Remarks by Ambassador Blake at the Celebration of the 239th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, Medan

Governors, Wali Nangroe, other distinguished guests, welcome to this celebration of the 239th anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America!

A particularly warm welcome to the Wali Nangroe who I had the honor of accompanying on a visit yesterday to see a Rohingya refugee camp in north Aceh and the wonderful support that Aceh and the Government of Indonesia are providing to the refugees.

Ladies and gentleman, Medan and the entire Sumatra are of growing strategic importance to the United States so we are upgrading our diplomatic presence here.  For many years we operated as a presence post with just a small footprint of two officers.

But this was not enough given our growing scope of engagement here.  So the Consulate team and I are delighted that the State Department has approved upgrading Medan to a full Consulate.  In the near future we expect to expand staffing and further deepen our cooperation with Sumatra, an island that is bigger in size and population than many countries.

Our cooperation with Indonesia spans a huge range of areas, from expanding trade and investment ties, to partnering to improve security, to increased exchange and cooperation in education and scientific research, to working together to mitigate global challenges such as deforestation and climate change.

Sumatra, with its 55 million people and major agricultural and industrial contributions to Indonesia’s economy, is a major focus of this cooperation.  On the economic and business side, we work to support U.S. businesses operating in Sumatra.  We also work with prospective U.S. businesses to help them better understand the opportunities and the operating and legal environment.  We would like to see more U.S. businesses investing in Sumatra’s future, providing the high levels of technical capacity and know how that they offer in an effective, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective way.

I am pleased that Robert Ewing and his great team have focused on trade for Sumatra.  Recently the Consulate and PriceWaterhouseCoopers offered an innovative seminar to senior Sumatran officials on “smart cities” planning solutions.  That seminar, and subsequent efforts, have spurred the interest of several firms who are now exploring opportunities here.

I also want to recognize the Mayor of Banda Aceh who is here tonight.  The Mayor recently joined Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil and others for a seminar at our cultural center in Jakarta, @america, to highlight the work she has done on e-procurement and other innovative services to improve the life of people in Aceh.

Environment is also a particular focus of our work in Sumatra.  In Aceh and other provinces we support the Government’s plan to stop the clearing of primary forest and peat land while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the people who live in or near these forests.  This work is of paramount important importance in  Aceh, home to the majority of the Leuser ecosystem, one of the Indonesia’s and the world’s most bio-diverse eco-systems.

Partnering with Indonesia to improve education systems and access is also a major focus of ours.  Independent researchers agree that for Indonesia to develop to its full potential, there needs to be more, and smarter investment in education.  I am pleased that USAID, under its PRIORITAS program, recently held a session here in Medan that concluded the training of 228 teacher-trainers who will train other teachers in effective teaching methods.

And of course one of our top objectives here is to expand international education exchanges.  I am pleased that the number of Indonesians studying in the U.S. continues to grow steadily, and we want to encourage more!

Jeffrey Jeo runs the Consulate’s Education USA center here in Medan, and is here tonight manning an EducationUSA booth.  Seek him out.  He offers free advising services on all schools in the United States.  He can do this because he is a not a paid consultant, but a non-partial adviser, and an excellent one at that!

Last but not least let me thank Robert and his team for the wonderful cultural programing they have arranged in Sumatra to bring our nations even closer together.  I want to give a special thanks to South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin and the Mayor of Binjai, Muhammad Idaham.  Both of these leaders partnered with us to bring the Latin-Grammy award winning Anthony Stanco Jazz Quintet to the Sumatran public.  In Palembang, Stanco performed for an audience of 5500 at the Palembang Sports and Arts Center.  In Binjai, the Mayor hosted a fantastic outdoor concert that introduced thousands of residents to American Jazz.  Again, thank you to both leaders. We look forward to continuing partnerships.

I end tonight by saying a fond farewell to Trevor Olson, the Consulate’s Deputy Principal Officer for the last three years.  During this time, Trevor has earned a reputation as an expert on Sumatra and made many friends for himself and the United States.  We are all sorry to see him go.  Thank you Trevor!  Trevor will be heading to Kyrgyzstan this summer.  Trevor’s replacement, Tamra Greig, will arrive in July and PO Ewing will introduce her to you all at that time.

Thank you again for joining us this evening.  I hope you enjoy the party!

As prepared.