- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2008

Three years ago, the Parliament of Bermuda was debating whether to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and to publicly censure the United States over Iraq. Throughout the island nation, “respect and admiration” for the U.S. was near a 25-year low. Business leaders of all stripes were concerned that the U.S. and Bermuda - allies for almost 400 years - were inexorably drifting apart.

Fast forward to today: Bermuda-U.S. trade is at an all-time high (and Bermuda has the highest GDP/capita in the world – an astounding accomplishment for a small island nation with almost no natural resources). “Respect and admiration” for the U.S. is near a 25-year high - and this morning the Premier of Bermuda and I will sit down for a brief meeting with President Bush to lay the groundwork for even closer partnership going forward.

What happened? Quite simply: for the past three years we have worked closely with leading members of both parties, including Sens. Max Baucus, Sam Brownback, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Christoper Dodd, Bill Frist, Mel Martinez, Barack Obama and David Vitter; as well as House Leaders Charlie Rangel, Diane Watson, Dennis Hastert, GK Butterfield, James Clyburn and John Lewis - to reach every political, economic and social leader of Bermuda with the simple but powerful message: “America Cares.” Let me take this opportunity to thank each of these American leaders – and their staffs – for their hard work and strong partnership.

For example this year we will again host the largest July 4th celebration in the world, outside of the U.S. 7000 guests will join us to “Celebrate Freedom and Give Back to Bermuda” (and raise over $100,000 for 60+ Bermuda charities). The celebration will be broadcast nationwide. Yes, it’s a huge amount of grunt work but it underscores the fact that America is Bermuda’s strongest ally - and one that cares deeply about the island. Mrs. Watson and Mr. Butterfield are both honorary chairs of this event - a fact not lost on any of our Bermudian guests.

This event is just one of literally hundreds of “caring diplomacy” events we do: from helping local schools, to promoting greater cross-cultural understanding, to helping facilitate record levels of trade and investment between our lands. All with one overall goal: to build bridges of all types (economic, political, cultural and social) that unite our lands – and tap into the desire of almost every Bermudian that our countries maintain a close and abiding alliance that transcends any particular leader or political party.

Some will say that Bermuda is different, that this isn’t possible in other, larger countries. Having lived and worked extensively on five continents, I respectfully disagree. I believe that people of almost every nation respect and admire the values and culture of the United States - no matter how much they may disagree with a particular policy or leadership style. Yet we must do the hard work - and take a truly bipartisan approach - to unlock that deep reservoir of good will.

Much has been given to the United States and truly much is expected. The large majority of the world wants us to succeed and to help them succeed. But as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, it is up to us to reach out and show in tangible, bipartisan ways large and small, that America cares. It’s not easy - and it requires a dramatic break with the forms and rituals of diplomacy from days long gone. But the bipartisan success story in Bermuda demonstrates how effective it can be.

Consul General Gregory W. Slayton is chief of the U.S. mission to Bermuda.

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