Ambassador Chung’s remarks for the launch of the American Center

September 29, 2022

Good afternoon. On behalf of the entire U.S. Embassy, I want to welcome you to the new American Center Colombo.  We moved into the Embassy building about a month ago and now that we’re mostly unpacked, it’s great, really great, to see our American Center set-up and ready to open our doors to the Sri Lankan public.

I am happy to see so many people here today and want to give a special shout out to our library members, program participants, Youth Forum members, and program implementing partners.

Let me also recognize the American Spaces team members from Kandy, Jaffna and Matara – all of whom stayed active through the challenging lockdowns and have joined us here, in person, today.  I’m happy to have visited all our American Spaces around the country, and just returned from my second trip to the American Space in Kandy where Ambassador Cindy McCain and I had the opportunity to meet youth forum members to discuss food security.

When I was a child, my mom worked as a librarian.  She instilled in my sister and me a love for books and for learning.  It makes me happy just to be in a library!

But today’s libraries have certainly evolved from the ones I grew up with back in California, and I’m really excited to get to try out the 3D printer and virtual reality goggles that we have on tap today!

Did you know that the American Center Colombo has been welcoming Sri Lankans seeking information about the United States and the world for over 73 years?

The American Center in Colombo found its first home at Galle Face Court on Flower Road.  Then it moved to its second home in the historic Sri Ramya at 44 Galle Road.  Now we settle into our newest home, here in our new amazing Embassy building.

Over the years thousands of patrons have used our resources for research and developed their skills through programs on English language training, public speaking, youth leadership, entrepreneurship development, and media literacy training.

In recent years we’ve expanded our STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and math – with new offerings such as coding, web development, 3D printing, innovations, and engineering programs.

For all those years, The American Center has offered Sri Lankan youth, university students, and friends of the United States a space where information is accessible and free, freedom of expression is celebrated, and freedom to assemble is supported.

Want to learn more about Pluto?  Find an affordable university in the U.S.?  Study for your college entrance exams?  Connect with others concerned about global warming?  Or join an accelerator project for young entrepreneurs?  We have all that – and so much more.

And today, after three solid years of remote programming, my team and I are grateful to be able to continue the tradition of freedom of expression and exchange in this beautiful, modern space.

I hope that over the coming weeks, months, and years we’ll see new and old friends coming together in this space to co-create dreams, programs, and fulfilling futures.

I want you to know that this space isn’t my space – it’s yours.

Please work with our amazing team to schedule time to host meetings or clubs.  Suggest new events and ideas.  Tell us what we can do to meet your needs and help you achieve your dreams.

And please invite me – I work just upstairs and I’d love to drop by to see you launch your own projects and clubs.

I often say that the United States and Sri Lanka are both friends and partners, with many shared values and so much shared history.

This is a challenging time for all Sri Lankans, but the United States continues to invest in the people of Sri Lanka, the longevity of the relationship, and the future we share.

This library is a great example of that partnership, that friendship, and that investment in the future!  We are so glad that you are here today to recognize and celebrate with us.

Again, welcome and I declare this American Center open!