Ukraine: 20 Years of Independence

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

 “Only in your own house can you have your truth, your strength, and freedom.”

-Taras Shevchenko

“In view of the mortal danger surrounding Ukraine in connection with the state coup in the USSR on August 19, 1991,

Continuing the thousand-year tradition of state development in Ukraine,

Proceeding from the right of a nation to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other international legal documents, and

Implementing the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine,

The Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic solemnly declares the Independence of Ukraine and the creation of an independent Ukrainian state – UKRAINE.”

– Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, August 24, 1991

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

-American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

This year marks 20 years of independence for Ukraine. I’m proud to be here representing the United States during this important anniversary. Ukraine has gone through a long and difficult historical journey to achieve independence as a modern nation. It’s easy to be distracted by the immediate problems and daily challenges that Ukrainians face, but we should always remember that Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation is a triumph of the human spirit.

Americans proudly remember the events that led to our own independence, including a revolutionary rallying cry for human freedom, the Declaration of Independence. Although independence is sometimes ultimately achieved by force of arms, as in the American Revolution, it’s the power of ideas that truly spurs people into action. Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words in the Declaration of Independence gave voice to the nascent desire of a people to be free and equal on their own terms with the other nations of the world. Continue reading “Ukraine: 20 Years of Independence”

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Independence Day, Hawaiian Style!

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

Ambassador Tefft and Mrs. Tefft greet former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk

Last Wednesday, Mariella and I had the honor to welcome over 600 Ukrainian guests to our residence for our annual Independence Day celebration. By the way, please click here to see our newly-produced brochure about the historic residence.

U.S. Marines ceremony “Post the Colors”

Keeping with our Hawaiian theme, we had a brief rain shower but the extended sun and the warmth of our guests helped maintain the good cheer throughout the celebration. We were grateful to have talented students from the Glier Kyiv Institute of Music sing the Ukrainian and American national anthems before the U.S. Marines posted the colors.

I then spoke to the audience. Here is an excerpt from my remarks:

Ambassador Tefft speaks to the audience

“Today we celebrate our independence and freedom. Today Americans pause and remember all those who have given so much to make the United States the nation that it is today. And we especially remember today all those Americans — military and civilian — who are protecting our freedom, often in dangerous places. Continue reading “Independence Day, Hawaiian Style!”

Pinchuk Foundation Scholarship Winners Join the Ranks of Students Studying in the U.S. and Abroad

From center right: U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, Viktor Pinchuk and British Ambassador Leigh Turner with the winners of the 2011 WorldWideStudies Scholarships. Victor Pinchuk Foundation (c) 2011. Photographed by Sergii Illin

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft 

Last week I visited the Pinchuk Art Center to address this year’s winners of the Pinchuk Foundation’s  WorldWideStudies (WWS) scholarship.  I was joined by British Ambassador Leigh Turner and other representatives of the diplomatic corps who turned out to celebrate this important program.  Now in its second year, WWS sends promising young Ukrainians to study for their advanced degrees at top international universities.  Students pursue degrees in fields selected by the Foundation as being a top priority for further development of Ukraine, fields such as: agricultural studies, environment and ecology, law, and public administration.

In 2010 the Pinchuk Foundation awarded scholarships to 17 bright, young Ukrainians. This year the number of scholarship winners has grown to 19 and I’m happy to say that three of them will be studying at U.S. universities.  After an exciting awards ceremony, I had a chance to talk with the U.S.-bound scholarship winners.  Andrii Kril and Natalia Shcherbynska will pursue Masters of Law degrees at University of Pittsburgh and New York University respectively.  Anastasiya Prymovych will attend Harvard University for a Masters in Regional Studies.  I should mention that, as it turns out, Anastasiya is also an alumna of one of our U.S. Government sponsored exchange programs.  She spent a year studying in the U.S. on our UGRAD program which, incidentally, is about to send 28 Ukrainians to study at U.S. colleges and universities for the 2011-2012 school year. Continue reading “Pinchuk Foundation Scholarship Winners Join the Ranks of Students Studying in the U.S. and Abroad”

Odessa in June: Sea Breeze, Talented Children at Lastochka, and a Busy Schedule Make for a Wonderful Four Days in One of Ukraine’s Greatest Cities

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft 

Like most people, I like to think weekends are best when they offer time to relax with my family, but there are times when my job requires me to fill the time with a full schedule and travel and I do not mind. A wonderful example occurred June 3-7, when Mariella and I visited Odessa, one of my favorite cities in Ukraine.  This was my third time in the famed seaside town. Like last summer, the main purpose of the visit was to support the joint U.S.-Ukrainian naval exercises known as Sea Breeze, but our time was spent doing much more.  We had a very busy weekend, joining a group of Ambassadors for part of a program organized by the Ukrainian Directorate General for Services of Foreign Missions (GDIP).  For example, on Friday evening we were treated to a performance at the Odessa Opera House, which I have been told is a close architectural cousin of the opera in Vienna.  Mariella and I are both great fans of the ballet, and seeing Odessa’s young ballet stars up close was a wonderful experience.

