I did a bit of blog maintenance over the weekend which reminded me of prior posts that were particularly meaningful to me or just plain fun to write. Over the next few days I thought I would reprint a couple of my favorites. The first golden oldie on deck is my second-ever post, written about my very first moments as Ambassador. This one still makes me smile because of the warmth, excitement, and substance of the occasion.

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FLASHBACK: THE SWEARING-IN
March 15, 2010

Today I got my new credit card in the mail, which triggered a DC flashback because the card is personalized with a photo taken at my swearing-in on December 4, 2009 at the White House. I think I heard somewhere that you shouldn’t post copies of your credit cards on the internet, so here is just the photo itself (a real favorite of mine) showing (clockwise from the left) my Mother Elizabeth, nephew Chris, Vice President Joe Biden, niece Emily, and cousins Erin and Brigid:

A bunch of happy Huebners and the VP.

A bunch of happy Huebners and the VP.

It was quite a day.

Walking into the South Auditorium. Surrounded by family and close friends from across the country and as far away as Shanghai. Awed by the sense of history and gravitas in the air. Standing next to my spouse Duane exactly 20 years and 1 month after our commitment ceremony, with my hand on the 125-year-old family Bible that my Grandmother brought with her when she emigrated to America early in the last century. Repeating the oath inscribed in the Constitution and taken by Ambassadors and Cabinet Secretaries since the founding of the Republic. Assuming a title first held by my American idol and fellow Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Franklin. Hearing the Vice President of the United States thank my spouse for the contributions he was about to make by my side in my new post.

I just regret that my Father (David Sr.) did not live quite long enough to be present in body as well as spirit. Meat cutter, immigrant coal miner’s son, and dedicated father who worked hard to give his own sons advantages he never had, he likely popped a button in Heaven watching the goings on.

 
The Vice President, a fellow coal-cracker from Northeastern Pennsylvania, made the event particularly memorable with his quick wit, generosity of spirit, and kind words. He is a prince of a man with a sharp intellect and an electric presence. He certainly charmed my Mother, a life-long Republican and no-nonsense skeptic of all things political.

In many respects it was a day for Mothers. In the aftermath of the ceremony, I received a surprisingly large number of emails and notes from around the country and from as far away as New Zealand and China about my Mother and Mother-in-Law, whose friendship, easy grace, and delight at the proceedings seemed to strike a chord in the blogosphere.

Duane, Dora, Joe, Liz, and me.

Duane, Dora, Joe, Liz, and me.

Family is clearly and naturally family, whatever its complexion and diversity. As my young but wise cousin Erin says, that’s as it should be. (You’ll have to watch the video above to catch the full reference.)

Those who attack other people’s families do not understand in the least what family is.

One of my favorite events each year is the Wellington Rugby Football Union’s club sevens tournament, named the American Ambassador’s Cup because the first presenter (in 1967) was then-Ambassador John Henning. No Ambassador appears to have presented the Cup between 1967 and my first tourney in 2010, and I was concerned to see that the smallish trophy had run out of room to engrave the names of the winners. So, we commissioned a new Ambassador’s Cup of proper Texan proportions that would hold names not only from the first 44 years but for another 100 years to come.

With my Minister for Rugby (Craig, in blue) at my first American Ambassador's Cup tourney in February 2010.

With my Minister for Rugby (Craig, in blue) at my first American Ambassador's Cup tourney in February 2010.

The tournament organizers have now expanded the event to include a women’s division and a colts (under age 21) division. Again, though, the trophies seemed far too diminutive to honor the magnitude of the effort required to best all other teams in the rugby-crazed greater Wellington area. So, we shopped around and commissioned a couple of new trophies about as big as the tournament’s signature cup. I had the great pleasure to present the new prizes just before Christmas to Denys Latham, President of the Wellington Rugby Football Union.

With Denys Latham, President of the Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU) .

With WRFU President Denys Latham and the two new cups.

The new trophy for the women’s division is named the Eleanor Roosevelt Cup in honor of this year’s 70th anniversary of the former First Lady’s iconic visit to New Zealand at the height of World War II, as well as her great contributions to gender equality and global human rights. I was honored that the new trophy for the colts division has been named the David Huebner Cup because, I’m told, of the large number and diversity of student programs launched by the Embassy during my tenure.

