This is my fifth, and final, year of living in South Florida. I will be sad to go.
Miami has become my home as I have lived here longer than any other place since leaving home in 1990, aged 18 to join the British Diplomatic Service. Since then I have moved 21 times in 24 years in pursuit of Her Majesty's interests. London, Russia, Pakistan, Syria, Bosnia, Sweden and Afghanistan to name but a few.
Eight of those years have also been spent in the U.S., here in Miami and in the late 1990s in New York, working at the United Nations. Move number 22 this summer is to Canada where I will regenerate (a bit like Dr. Who) and become the British Director-General for Trade and Investment with Canada and Consul-General in Toronto. Time to swap the flip-flops for snowshoes.
Over the years I have made a fair number of New Year's resolutions. Most of them have evolved around diet, exercise and education and the need to do something about them. Some of them I have stuck with such as education. Diet and exercise have been harder!
So as I enter 2014 and think upon my time here, I wanted to share my resolutions for the rest of my Miami. Here they are:
1. Run (and hopefully finish!) my first marathon. My team and I believe it's important for Consulates to be more than observers of the countries we are in, but active participants in the community as well. So this year, seven colleagues and I will run the Miami full and half marathons for two local organisations: the Down's Syndrome Association of Miami and the Chapman Partnership, who help the homeless. You can read more about why we are doing this here and here.
2. Remind Miamians they are more British than they know. Yes, you are in many ways the capital of the Americas. But from David Beckham's efforts to bring a MLS franchise here, to Andy Murray's Grand Slam training, this month's production of Antony and Cleopatra by the Royal Shakespeare Company, to the Arctic Monkeys concert at the Jackie Gleason and 25 plus years of Virgin Atlantic flights to the 2014 opening of the new Cable and Wireless offices. All these are important reminders of your interest in Britain, and our shared economic, cultural and sporting experiences.
3. Education, education, education. That was former Prime Minister Tony Blair's mantra, but this year it comes true for Miami as you host the British Council's Global annual higher education flagship convention. Working with Dr. Eduardo Padron (MDC), Marc Rosenberg (FIU) and Donna Shalala (UM), we are bringing more than 1,200 leaders and practitioners in higher education in April to discuss inclusion, innovation and impact in 21st century higher education. This is a great opportunity for Miami to showcase its achievements here.
4. Secure your support for a new EU-US free trade deal. Miami (and Florida) are uniquely placed to benefit. The combination of your location, investments in your port infrastructure and entrepreneurial attitude mean that you could benefit from the 40K plus jobs that a recent British study identified could be created across the state. I'll be speaking at the Beacon Council on this important subject on January 29.
5. Remain active on climate change. Last year, Rolling Stone suggested that South Florida would become the 21st century Venice. The Southeast Regional Compact on Climate Change has done much to change the debate here, but more can be done, in particular at state level in Tallahassee.
6. Share British experiences on Cuba. Later this month, my friend and colleague, Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba, will visit Miami for the first time. He'll meet Cuban-American leaders, academics, scholars and organisations to share his insight and hear the views of the Miami community.
7. Do Jai Alai. Promoted as the fastest sport in the world, players work on a court and throw balls at speeds of up to 180 m.p.h. It is definitely not cricket but something I've always wanted to try.
8. Thank my staff more often. Being a Consul-General is similar to being an Ambassador: You get invited to lots of events, meetings are set up, and you (sometimes) get the credit. However it's my Consulate team who really deserve that, from helping Floridian companies do business with the UK to providing assistance to British nationals on holiday.
9. Help my sons nurture their Florida friendships. Miami has been Alexander and Michael's first "home," and where they have made great friendships. I believe they will stand the test of distance, but will help them develop them while they find their way in their Toronto home.
I've learned from watching politics in many countries, committing to public declarations must be handled with care. However, by doing so, I will rely on the Miami public to hold me to account.
Happy 2014 Miami! Let's make it a GREAT one.