THE BLOG

A Passion for Service

This post contains the statement of James Costos, Ambassador Designate to Spain and Andorra, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 25, 2013 in Washington, DC, followed by Ambassador Designate Costos' August 22nd swearing-in ceremony remarks.

Chairman Murphy, Ranking Member Johnson, Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before this distinguished committee as President Obama's nominee to serve as the United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra.

Before I begin today, I would like to take a moment to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims of last night's train crash in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The U.S. Embassy Madrid is working closely with Spanish counterparts to provide for U.S. citizens who need assistance. I know Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.

I would also like to thank the most important people in my life for being with me today, as they are every day:

My Mom and Dad are second-generation Greek-Americans who instilled in our middle-class family the values of hard work, self-reliance, and service, exemplified by my father's tenure as a U.S. Marine who was stationed at Camp David under President Truman.

My sister, a teacher's aide, is also here; as is my niece, who I'm proud to say is a recent graduate of nursing school. And of course, I'm so grateful that my partner Michael of fourteen years is here, who will be a great asset to our country. He is equally committed to representing the very best of American art and culture to Spain, Europe, and visitors from all over the world.

My passion for service came from my parents, and my community involvement began at a very young age, when I volunteered with the local Chamber of Commerce in Lowell, MA to help revitalize our city. I have remained politically and philanthropically active ever since, serving on the board of the Humane Society, working with the Human Rights Campaign, dedicating my time and resources to several arts and cultural institutions and supporting the effort to elect President Obama.

Today, it would be the greatest privilege of my life to represent the values and interests of the country I love in Spain and Andorra. Spain is an important historical ally of the United States and if confirmed, I will add to our more than 200 years of diplomatic history to further our shared interests. I believe that my experience as an HBO executive responsible for global marketing and communications should serve our country well as we tell America's story in Spain and Andorra.

A diplomatic mission, like a company, is comprised of multiple departments, all of which must be relied upon to move business forward. At HBO, my leadership had to inspire and gain the respect of employees in a large company with over 100 external business relationships in dozens of countries. I managed by empowerment, and developed my team to make decisions that allowed them to take ownership of their work if they succeeded or if they failed. In the end, all that we do is for the greater good of the organization and those we serve.

If confirmed, the same will be true of my tenure as Ambassador. I will work to strengthen U.S. relations with Spain bilaterally, multilaterally and particularly within the NATO Alliance. As you know, Spain's strategic military bases in Moron and Rota host U.S. forces on both a permanent and rotational basis and have been critical in supporting U.S. and NATO operations from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya for more than a decade. In recognition of the strategic nature of these bases, the U.S. sought and was granted authorization to station four Aegis- equipped U.S. destroyers, along with their crews and families in Rota, beginning with two ships in 2014. In March of this year, Spain also authorized the temporary use of Moron to base a 500-strong Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force to provide rapid response to threats against U.S. interests in the region, especially in Northern and Western Africa. If confirmed, I will continue to strengthen our relationship with senior Spanish defense officials and make it a priority to visit these bases and the U.S. servicemen and women, and their families, protecting the United States and our allies.

Spain has been a serious and committed partner in Afghanistan for more than a decade and, as a key NATO member, has been an important contributor to the international community's peace and security agenda. I also intend to make sure the Spaniards know how valued they are and how much we appreciate their shared commitment to investing in democracy and freedom around the globe. If confirmed, I will encourage Spain to continue its support of shared U.S. and NATO efforts in training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces in post 2014 Afghanistan as well as supporting peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Above all, I will work every day to ensure the safety and security of the 170,000 U.S. citizens in Spain and millions of tourists - reinforcing the strong cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the United States, Spain, and Andorra in combating terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking, and working with the Government of Spain to encourage legitimate business and tourist travel and to prevent unauthorized travel to the United States.

If confirmed, I look forward to relying on my extensive business experiences to encourage more commerce between Spain and the United States. With the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations just beginning, I will work with Spain to move these free trade negotiations forward by meeting and listening to the concerns of government officials and the Spanish people, traveling the country to raise awareness about the economic benefits of this agreement, and use traditional and social media to engage in public diplomacy on America's behalf. I will also pay special attention to working with our Spanish partners to protect Intellectual Property Rights, to ensure the proper policies and legal mechanisms are in place to encourage investment and innovation, and to protect the rights of businesses that trade and invest transatlantically. I am also focused on engaging with the Spanish and Latino population in the United States to help encourage more Spanish-American exchanges, and uncover new business opportunities and investments. Additionally, I want to focus on youth engagement using technology, science, arts, cultural, educational and sports programs.

