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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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.

In May I wrote about Rory McCourt, one of my student advisers from Victoria University of Wellington who was then Washington-bound as part of a State Department exchange program titled “Empowering Youth as Change Agents.” Rory is now back from his trip, and he came by the Embassy’s Digital Studio last week to chat about the experience.

In the embassy studio with Rory.

In the Studio with Rory.

As I previewed in my prior post, Rory was joined by 11 other young leaders from around the world, including from places as different as Ireland, Cambodia, Israel, Iraq, Swasiland, Bangladesh, and South Sudan. Rory and the other attendees traveled to New York City, Ohio, and Washington, DC to meet with White House officials, university groups, the Cleveland Foundation, and a variety of NGO and civic leaders.

The program was designed to help students develop the skills, confidence, resources, and networks to effect positive change in their communities. There was a particular focus on the role of young people in civic, charitable, political, and economic affairs in the United States, and on the various American institutions that engage with youth. Rory came away with new friends, new ideas, and strong impressions, which you can hear for yourself in the short interview below:


Regular readers of my blog know that the Rory’s trip was just one aspect of the Embassy’s comprehensive engagement with students and future leaders in New Zealand and Samoa which includes my university student adviser groups, Connecting Young Leaders conferences in Auckland and Wellington, Future Leaders of the Pacific Conference in American Samoa, support of the Vex Robotics competitiondeaf student-athlete exchange programnative Hawaiian student rugby tour of New Zealand …

… the Ambassador’s Outstanding Award in the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Realise the Dream program, small-group meetings for students with visiting dignitaries such as former Secretary Hillary Clinton and Attorney-General Eric Holder, inclusion of students in all official dinners at my Residence, travel prizes for outstanding young entrepreneurs and filmmakers, our extensive Education USA university info and advice programs, the Fulbright scholarships, tours of primary schools by a science rapper

… and much more, both in the rear-view mirror and on the road ahead. For example, we are planning a university info and recruiting fair in Auckland for September with representatives from more than 3 dozen top American schools, and our next Connecting Young Leaders conference for my university advisers is falling into place for October on the South Island. So stay tuned.

A/S Danny Russel.

A/S Danny Russel.

It is a great pleasure to welcome our new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Danny R. Russel.

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service who has spent most of his professional life focused on our part of the globe, Mr. Russel is the first regional Assistant Secretary of State to be nominated and confirmed since the customary turnover at the start of the President’s second term. He took the helm of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs last Monday.

Mr. Russel returns to the State Department after serving more than 4 years in the White House, first as Special Assistant to the President and then as National Security Staff Senior Director for Asian Affairs. During his tenure at the White House, he helped formulate President Obama’s strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific region, including strengthening our alliances, deepening engagement with multilateral organizations, and invigorating collaboration with existing and emerging partners.

I met with Mr. Russel – Danny, to his many friends around the world – several times while he was at the White House. I know firsthand that he has been deeply involved in efforts to strengthen the U.S.-New Zealand relationship and that he is firmly committed to building on the progress already made. As he said during a recent press engagement, “… our relationship with New Zealand has grown, has flourished, has expanded over recent years, and I think that there is a lot more that we can and will do together.” 

Danny also brings strong interest and experience in the Pacific Islands to his new position. To quote the Assistant Secretary again, “… we’ve also made considerable progress in our partnerships and our relationships with the Pacific Island states. That’s a part of the world that I know and care a great deal about. Back in the ‘90s when I was assigned to the UN, one of my areas of responsibility was the Pacific Islands. And I travelled through the region fairly extensively and visited a number of them.”

We at Embassies Wellington and Apia very much look forward to working with our new Assistant Secretary in the months and years ahead. A strong collaboration has already started, and we anticipate hosting Danny here in New Zealand in the not-too-distant future.

For more complete bio information about the Assistant Secretary, click here.

Three senior White House officials recently talked about two petitions making the rounds regarding legislation under consideration in the US Congress directed at combatting online piracy.

The three are well placed to address the issue — Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget; Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff.

They emphasized the paramount importance of maintaining (and expanding) an open and innovative internet while taking appropriate steps to protect intellectual property online. For those who tend to see black or white in a polychromatic world, the statement is likely to be unsatisfying. For the rest of us, it’s worth reading. Rather than paraphrase, I’ll reprint it below.

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Combating Online Piracy while Protecting an Open and Innovative Internet
By Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, Howard Schmidt

Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition. Both your words and actions illustrate the importance of maintaining an open and democratic Internet.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act, and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the Administration will support—and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios.

While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response. We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values.

This is not just a matter for legislation. We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.

So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right. Already, many members of Congress are asking for public input around the issue. We are paying close attention to those opportunities, as well as to public input to the Administration. The organizer of this petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss this issue further with Administration officials and soon after that, we will host an online event to get more input and answer your questions. Details on that will follow in the coming days.

Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you’ll continue to be part of it.

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The statement makes a variety of points certainly worth considering as efforts continue in the US and elsewhere to strike the right balance of equities, interests, and concerns in this new arena. Those equities, interests, and concerns are not defined by nationality.