Sunday, January 12, 2014

Farewell Ambassador Huebner

The United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa ended his term this week. And David Huebner has posted a heartfelt and heart-warming piece on his blog saying goodbye; check this out:

As I mentioned on Stuff earlier today, I knew when I arrived in Wellington in 2009 that the time would come to depart. What I didn’t know was that my term would fly by so fast. I have been here for more than four years, which is longer than usual, but it really only seems like yesterday that I walked down the street from Camperdown to Vogel House to present my credentials to the Governor-General.
Since then I’ve enjoyed traveling extensively throughout New Zealand and Samoa, spending about 50 percent of my time on the road.
Of course I’ve been to Parliament and MFAT, but I’ve also spoken at more than 100 secondary schools; appeared on university campuses dozens of times …
… judged beauty pageants, agricultural exhibitions, and student science and technology competitions; toured with a gospel choir, a hula troupe, and the Marine Band …
… hosted pep rallies and tailgate parties; trained with rugby teams and military units; preached in church; tweeted and blogged; and otherwise veered off the beaten path as frequently as I could.
In my view, I was appointed Ambassador to all of New Zealand and Samoa, not to a tiny subset of these countries. I was sent here to represent the real United States to the real New Zealand and Samoa, not to reinforce old patterns and stereotypes, replay old conversations, or accept old constraints. I have thus tried my best to do the whole job, expansively and creatively defined, rather than settle into a narrower, more traditional, or more comfortable rut.
In the process, I have certainly learned a great deal, developed a thorough appreciation for the peoples and cultures of my host countries, and formed large numbers of friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I have also probably annoyed some people because being different and direct can cause discomfort, change can be disorienting at first, and having a real conversation certainly requires more effort than just grinning and nodding.

We have engaged with Ambassador Huebner a number of times via social media. At first we were surprised how willingly David engaged with us, but after a while it became obvious that he was an ambassador with a difference, and that he genuinely wanted to get to know the people on whose behalf he was representing the USA. Given that we seldom see or hear from ambassadors to this country, this was a refreshing trait.

We wish David and his partner well as they return to the United States and as he retires from public life. He has been a breath of fresh air, and will leave large shoes for his successor to fill.

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