Thank you, Nancy. Kudos to you and your team for organizing today’s forum. I am glad to be here to talk with all of you who do so much for Bulgaria. Your work helps ensure a prosperous, democratic future for all Bulgarians.
Last week, we celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose example and leadership continue to inspire people all over the world. I am reminded of his quote, “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” It is important to reflect on this as we go about our lives.
During my nearly three years in Bulgaria, I have met and have been inspired by countless people, including many of you who are doing amazing things with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
One of ABF’s main goals is to help develop a robust private sector in Bulgaria. To that end, I think of the BASE program – which stands for Business Achievements for Social Entrepreneurship. This program, which the U.S. Embassy also supports, connects aspiring entrepreneurs from small towns and villages with successful business owners. Together, they share practical knowledge, and this helps spur economic development in places like Mirkovo, Zlatitsa and elsewhere. In fact, one program participant – a bakery owner from Chavdar – recently held an event called “Day of the American Hamburger.” The line of customers went out the door and onto the street.
Another area in which ABF is changing Bulgaria for the better is its Schools of the Future program. This ambitious initiative is helping transform education in Bulgaria, and includes trainings for educators, innovative school programs and the belief that all Bulgarian children deserve a great education. ABF also supports 30 Fulbright American English teachers who work in schools all across Bulgaria. This program, run by the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission, has expanded this year to include a special initiative with our embassy and the Association of European Journalists to teach media literacy to Bulgarian youth.
I would also like to mention the Bulgarian National English Spelling Bee, a truly inspirational program that both the Embassy and ABF are proud to support. Thanks to the hard work of hundreds of educators, school administrators and the CORPluS program, students across Bulgaria compete and make new friends through learning English. In 2018 alone, more than 6,600 students from 311 Bulgarian schools participated. Even though it is ultimately a competition, every spelling bee event is overflowing with a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support.
What we have accomplished together is the result of the continuing partnership between America and Bulgaria, between business, government, and NGOs. It is the result of the daily gestures of cooperation between the millions of men and women who understand that, in the end, we are all working for the common good.
I am honored to be surrounded by so many like-minded people working for the benefit of Bulgaria and striving to improve the lives of your fellow citizens. ABF’s chosen theme for today’s event – Celebrating Everyday Superheroes – is indeed appropriate. It is my privilege to be a part of this event and to have worked with so many of you during my time in Bulgaria. I salute you and encourage you to continue your efforts to overcome any obstacle by building consensus for the betterment of Bulgaria. The power truly is in each of you.