David McKean, who presented his credentials as the new American ambassador to the Grand Duchy last month, and Kathleen Kaye, his wife, receive guests during a welcome reception held at the US embassy on 11 May
(Photos: Lala La Photo)
Unpredictably warm weather greeted guests at the residence of new US ambassador David McKean on Wednesday evening as he and his wife, Kathleen Kaye, hosted a welcome reception.
(Photos: Lala La Photo)
The first sign that there is a definitely a new ambassador in town was the handing out of Cosmopolitan cocktails to guests as they waited in line to meet David McKean and Kathleen Kaye. This was a welcome if unusual gesture--it caught some guests by surprise--and hinted that the tenure of ambassador McKean may be more relaxed than some of his predecessors. Guests included fellow members of the diplomatic corps such as Irish and British ambassadors Peadar Carpenter and John Marshall, as well as national and local government and parliamentary representatives including city mayor Lydie Polfer, deputy Marc Angel and speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Mars di Bartolomeo.
The ambassador delivered a succinct and witty speech in which he acknowledged the warm welcome he has already received in Luxembourg. “I am both humbled by the great honour to serve the president of the United States and energized by the opportunity to work and live in such a lovely country,” he said. McKean looked back on the most recent years of his career serving secretary of state John Kerry and said he was thrilled when asked by Kerry and president Obama to become ambassador to the Grand Duchy. “Luxembourg was actually the first European country I visited as a teenager,” he said. “Yes, I am part of the Icelandic Air American brigade that descended on Luxembourg in the 1970s,” the ambassador explained, to the delight of his audience.
Kathleen Kaye, an educator who has worked with children with special needs in Washington DC has already engaged with Syrian refugees in Luxembourg through the Red Cross. She has also taken delight in tending the embassy gardens. Together the couple has three grown children, who are studying and working in the States, and a cat named Oliver--the Diplocat--who has travelled with them to Luxembourg. “Apparently he is already more popular on Facebook than I am,” the ambassador joked.
The couple share an interest in the history of World War II and visiting castle and hiking and cycling--last week they purchased bicycles from Tour de France winner Andy Schleck’s new shop. “I am going to need a lot of exercise,” McKean said, “because I can’t walk by one of Luxembourg’s patisseries without stopping to admire the pain raisin and éclair au chocolat; or, as I call them, breakfast and lunch.”
On a more serious note, McKean says he is prepared to meet the critical challenges of the job, both at a bilateral and European level--turmoil in the Middle East, terrorism, the refugee crisis climate change and TTIP. “These are difficult issues, some of which threaten the very fabric of the European Union. The union that Luxembourg helped build.”
The ambassador cited the words of president Obama in his speech in Hanovertwo weeks ago, which he said summed up the current situation and the potential of Europe better than anybody. “Perhaps you need an outsider, somebody who is not European to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved. More than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in 28 countries, 19 with a common currency, in one European union remains one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times.”
McKean rounded off by answering the two questions he has been asked most frequently since arriving in Luxembourg--how long he will be in the job and who does he think will win the US presidential election. “Let me answer both questions by simply saying that I plan to be here for a long time.”