(L-R): Nathan Bramley, Club Rugby Administrator, WRFU; myself; Denys Latham, and Kevin Pulley, the WRFU Rugby Board Deputy Chairman

With (from left to right) WRFU Club Rugby Administrator Nathan Bramley, President Denys Latham, and WRFU Board Deputy Chairman Kevin Pulley.

Thank you to the Wellington Rugby Football Union, President Denys Latham, Deputy Chairman Kevin Pulley, Club Rugby Administrator Nathan Bramley, and their many colleagues for the superb work they do all year long, particularly in cultivating young players and future rugby stars, and for welcoming Embassy participation in their efforts.

I have thoroughly enjoyed associating with the Union over the past four years, and I look forward to being invited back as a former Ambassador to enjoy the American Ambassador’s Cup tournament — and perhaps to present one of the trophies — in the future.

DH Sig

It is often easy to overlook or misunderstand the vast direct contribution that the United States makes to the global community because our efforts are weighted toward capacity building, services, and people-to-people assistance rather than construction projects with signs on them. As Ambassador, I see a daily flow of information about powerful, valuable programs that make a great positive difference. Because of recent adventurism by some in the general region, I thought I would share a fact sheet that crossed my desk last week about one particular bundle of American efforts.

T
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FACT SHEET: Expanded U.S. Assistance for Maritime Capacity Building
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
 

On Dec. 16, Secretary of State John Kerry announced an initial commitment of $32.5 million in new regional and bilateral assistance to advance maritime capacity building in Southeast Asia. Including this new funding, our planned region-wide funding support for maritime capacity building exceeds $156 million for the next two years.

As an example of our commitment to strengthen maritime capacities in Southeast Asia, the United States intends to provide up to $18 million in new assistance to Vietnam to enhance the capacity of coastal patrol units to deploy rapidly for search and rescue, disaster response, and other activities, including through provision of five fast patrol vessels in 2014 to the Vietnamese Coast Guard. This assistance directly responds to priorities identified in the Joint Minutes on Vietnam and U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Cooperation signed October 1, 2013, by VCG Major General Nguyen Quang Dam and USCG Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.

The United States will also expand its support for regional cooperation by strengthening information sharing among national agencies in Southeast Asia charged with maritime security and maritime law enforcement.

Building on existing programs and initiatives, we will increase training for maritime law enforcement officials from participating Southeast Asian countries in multilateral settings, such as currently occurs in the Gulf of Thailand initiative and Trilateral Interagency Maritime Law Enforcement Workshops. We will take advantage of the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, to deliver new maritime law enforcement training courses for maritime officials across Southeast Asia.

The Secretary’s announcement builds upon the United States’ longstanding commitment to support the efforts of Southeast Asian nations to enhance security and prosperity in the region, including in the maritime domain.

Existing programs include efforts to combat piracy in and around the Malacca Strait, to counter transnational organized crime and terrorist threats in the tri-border region south of the Sulu Sea between the southern Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and to expand information sharing and professional training through the Gulf of Thailand initiative. In addition, since 1999 the U.S.-supported International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand has been one of the world’s premier multilateral platforms for law enforcement training and cooperation.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Today billions of people around the world will celebrate Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, known to Christians as the Messiah, Jesus Christ. As I’ve discussed in prior years, the holiday has been marked for two millennia in many different ways in many different places but with common elements of family gatherings, prayer, song, festive meals, charitable acts, and exchange of gifts.

Handing out the toys at Wellington hospital.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is helping my Marines distribute toys to hospitalized children as part of the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots program.

The National Christmas Tree, behind the White House. Click through for image source.

The First Family lights this year’s National Christmas Tree, behind the White House.

Although we sometimes get caught up in the shopping, gift-giving, decorations, parties, and day off from work, there is deeper meaning beneath the popularized Christmas traditions. The season is about hope, peace, and salvation, manifested in the most unlikely way … in the birth of a baby to parents of very humble means, in a manger in a stable because there was no room at the inn as they journeyed home. The Gospel according to St. Luke recounts:

 Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds.

Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds, painted in 1609 & housed in the Museo Regionale, Messina.

“It came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. All went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Click for image source.Capitol Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree at the Capitol building in Washington.

To all of our friends celebrating today, Dr. McWaine and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. And to those around the world who must celebrate quietly behind closed doors because of fear of government reprisals, we wish you strength, courage, and glad tidings in this season of hope.