Kosovo Police, NGOs and members of the Kosovo Government. They are here for you! Take the time to ask questions today and identify what resources are available, and how they can assist you as you transition to the next phase in your life.
I believe that there are young people with the determination and potential of Captain Shults in this room. We are here to help you succeed. I look forward to continuing our partnership and cooperation with students like you all over Kosovo.