I leave Washington today after over four years as the British Ambassador.
It's been a fascinating and rewarding time to represent Britain in this country. The first requirement is, of course, to be Ambassador not just to Washington, but to the whole United States. In addition to a substantial Embassy in DC, we have nine Consulates General throughout the country. Julia and I have greatly enjoyed the experience of getting out and about and promoting British political, economic, commercial and cultural interests, because that's the only way to understand the country's diversity and complexity.
Among the many highlights of our four years in the United States:
In Washington I've enjoyed working with successive Administrations, and helping to steer the UK-US relationship through political change in both London and Washington. As British Ambassador, I've had remarkable access to decision makers and opinion formers in Washington, and have participated actively in the public policy debates among the world class think tanks and universities in the nation's capital. I admire the seriousness of public debate here, and the depth of expertise on a broad range of topics - from the politics of happiness, to the Chinese economy, to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. There is nowhere in the world which so relishes serious policy discussion across so wide a spectrum.
My time as Ambassador has coincided with a period of unprecedented turbulence and significant change in the global order, both political and economic. The UK, like the US, is spending a lot of time reflecting on the shift of economic power to the Asia-Pacific region and to the Southern Hemisphere. Profound social and political change is taking place in the Middle East. Both our countries remain heavily involved in Afghanistan. We are working closely together on the threats we face in Pakistan, Iran, East Africa and elsewhere.
In all this uncertainty, one port in the storm has been the solidity and relevance of the UK-US relationship. Like the United States, the UK has to cut its cloth in international relations according to our economic means. But we remain the United States' most capable global ally. Like the US, we have assets and relationships throughout the world. Britain remains the top overseas investor in the United States with 140 times the investment stock that China has here. The defence, intelligence and foreign policy core of our relationship remains strong. All our government interactions are underpinned by longstanding human and cultural links. I'm confident that the relationship will continue to evolve and thrive. My successor, Peter Westmacott, another career diplomat, will take over later this month.
When I get back to the UK I will retire from the British Diplomatic Service after over 35 years. I hope to put my international experience to good use in business and other fields. I'm encouraged by what American colleagues in diplomacy and national security have done with their lives after public service.
But before Julia and I return to London, we are going to take a few weeks off travelling in the Pacific, starting in Hawaii, the only state in the Union with a Union Jack still on its flag. The legacy is actually a bit mixed - Captain Cook, who was the first European to visit Hawaii, died there after outstaying his welcome. Learning from history, we will be staying less than a week! We look forward to seeing one of the few states we have not visited and having some time to reflect on four very happy years here. For that, I am grateful of course to my British colleagues in the Embassy and Consulates General, and to a huge number of Americans in all walks of life who have enriched our time here. Thank you to all.
Follow Nigel Sheinwald on Twitter: www.twitter.com/UKinUSA