CAIRO — On behalf of the Open Hands Initiative I’d like to welcome and thank you for joining us this evening. I am deeply humbled to be here in Cairo with such a distinguished group of journalists, academics, activists and representatives of the governments from the United States and Egypt.
I’d like to welcome Lyse Doucet of the BBC and Ambassador Patterson; I am especially grateful for your presence here tonight.
I’d like to thank GlobalPost for sharing our passion for creating genuine dialogue between people of different cultures. The GlobalPost team has been essential to making our work here in Egypt possible.
Under the leadership of Charlie Sennott and Gary Knight, we have created a unique fellowship of young American and Egyptian journalists.
I have high hopes that this cooperation will be the beginning of enduring friendships.
I offer a special thanks to the panelists who have met with our Reporting Fellows, some of whom are with us this evening. We have heard from an impressive group of people, from NPR’s Deb Amos to Amr Hemzawy, from Wired Magazine’s David Wolman to Gigi Ibrahim and Ahmed Maher, to Heba Morayef and Shadi Hamid.
I am grateful to all of you for your willingness to share your experiences and views with the next generation of great journalists.
Thank you to Scott MacLeod of the American University in Cairo, to Al Masry Al-Youm and to Haytham Atwan of Nubia Tours, for working with us.
Thanks to my team at the Open Hands Initiative, Meredith DeWitt, Tara Trombetta and Kathy Gasperine for their dedication and hard work.
And finally and most importantly, I’d like to acknowledge our outstanding Egyptian and American fellows. We recognize the extraordinary talent each of you shows for your craft. This group of exceptional young journalists has already shown us that through fostering communication, we have much to teach and learn from one another.
Many of you here tonight have played, and continue to play, a crucial role in shaping the social and political discourse in Egypt. Your actions and words have affected enormous change throughout the Middle East.
One lesson the course of events in Egypt has shown the world, is the power of not only governments but of ordinary people, to shape their own destinies, both at home and abroad.
I’ve long believed that there is a role for the private sector to give back and help shape the public diplomacy of their own country. Like many around the world, I felt a new spirit of cooperation that President Barack Obama inspired when he pledged to extend an open hand of friendship and dialogue to all people of the world.
In 2009, my wife Tracy and I founded the Open Hands Initiative. We are an independent, privately funded, non-profit organization. Our goal is to promote diplomacy between "ordinary" citizens We are not an aid organization, nor an organization that aims to extol the virtues of U.S. values.
The mission of the Open Hands Initiative is to listen... to understand... to engage…. and bring people together to work toward a greater goal. In all of our activities we seek to understand the communities in which we enter and help them understand us.
We work hard to create an environment for young people to speak to each other on an equal playing field. One way we measure success is whether we help foster relationships that are strong enough to withstand specific policy differences between our countries.
We focus primarily on the Middle East — a crucial region of the world where we, the American people, have the much to learn.
And we go where the relationships between countries are complicated.
The media has an important role to play in a new Egypt. And we hope that through working together in partnership, they will help strengthen a free, independent press. In supporting GlobalPost in this endeavor, we respect and embrace the spirit of their independence to do journalism that is fair, and the kind of journalism that matters.
So much has changed in Egypt since President Obama made that famous pledge in Cairo over two years ago. Spanning three decades, Ambassador Anne Patterson has been at the forefront of great change around the world.
She has a distinguished career in diplomacy and is known widely as one of the United States most respected and experienced diplomats.
She has served in a number of challenging diplomatic posts, to name a few, she served as Assistant Secretary of State, Counselor to Saudi Arabia and Ambassador to the United Nations, Columbia, El Salvador and Pakistan.
I cannot think of a more skilled public servant to serve in the role as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt during this momentous time in Egypt’s history. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure, it is my honor to introduce Ambassador Anne Patterson.