For nearly four years, I have been privileged and honoured to serve as Ambassador of the United States of America to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The people of these beautiful nations welcomed me and my wife to their respective shores with an overwhelming outpouring of hospitality. It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I bid you, the citizens of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, a fond farewell. I depart with warm memories and an unshakeable belief in, and respect for, the talents that lie within the people of the region. I am thoroughly convinced that there is nothing in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean that its citizens cannot accomplish.
Over the past four years, our Embassy’s goals were to work with the governments and people here to promote citizen safety, sustainable economic growth, and robust civil societies. Consequently, the United States partnered with governments, non-governmental organisations, the business community, faith-based organisations, and educational institutions on a variety of projects and initiatives. Working with these organisations we provided humanitarian assistance following natural disasters. We worked with local authorities to protect our shared borders to improve our security and conducted cyber security and police professionalization training programmes. Together we lowered the HIV infection rates among some of the most vulnerable populations and raised awareness of domestic violence and human rights, implemented climate change mitigation projects, conducted annual joint military training exercises, provided life skills training for hundreds of marginalised youth, and supported a variety of renewable energy initiatives. Thousands of people were treated by medical personnel from the U.S. Naval Vessel Comfort. And our Peace Corps volunteers worked in communities on literacy and other projects designed to support small businesses. We are blessed in the Western Hemisphere to live in peace and prosperity. And as we all know, democracy is fragile and must be continually nurtured and supported. Strong institutions require courageous leaders with a clear vision of the future and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law, transparency and accountability. Leaders who put service to their constituents first, with an eye to promoting the greater good, are especially important to the continued prosperity of the region.
I am not sure who first nicknamed me “the education ambassador” but it is a most fitting moniker. As a former college professor I readily admit that diplomacy is in my head, but education is in my heart! During my tenure we supported the Obama initiative, 100,000 Strong in the Americas, which seeks to increase educational exchanges between the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. The U.S. Embassy hosted college fairs that yielded dozens of scholarships for local students, brokered memoranda of understanding between regional universities and universities in the United States, and contributed tens of thousands of books to regional schools and libraries. Realising that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields drive innovation and economic growth, we partnered with ministries of education, the Caribbean Science Foundation, and the Barbados Astronomical Society to raise STEM awareness.
The thousands of you who attended our various cultural programmes know that I am also sometimes the singing, dancing ambassador! From American string quartets, to gospel choirs, to zydeco bands, to Jazz quartets we are so honoured to have presented some of the most celebrated American artists, poets and musicians to enthusiastic audiences in Barbados and across the Eastern Caribbean.
I am proud to have led the dedicated staff of the Embassies of the United States of America in Barbados and Grenada in these varied efforts, and I thank the talented embassy staff members whose hard work brought these initiatives and projects to fruition. And I thank the citizens of the nations of the Eastern Caribbean for engaging me like family. I thank the market women who quizzed me about trade programmes for which they are eligible, the eager students who asked me about student visas, the would-be entrepreneurs who requested information about public-private partnerships, and the curious citizens who sought my opinion about evolving U.S.-Cuba relations. Thank you for not keeping me at arm’s length, for teaching me about cricket, for introducing me to “goat water,” for sharing your rum punch recipes, and for making me feel like a true Caribbeaner! But most importantly, in the name of diplomacy, I will not disclose which island produces my favourite rum — that remains highly classified!
May God bless all of our great nations.
Dr. Larry L. Palmer, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS