Lisbon, Portugal

Thank you, Ambassador Levine. Randi, for many years now, you and Jeff have been such good friends to Joe and me—and it’s wonderful to be here with you and your family. Thank you for your service here in Portugal. 

Back in February when Randi personally invited me to this celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Art in Embassies program, her passion was clear. If you know Randi, you know what I mean. We made it work and it’s my honor to be here with you today. 

Good afternoon distinguished guests, Mayor Moedas, Céline, Vice President Lima of the Azores, and Minister Mendes. 

And, it’s great to see so many, many familiar faces: Ambassador Milstein, Ambassador Harpootlian, Ambassador Moser, Ambassador Reynoso.  

Julissa, as proud as I am of the work you’re doing in Spain, there will always be a place in my heart that misses hearing your incredible laugh in our office every day. 

Congressman Don Beyer, Director Meghan Beyer, Rector Gil, thank you for being with us today.

And, my dear friend Ellen Sussman, you have dedicated your life to art. Thank you for sharing your passion with me and the world. 

Let me also recognize the Meridian delegation who has come here from the United States, Ambassador Holliday and Gwen.

And, finally please meet my daughter Ashley and my sister Bonny.

Art is about connection. 

In a world that asks us to sprint from moment to moment—from meeting to meeting—art stops us in our tracks. It feeds our spirits when we’re hungry for something more. It shows the contours of our sorrows and joys, so that we know we aren’t alone. It brings us back to the beauty in every moment.

Art is the evidence and expression of our humanity. 

And even when it’s easy to get caught up in differences; yes, art can unite us.

Connection is what diplomacy is about as well. 

For 60 years, the State Department has recognized the diplomatic power of art, distributing works to embassies throughout the world. And, deploying over 200 U.S. artists as cultural envoys to local communities as well. 

With each brushstroke and bar of music, with each workshop and cultural exchange, we are creating a conversation about history and legacy, about ideals and identities, about the invisible threads that tie us to one another—across oceans and continents. 

Diplomacy isn’t only about a government-to-government relationship. It’s people to people. Heart to heart. And when visitors understand that, so much can grow from common ground. 

Randi, I know how deeply you believe in this effort. Your dedication and passion to promoting the arts worldwide is unparalleled. You empower and unite a community of artists who are transforming our countries—not only with their work, but with their commitment to democracy. 

And the collection you’ve created is a celebration of the complex and rich beauty of America. Even as exhibitions end, the connections you’ve made, the new ideas you shared, will live on.  

We’re joined today by members of the foreign service, dignitaries, and some of the United States’ most prominent artists.  

Thank you all for being with us. 

You remind us that diplomacy, justice, liberty—these things are alive. They breathe—they beat—inside of us. 

In every diplomat working for a brighter future, every painter, and singer, and sculptor helping us see the hidden colors of the world around us. 

Thank you. 

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