The next morning, I joined the diplomatic corps in a call on the Governor and the Odessa Oblast Council.  We were briefed on investment plans for the Odessa region.  Later I had private meetings with Mayor Kostusev and Governor Matviychuk.  Both of them stressed the importance of investment in Ukraine and in the Odessa region.  This is a topic I work on closely, and I expressed some of our concerns about the investment climate, and about fighting corruption at all levels.  The Mayor and the Governor both agreed that these are important issues, and I am looking forward to working with them to help promote economic development in the Odessa region. Continue reading “Odessa in June: Sea Breeze, Talented Children at Lastochka, and a Busy Schedule Make for a Wonderful Four Days in One of Ukraine’s Greatest Cities”

“Passing the Comfort:” Quilt Exhibit at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

On Friday April 11, 2011, with partners from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and the Ministry of Culture, and alongside representatives from the Dutch, British and German embassies in Kyiv, I participated in the opening ceremony for the exhibit “Passing on the Comfort”. Other project sponsors include the International Menno Simons Centre of the Netherlands and the Mennonite Central Committee of the United States.

This exhibit brings together three stories with a common thread – an international network of Ukrainian, American and Dutch individuals who provided relief and supplies during and after World War II. Original hand-made quilts are displayed alongside never-before-seen archive materials from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War including photographs, letters and other objects sharing the stories of individuals who took great risks to help others.  Continue reading ““Passing the Comfort:” Quilt Exhibit at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War”

Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft 

LEAP, and the net will appear.” John Burroughs

Ambassador Tefft speaks to media at Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair

I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the first ever Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair at Ukrainian House on April 11, 2011. It was a wonderful opportunity to highlight for the 800 librarians in attendance our robust commitment to libraries and free access to the internet in Ukraine. Below is an excerpt from the speech I delivered on Monday. You can watch the full speech here and browse photographs here of the 40+ library booths that showcased their activities at the fair.

I would like to thank the organizers of the event, Bibliomist, represented by Deborah Jacobs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and my good friend Ambassador Bob Pearson, IREX President, as well as Deputy Minister of Culture Victoria Liznicha, and Representative Volodomir Yavorisky, Head of the Rada Committee of Spirituality and Culture.

While we may come from different backgrounds and organizations, I can say with confidence that we all share a love for the written word, and for libraries and librarians. My President shares this sentiment. In 2005 – then still a senator from Illinois – President Obama said of librarians, “Guardians of truth and knowledge, librarians must be thanked for their role as champions of privacy, literacy, independent thinking, and, most of all, reading.” More recently, in his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned his ambition to make wireless internet available to 98 percent of Americans within the next five years. He believes – and I couldn’t agree more – that this universal internet access will help businesses to grow faster, students to learn more, and is even is an important public safety infrastructure.  Continue reading “Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair”

Government of Ukraine Takes a Key Step toward Transparency and Accountability to Its Citizens

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

 

 

James Madison, 4th U.S. President

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and the people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

 

 

–          James Madison, the fourth U.S. president and author of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution

On February 3, Ukraine joined the community of democracies that recognize citizens’ right to be informed of their government’s activities so that they can hold it accountable.  President Yanukovych’s signature on the law on Access to Public Information is a promise to the Ukrainian people – journalists and civil society in particular – that their right to know and report on what the authorities do in their name will be legally enshrined and honored. Now comes the hard part: implementing the law and ensuring that politicians and bureaucrats do not weaken the law by hiding improper behavior behind self-serving claims of government confidentiality.  While no government can do its job of protecting the security and prosperity of its country without secrets, the key is to ensure that protected information is only applied according to legitimate rules.  Political and personal embarrassment – or criminal activity! – are not valid grounds for classifying information. Continue reading “Government of Ukraine Takes a Key Step toward Transparency and Accountability to Its Citizens”