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Ambassador Barzun and family at his Credentialing

who will be voting for the first time as citizens here in the UK next year, have no memories of World War II. They don’t remember the Cold War and they were little kids at 9/11. I ask them what’s on their mind, what frustrates or confuses or concerns them about the US. Then I ask what they like, what gives them hope and what inspires them about the US. I think of that as building the new foundations for the Special Relationship. The UK is planning a referendum on leaving the EU and Scotland is voting on whether to leave the UK. If either happens, how would it affect the relationship? It is up to the UK how it wants to work with, and within, Europe. Full stop. But if you ask us - which people often do - we value a strong UK voice in a strong EU because we tend to see eye to eye with the UK. On Scotland, it is up to the people who are allowed to vote in the referendum, it’s an internal UK matter, but as the President said, we have “a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner.” The term ‘Special Relationship’ seemed to go out of fashion for a while - ‘the US has many relationships’, the ‘shift to the East’ - but do you feel it is still special?

12 September 2014

With Secretary of State John Kerry at his Swearing In

It is! I was given advice before I came over, from a number of smart people, Brits and Americans, who told me not to ‘fall into the trap of saying Special Relationship.’ I think they’re wrong. It is special, but not in some nostalgic way. The history is powerful. It’s also complicated and we shouldn’t gloss over the difficult bits, they are part of what makes it special. It’s not some sort of fairy tale, but it is real, and it has led to this great friendship that continues right up to today. Like working together to get rid of chemical weapons in Syria and to get Iran to live up to its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. You can keep listing all the places we’re engaged in around the world. We need to work with each other and we enjoy working with each other and that combination makes it special. We don’t have to agree on every point... but we often do. By the time the September issue of The American comes out we will have commemorated 200 years since the Brits burned down the White House! Why, as a diplomat, would I mention that? I think it’s important to talk about how we were the fiercest of foes. We hated each other. Let that sink in... hated! And now we are the fastest of friends. That period in which we went from hatred 200 years ago to

trust around 100 years ago when we fought together in World War I is an interesting part of history that we tend to jump over. ‘The Brits burned down the White House, we stopped fighting 200 years ago, we signed the Treaty of Ghent and we’ve been best friends forever’? Nope! There have been lots of ups and downs, lots of gratitude and resentment, lots of competition and cooperation. But that makes it stronger. Friendships are built as a byproduct of struggling and doing things together, succeeding and failing, not sitting across from each other and saying, ‘let’s be friends.’ Look at what we did together 100 years ago, we just commemorated D-Day 70 years ago, there was the Cold War, now Afghanistan and all around the world today. That’s how friendships are built. Is there a ‘family element’ too? For example Magna Carta? Talk about commemorations! Magna Carta will be our theme for the whole of next year. We’ll have a copy of the Declaration of Independence here at the British Library with one of the Magna Cartas and it will be really interesting to look at those documents together, to reflect on the past, and our shared values. After an issue disappears from the front pages, that’s when

The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

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