Ambassador Rubin’s Remarks for the Opening of the “Traditions and Transitions” Conference

Sofia University

Friday, September 28

(As Prepared)

Good morning, and thank you all for the warm welcome.

I want to thank Rector Gerdzhikov for hosting this event today, and to congratulate you and everyone at Sofia University on your 130th anniversary this year.  Thank you as well to professors Pancheva and Danova for inviting me today.

I would like to especially thank Alexandra Glavanakova and Emilia Slavova from the Academic Foundation for English and American Studies for organizing this conference.  And I would like to welcome Ambassadors Hopkins and Forbes as well.

I am excited to be here today to celebrate both the long history of the university, as well as the 90thanniversary of the Department of English and American Studies.  I appreciate all that you do to teach your students about America.  Over the next several days, you will hear from a fascinating group of speakers, some of whom have come from the United States.  I encourage you to spend as much time as possible with them, and I am sure you will discover how much America and Bulgaria have in common.

One thing we share is a love for knowledge and learning.

Every time I pass by this building and I see the Georgiev brothers watching over the entrance, I am reminded of the unique history of this university and what it has meant to Bulgaria since its founding in 1888.

When the university first opened, it had only 43 students, all men.  They could study only three subjects: history, Slavic philology, and philosophy and education.  But, like Bulgaria, this university has matured and grown over the past 130 years.  Now, students can study in 16 faculties, from business to classical and modern philology.  People come from all over the world to study here, including many Americans.

The English and American Studies Department was the first in Bulgaria to launch an American literature course in 1949.

In the early 1990s, department leaders again did something for the first time – they introduced American studies as a separate field, and began teaching more and more classes in this area.

Thanks to your work and your interest in the United States, our two countries continue to grow together more closely.

I am especially proud of our embassy’s education and exchange programs, as well as our support for Sofia University.

We are honored to partner with the university to purchase new books, equipment and other resources for the British and American Studies Resource Center.  And I’m sure most of you are already familiar with Hall 243, the large lecture hall renovated by the America for Bulgaria Foundation several years ago.

As you all know, there is no better way to truly understand another country than by spending time there.  Every year, dozens of Bulgarian and American scholars and students participate in exchange programs like the Fulbright program,

the Study of the U.S. Institute and the Benjamin Franklin Summer Institute.  And approximately 5,000 Bulgarian university students visit the United States every summer as part of the Summer Work & Travel program.  I encourage you to visit to find out more about these programs.

I wish all of you an interesting and engaging conference, a successful school year and the best of luck as you learn about the United States.