I am deeply committed to furthering the economic and foreign policies of the country we love, and it would be the greatest honor to serve the United States in this official capacity. I believe that the values I was raised with and the business experience I have gained over the past several decades have uniquely prepared me for this role. Spain is a valued partner of the United States on vital issues and we must continue engaging bilaterally and multilaterally to the benefit of both countries and the European Union. If confirmed, I will use my time as Ambassador to strengthen our partnership and champion the United States' values and interests.

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Remarks of Ambassador James Costos, Swearing In Ceremony, Thursday, August 22nd, 2013, Washington, DC

Under Secretary Kennedy, Ambassador Gil-Casares, family and friends who are here and at home.

Today is a day I would have never dreamed about.

Yet, I am here because of the people in my life who have helped along the way, people I love and people I am just beginning to know, people who will become part of my new family here at the State Department and at Embassy Madrid. Most of all, I am excited for the new friendships that will form with the people of Spain and Andorra.

There are so many who deserve thanks today, so allow me to name just a few. I want to thank President Obama and The First Lady for their leadership, inspiration, friendship, and for the faith they have placed in me. I want to thank Secretary Kerry for his leadership, and I look forward to working with him and the brain trust of unsung leaders at the State Department. Under Secretary Kennedy, thank you for the extraordinary honor of swearing me in today, and for the work you do every day on behalf of America's interests around the world.

I want to give special thanks to a group of people whom I only met a few short weeks ago, but have become one of life's unexpected wonders in ushering me to this very spot: Jennifer Wicks, Matthew Gillen, Ousmane Cisse, Michele Petersen, Rob Fallon and Amy Johnson. I will never forget everything you did for me. And of course Mary Elizabeth Madden, on the Spain desk, who has so been brutally honest with me, I can't wait to hear her feedback on these remarks.

Thanks to my new team in Madrid for their help in preparing for my arrival. And Thanks to my predecessor, Ambassador Solomont and his wife Susan, for the incredible work they've done strengthening our relationship with Spain and for the gracious assistance and support they've given Michael and I during this transition. Finally, to my wonderful family and team at HBO who traveled here today, and to my friends who came from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Singapore, London and everywhere else.

Truly, I am so moved by this. And I am especially moved when I think about a few special people who couldn't be with me today: My mom, my dad, and my sister Maria. It is my family, first-generation Greek-Americans, who instilled in our middle-class family the values of hard work, self-reliance, and service, exemplified by my father's tenure as a U.S. Marine who was stationed at Camp David under President Truman. I am grateful for their love and their example.

Most of all, I am grateful for my partner, Michael Smith. Our journey together began fourteen years ago, and it has been a journey I could never imagine doing without him. When Michael was appointed by the President and the First Lady to decorate the White House, our lives changed. Every experience in my life is better because of him. And as most of you know, Michael has never taken us anywhere we haven't liked. So of course, it was Michael who is responsible for bringing me to Spain for the very first time 7 years ago. Together and with friends, we have been there on so many trips, and we couldn't be more excited to return on behalf of the country we love.

A few months ago, on the Fourth of July, Michael and I had the great honor to join President Obama and the First Lady on the roof of the White House to watch the fireworks. And that night, I asked the President for his advice on my new post. He encouraged me to travel the country; to get out of the Embassy and meet the people of Spain and Andorra; to listen and learn...and share American stories of hope and success. He told me to let our Spanish friends know that it's in our shared interest to keep working together; that we appreciate them; that we care.

I intend to make that kind of public diplomacy a cornerstone of our mission. I intend to use the power and authority of this office to enhance existing relationships that have been developed by those who came before me, and to build new ties and bonds of friendship.

I will visit our troops and their families at the military bases that host them in Spain. I will work every day to ensure the safety and security of the 170,000 U.S. citizens in Spain and millions of visiting U.S. tourists . And at this critical time in Spain and throughout the EU, I will prioritize economic engagement and promote transatlantic ties, to benefit both our economies and our citizens. And I intend to put a special focus working together with Michael on youth entrepreneurship and engagement - through technology, science, the arts, cultural, educational and sports exchange programs.

Lastly, it cannot go unaddressed that Spain has boldly protected human rights, including the right to marry, since 2005. I am proud to serve as one of five gay ambassadors chosen by President Obama, who is sending a clear message to the world that he is committed to full equality for LGBT people in both words....and deeds. He sends that message alongside his wife, whose passion and outspoken support of the LGBT community has empowered me, and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, whose work has inspired me. These are historic times and I am proud to recognize them today.

Thank you all for celebrating with us. It is the energy, power and passion in this room that will help ensure the success of our diplomatic mission in Spain and Andorra remains solid and grows to the benefit of all during our time there.

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