Archive for November, 2011

November 24, 2011: Montreal

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I’m spending it in Montreal with friends and family. We’re testing a theory that turkey tastes as good in French as it does in English. I’m sure we won’t be disappointed.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It is the only holiday that is celebrated by EVERY American. But this year we celebrate during difficult times. And I am reminded of the original Proclamation of Franklin Roosevelt establishing the National Holiday in 1933, during the midst of the depression:

“May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind.”

Thanksgiving is about thanks. And it’s about giving. Each of us has something to give — to our families, to our communities, to our countries. Today is a day to ask how we might use those gifts in the coming year.

I invite all of our Canadian friends to celebrate with us that spirit of Thanksgiving.


November 21, 2011: Halifax

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I just returned from a weekend at the 3rd Annual Halifax International Security Forum. I have gone to each one and they get better each year. The forum is the product of an extraordinary effort by Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The speakers were great. They interact with 300 experts from around the world.

The United States was well represented. Leading the way was Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He was joined by a Congressional Delegation led by Senators John McCain of Arizona, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Also in attendance were several members of the US military including General Charles Jacoby the Commander of NORAD and NORTHCOM.

There were three themes of the conference:

• All of the countries of the world would have to share in collective defense;
• The threats we face today transcend national boundaries; and
• The solutions to our global economic problems are inextricably interrelated to how we manage our global security issues.

Iran and Syria were discussed in some depth, given recent developments in both countries. Both – particularly Iran – are troublesome and are going to require the international community to keep a united front and a steady course.

On Saturday evening we broke into smaller groups for dinner. Julian Ventura, the Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister for North America, Peter MacKay, and I led a group of about 20 who discussed challenges and opportunities in North America.

I look forward to returning to the Halifax Forum next year.


November 5: Ottawa

Friday, November 11th, 2011

In the last two nights I went to events that were about as different as they come. What they had in common, however, was what they both said about the generosity of the Canadian people. On Friday, Julie and I attend the annual black tie fundraising dinner for Habitat for Humanity called “Steel Toes and Stilettos.” Habitat is an organization we are proud to support. Earlier this year, Julie and I were part of a US Embassy team that helped renovate a house in Orleans so a family could have a good, safe place to live. I was particularly proud of Julie. Not only did she look great. She gave a great speech about how much Habitat means to us and how we are excited to expand our participation next year.

Last night my daughter Wynne (the biggest hockey fan in the family) and I went to the 8th Annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night put on by the Ottawa Senators. While the Sens lost 3-2 in a shootout, the night was a great success. 3300 members of the military and their families attended in seats donated by sponsors and Senators season ticket holders. Before the game we attended a dinner at which General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of Defense Staff, and Senators President Cyril Leeder thanked the members of the Canadian Forces – and particularly their families – for their service and their sacrifice. Every time the Canadian Forces were mentioned by Sens PA announcer Stuntman Stu the crowd gave them a standing ovation. It was a nice night.

November 11, 2011: Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Day

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Today we remember the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of Canada and the United States who died in the line of duty. Those who – in Abraham Lincoln’s great words – “gave their last full measure of devotion.”

I was reminded the other day of how Canadians and Americans have fought so bravely for each other’s causes. As many as 50,000 Canadians joined the American Civil War, mostly on the Union side. In WWII, when Canada entered the war against Germany years before the United States, President Roosevelt allowed Canada to recruit American soldiers to fight with Canadian and British forces. Some 49,000 Americans responded to that call. Many perished.

Today, Canadians stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan with Americans. We’re grateful for their commitment, and recognize those Canadians who have paid the ultimate price.

I was honored last week to present the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal to a member of Canada’s Armed Forces, Brigadier John G. Milne. Brigadier Milne deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM as the Senior Mentor to the Afghan National Army Development, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. His distinguished service is a symbol of our shared commitment to international peace and security.

Ambassador Jacobson presents a US Meritorious Service Medal to Brigadier John G. Milne of the Canadian Army for his distinguished service during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan

Today my thoughts are with those who, in Lincoln’s words, “shall not have died in vain.”

November 4, 2011: Ottawa

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A few weeks ago I gave a speech at the Canadian Club here in Ottawa where I talked about the strength of the relationship between the United States and Canada. I also discussed a couple of events that had gotten a lot of attention in the previous few weeks which some thought were evidence that the relationship was souring. I tried to put those issues into the proper context.

One of the issues I raised was a comment by the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Richard Lidinsky, at a conference in Montreal where he talked about how he had been asked by the two U.S. Senators from Washington State to look into the fact that the United States was charging a Harbor Maintenance Fee in Seattle that was not being charged in Vancouver and which was diverting a lot of shipping from Seattle to Vancouver. He said he was going to launch a study to determine the appropriate response.

As I explained in my remarks, and contrary to some of the hue and cry in the press and elsewhere, Chairman Lidinsky had assured me that no one at the FMC or in the U.S. government has raised the prospect of levies, sanctions, or tariffs. He was simply talking about a study of the facts. He wanted to give everyone – including Canadians – an opportunity to weigh in. He said that while he was not going to prejudge what, if any, solutions he might recommend after he heard from all interested parties and after he completed his study, there was one thing he was quite sure of. He would not recommend taxes, fees, or tariffs on good entering Canada.

True to Chairman Lidinsky’s word, yesterday The Federal Maritime Commission issued a formal Notice of Inquiry to solicit the public’s views on what is causing or contributing to the shift of containerized cargo from U.S. to Canadian and Mexican seaports. Comments are due by December 22, 2011. Here is a link to the Notice of Inquiry with further details.

This is an opportunity for Canadians – and everyone else – to submit their thoughts.


November 3, 2011: Ottawa

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Just got back from the 11th Annual Affinity Newfoundland and Labrador Dinner here in Ottawa. It’s a chance for people from Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Memorial University Alumni and their friends to get together.

Two highlights. First, bagpipes. The world is divided into two groups — those who love bagpipes, and those who don’t. I’m in the first category. Amazing Grace on bagpipes can’t be beat.

The second was a rousing singing of the official anthem of Newfoundland, “Ode to Newfoundland.” Who knew there was such a song? It goes as follows:

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.
We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white,
At winter’s stern command,
Thro’ shortened day, and starlit night,
We love thee, frozen land.
We love thee, we love thee
We love thee, frozen land.

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shore,
And wild waves lash thy strand,
Thro’ spindrift swirl, and tempest roar,
We love thee windswept land.
We love thee, we love thee
We love thee windswept land.

As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland
God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland.

Not many of my friends from the United States can say they sang this one!