I will remember many things about Mongolia. But, perhaps more than anything, I will remember the vastness of the steppe; the beauty of the mountains; the brilliance of the night stars; and the personal kindnesses extended by so many Mongolians at every step of the way. A sense for the fascinating history and unique culture of this great country will also linger, long after my formal assignment in Mongolia concludes.
In fact, it has been my privilege to live and work in Mongolia twice – first as USAID country director (2001-2004) and now as Ambassador (2009-2012). On each occasion, I was able to visit all 21 of Mongolia’s provinces.
My wife Fiona shares my deep appreciation for Mongolia and our three children Iain, Cameron and Catriona have spent much of their early childhoods in this country, carrying with them memories that will last a lifetime. As a family, we have slept in gers and camped beside lakes and rivers in every corner of this spacious and beautiful land. We have also learned from the many Mongolians we have met, at times sharing in their customs, celebrations and rich traditions.
Earlier this month, we had the unforgettable opportunity to welcome Secretary of State Clinton to Mongolia, a historic visit in which she met with President Elbegdorj, Prime Minister Batbold and Foreign Minister Zandanshatar and also addressed the Executive Meeting of the Community of Democracies as well as the International Women’s Leadership Forum.
Looking back over the entire span of three years, I am especially gratified by the many concrete ways in which the ties between the United States and Mongolia have become both deeper and stronger:
— In 2009, the US Embassy sponsored three Fulbright scholarships for higher education in the United States; for 2011, the figure reached sixteen, including ten scholars funded by the Government of Mongolia. At this point, at least 1,200 and perhaps as many as 2,500 Mongolians are studying in the United States.
— Recently, the first Mongolian was admitted to the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point. Over the past few years, many more Mongolians have received private scholarships to attend leading American universities including Harvard, Stanford and Yale.
— In 2009, US exports to Mongolia barely reached $40 million; for 2011, the figure surpassed $313 million. Over the past three years, General Electric opened an office in Ulaanbaatar; Bloomberg Television established a presence in Mongolia; Wagner-Asia launched branch offices in Darkhan and Khan Bogd; and Mongolia signaled its intent to move its national airline MIAT toward an all-Boeing fleet. Major American companies such as Peabody are now poised to make a highly positive mark, joining with Mongolian partners to bring high safety standards, the latest technology and a long-term commitment to developing Mongolia’s mineral sector in a way that is ethical and reflects concern for the environment.
— In April 2010, our Embassy received the first ever “Green Embassy of the Year Award” from the US Department of State, in recognition of our attention to environmental concerns.
— In June 2010, Mongolia was one of the first four countries world-wide to receive a large grant under the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, sponsored by the US Department of State — $585,000 to help preserve and protect Amarbayasgalant Monastery, located in a beautiful valley in Selenge aimag, five hours north of Ulaanbaatar.
— In June 2010, the Los Angeles based band Ozomatli visited Mongolia, attracting some 20,000 Mongolians to hear their music in Sukhbaatar Square. To this day, the Ozomatli concert remains the single largest cultural event that the United States Embassy has ever sponsored in Mongolia.
— In November 2010, we welcomed into our home a group of disabled Mongolians representing the Mongolian NGO Wind Bird, returning from a memorable trip to discuss disability issues in the United States. Throughout my tenure, Fiona and I have sought to ensure the involvement of disabled Mongolians across the full range of Embassy-sponsored programs in Mongolia.
— In March 2011, it was my privilege to travel to Kabul to spend several days with the Mongolian soldiers serving there. The emergence of Mongolia as a “peacekeeping nation” is a remarkable development, most recently resulting in the deployment of the first of what will eventually be 850 Mongolian soldiers serving in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.
— In April 2011, the Embassy launched a $25 million renovation project, symbolizing our continued and enduring commitment to partnering with Mongolia in a wide range of areas.
— In June 2011, President Elbegdorj met with President Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. During this same visit, he also opened Mongolia’s first Consulate in San Francisco.
— In August 2011, Vice President Biden visited Mongolia – the first such visit by a sitting American Vice President in 67 years. This visit also inaugurated our Embassy use of Facebook and Twitter.
— In January 2012, the Mongolian National Archives presented to me – which I in turn presented to our Library of Congress in Washington, DC – a facsimile copy of the travel pass given in 1862 to a “Mr. Felosi,” marking the 150th anniversary of what was very possibly the first American citizen to ever visit Mongolia.
— In June 2012, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) in Mongolia received the MCC’s first ever “Country Commitment Award”, given in part to recognize the special attention that MCA has paid to gender concerns.
Over the past year, Americans and Mongolians have together celebrated several notable anniversaries, including the 20th anniversary of Peace Corps in Mongolia; the 20th anniversary of USAID in Mongolia; and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
In celebrating that 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties, I am often reminded of a statement made many decades ago by an American diplomat named A.W. Ferrin. Serving as a commercial officer in Peking, he argued in as early as 1918 that the United States should establish a diplomatic presence in Urga, as Ulaanbaatar was then known. According to his message back to Washington, if the US were to open such an office, it would become “a most helpful factor in the development of a wonderful country”.
Throughout my three-year tenure in Mongolia, I have sought every day to fulfill the promise of that early aspiration – to indeed do my best to ensure that, as a proud partner and friendly third neighbor, the United States would indeed prove to be “a most helpful factor in the development of a wonderful country.”
Thank you once again for the many kindnesses that we have received over these last three years. As a family, we wish the people and country of Mongolia every success in the years ahead. We also sincerely hope that relations between the United States and Mongolia will continue to prosper.
Ambassador Jonathan Addleton