FROM THE DESK OF THE AMBASSADOR
Esteemed friends of the Haitian Embassy in Washington, DC,
Now that my tenure has come to an end after seven years as Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, I am taking this opportunity to share some thoughts with you before I move on.
When I arrived in Washington in 2012 to serve as Ambassador, I set out to promote Haiti not just through the traditional channels of Congress and the State Department, but through non-traditional paths and creative methods, and by enlisting various people who shared my goal of working in Haiti’s best interests.
Anyone who has passed through the doors of the Embassy or heard me speak as Ambassador is familiar with my call to create a conspiracy of goodwill to change the narrative about Haiti. I believe that what Haiti needs more than the usual charity-driven approach to development is a paradigm shift: a shift that forces us to change how Haiti is discussed; a shift that forces us to change how the world views Haiti; and a shift that put Haitians and Haiti at the forefront of the conversation. I’m proud and gratified that so many of you joined me to propel this idea into a successful movement, that gained traction and, over time, captured hearts and changed minds.
What did this movement look like? It was the hundreds of high school students who visited the embassy and viewed our art exhibits of Haitian revolutionary heroes who helped spread liberty throughout the Americas and beyond. Inspired and touched by the learning experience, these students encouraged their peers to also visit the Embassy. As a result, school buses filled with students eager to learn the story of Haiti and its people were being regularly dropped-off at the Embassy.
The movement was the numerous members of Congress and U.S. presidential advisors who didn’t even know our address until they came to dine in our Embassy and saw Haiti in a new light. Breaking bread with influential policymakers and thought leaders is not inconsequential when these are the people making important foreign and immigration policy decisions that could affect the lives of millions of Haitians and even Haitian-Americans.
The movement was the young Haitian-Americans who, through our cultural events and our fellowship and educational exchange programs, re-embraced their Haitian roots. It was the entrepreneurs and investors who connected at our business roundtables to discuss investments in Haiti. It was the countless number of shoppers who purchased Haitian products through the many pop-up shops we hosted at the Embassy. It was the thousands of people who joined us for trivia nights, open house, Haitian cooking classes, happy hour, concerts and fashion shows.
This movement was also the university students I met through my visits of college campuses across the U.S. and who approached me to inquire how they could spend a semester abroad studying at a Haitian university rather than just traveling to Haiti on a mission trip during spring break. Through these dialogues, these university students have come to gradually view Haiti not only as a place they can help, but as a destination where they could also learn.
In the last seven years, the Embassy has become an example of a public entity that provides excellent consular services to its community. Haitians are now able to renew their passports in less than two hours. We’re also proud of the physical transformation of our space on Embassy Row, the “Haitian museum in DC” as many call it, which has become a premiere destination for tourists.
There is a lot to look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment, and this was only possible with your support. I want to thank the dedicated diplomats at the Embassy for working so hard these past years to showcase Haiti in a different light. I would also like to publicly acknowledge the army of volunteers, interns and young Haitian-American professionals who joined our staff as consultants, motivated by the desire to join our movement to shift the Haiti narrative.
This has been an incredible journey, and I’ve appreciated having so many of you by my side. As I wrap up my time in Washington and prepare for my next adventure, I urge you to show the same level of support to my successor and to remember that this movement did not start with me and should not end with my departure. Keep marching forward.
A fond farewell to all,
Ambassador Paul Altidor