Admiral Aucoin, thank you very much for your kind remarks and thank you very much for bringing this ship and her crew here. It is a delight to have you all here. I’m going to be very brief.
First of all, in the South Asian context, rain is always an auspicious sign, and we will certainly take it as an auspicious sign tonight. But I will be brief because of the wonderful life-giving rain that might be coming.
First of all, I want to welcome you, Admiral Aucoin, and welcome you, Captain Higgins, and the crew of the USS Blue Ridge.
The Blue Ridge is named for a chain of mountains that is right near my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. So, I want to thank you for bringing me a 20,000 ton reminder of home all the way here to the Indian Ocean!
I also want to say a word or two about the sailors of the Blue Ridge. These are men and women who come from all across the United States, and many of them are 18, 19, 20-years old. Their parents and grandparents came from all over the world. They are united as a ship’s crew here because they are dedicated to the American values of freedom, democracy and liberty. And so it is truly inspirational for those of us who have had the chance to interact with them to see them here and to enjoy their visit while they are in port.
This is the very first visit by a United States ship in five years. We are thrilled to have them here and hope this will be the first of many to come. We are also greatly honored to have the Honorable Speaker, Honorable Foreign Minister and Admiral as well as Ambassador Kariyawasam.
Ladies and gentlemen, this ship is here because as Americans we respect and appreciate the values that the Sri Lankan voters voted for in the two elections of January 8 and August 17 of last year. We appreciate the vision of the Sri Lankan people for their country to be a reconciled, peaceful, unified, prosperous, and free democracy that can be a pillar of stability and prosperity for the entire Indo-Pacific region. We appreciate very much the vision of the Sri Lankan people and the American people are reciprocating.
John Kerry said when he was here in May of last year, for the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State in 41 years, that we will support the vision of the Sri Lankan people and the Sri Lankan voters. And we are doing so through this ship visit, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, through the visits by many American senior officials, and by the presence of all of you.
So, if you will permit me, I would like to offer a toast on behalf of all the folks on the podium and all of you: I would like to propose a toast to the future of U.S. and Sri Lanka friendship for the good of our two countries and for the entire world.
Thank you all very much.