Thank you, Under Secretary Hale, for your very kind remarks and for your presence today, which reflects the importance that the United States places on our relationship with the Slovak Republic.
Dear Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, and Friends. Thank you for honoring my family and me by joining us today. Charge Polakovic (pole-ah-KOH-vitch), we are thrilled for the chance to serve in your wonderful country. In addition to our shared interests, we are big hockey fans!
I would like to thank the President and Secretary Pompeo for the trust and confidence they have placed in me. I would also like to thank those who supported me for this dream assignment: Deputy Secretary Sullivan and the Deputies’ committee, former Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell, former PDAS Elisabeth Millard, and Ambassador Kurt Volker. My thanks to the amazing Jen Wicks and her team, my terrific colleagues in the legislative bureau as well as my stellar “home bureau,” led by Ambassador Reeker and his Office of Central European Affairs. I also want to relay a special thanks to my superb Desk Officer Jonathan Herzog.
The Transatlantic bond runs through my entire personal and professional life. As Under Secretary Hale mentioned, I remember clearly as a student in London that day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. Soon after, the Velvet Revolution began and led to the formation of the Slovak Republic. In the three decades since, the United States has been proud to support Slovakia’s transition to a NATO Ally.Slovakia plays an important role in ensuring that NATO remains the lynchpin of Transatlantic security and prosperity. Its location on NATO’s Eastern Flank make it an indispensable piece of our collective defense.
My priorities as ambassador will be to continue our strong cooperation in the defense sector, look for ways to increase trade and investment, and speak loudly and clearly for the shared values that underpin the Transatlantic bond. This is a big task, and one lesson I have learned in government is that nothing is ever done alone. I would like to take a moment to recognize some of the many people who supported me along the way.
First, my deepest thanks to my longtime mentor Ambassador Marc Grossman. There is no leader I admire more. Ambassador Alfred Moses, I stand in awe of your record of public service. My former Assistant Secretaries Dan Fried and Toria Nuland prove the principle that promoting our values IS promoting our interests. I am deeply grateful to you all. Overseas, I have had the incredible luck to work for diplomatic giants: Ambassadors John Tefft, John Bass, and Richard Norland. I am forever grateful for your leadership through wars, revolutions, and civil unrest. You set the gold standard. To my A-100 classmates – some of whom are here today – and our inspiring leader Ambassador Rob Jackson: you have been wonderful colleagues and friends, and I look forward to seeing many more of us from the great 80th class standing here. I want to call-out my childhood friend Gwen Barnes who is here with her family from Michigan.
Finally, I would like to thank my family for a lifetime of support. To my mom, Gwen Brink, for encouraging the belief that anything is possible. To my dad and stepmom, John and Judy Brink, for their example of a life of purpose. To my beloved sister Joanna Brink, nephews Andrew and Andre Brink, and aunt and uncle Mary and Patrick Sayne for their encouragement in good times and bad.As we are literally a Transatlantic family, I would also like to thank my British in-laws, Adrienne and Kingsley Foster, as well as my brothers and sisters-in-law for their steadfast support throughout our careers.There is just not enough that can be said about the sacrifices our families make for this life of service. I want to thank my husband and best friend Nicholas Higgins, for his love and support for over 26 years. Having served in Afghanistan, India, Georgia, and Armenia, Nick is the rock of our family, and I would not be here if not for him.
We are so deeply proud of our children, Jack and Cole, who are the joy of our lives. As part of a diplomatic family that has moved every few years for their entire lives, I want to thank and recognize them for their own service to our country. Finally, I would like to close with a story of the enduring Transatlantic link that runs through our family. Almost 80 years ago, my husband’s grandmother, Ada McIntyre, survived the Blitz in Manchester while her husband, Bernard McIntyre, bravely helped evacuate the soldiers trapped in Dunkirk as a member of the Royal Navy. In another theater of the war, a young U.S. Army doctor named Donald Brink twice treated the American Commander of the war in Europe. In one case, he and two other physicians were called to complete the General’s physical to determine his eligibility for promotion for his fourth star. According to family lore, my grandfather took General Eisenhower’s blood pressure, and it was a bit high. “General,” he said, “Lie down for a few minutes and think happy thoughts.” He did, and my grandfather was able to report that General Eisenhower passed his physical. The rest, so they say, is history. General Eisenhower was promoted, became the architect of the Normandy campaign, and then President of the United States. Following the presidency. General Eisenhower also became the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
So it is with a deep love of country and a family spirit of resilience and creativity that I am so humbled and excited to lead our talented team in Slovakia to advance our shared values and interests there and across the region.