Brazil – I will always have you in my heart

As I prepare to depart Brazil, there are so many wonderful memories of people and places that I will carry with me.  From my home in Brasilia, under the vast blue sky of the planalto, I’ve reflected on these past three years and what I’ve seen and learned while exploring this majestic, diverse and beautiful country.
In the Cidade Maravilhosa, I experienced the warmth of Carioca hospitality as Rio welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests from all around the world for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  I personally witnessed the athletic spirit and sportsmanship of competitors at many events, in which Brazilian athletes excelled and won the hearts of spectators worldwide. I saw the great strides the city made in building out its infrastructure,rode the new Metro line with my family, and toured a completely renovated Praça Maua.  And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the World Cup – I followed Team USA across the country to Natal, Recife, Manaus, and Salvador.  These two mega events were examples of Brazilian logistical, organizational, and security capabilities.

In the Cerrado, I witnessed the incredible diversity of indigenous people as 2,000 athletes representing 24 Brazilian tribal nations and 23 countries gathered for the First World Indigenous Games in October 2015.  For the leaders of Native American tribes leading the U.S. delegation, this event was an opportunity to renew cultural ties between the United States and Brazil.  In Sao Paulo, I practiced English and played soccer with a group of young girls from public schools, who are learning English and leadership skills as part of our Consulate’s “Estrelas do Futebol” program.  Through sports, we celebrated social inclusion, empowerment, and the rights of people with disabilities.

The vastness of Brazil is almost unfathomable, and the Amazon is a great example of this.  I was impressed with the natural beauty of the region – seeing the Meeting of the Waters and watching pink Amazon River dolphins play – symbols of the unique biodiversity of Brazil. I also visited the Anavilhanas National Park and met with people committed to protecting this world treasure.  I am proud of our work with the Brazilian government to conserve this unique and unforgettable region.

The universal language of music and culture unites our countries.  I was thrilled to attend the Sao Paulo Youth Orchestra’s first-ever concert in the United States, the result of a partnership between the Juilliard School and Santa Marcelina Cultura. In Belem, I celebrated the 60th anniversary of CCBEU – the U.S.-Brazil binational center – listening to American jazz performed by the renowned Amazonia Jazz Band in the Teatro da Paz.  In Recife, I watched Maestro Spok and Wynton Marsalis perform a moving Jazz-Frevo rendition of “Happy Birthday” to commemorate our Consulate’s 200th anniversary.  And, when the renowned samba school Unidos da Tijuca announced that its official theme for Carnaval 2017 would celebrate American music, I even tried dancing some samba! In Minas Gerais, nestled in the state’s picturesque mountains, I visited Inhotim, one of the world’s most exuberant and bold, modern art complexes with whom we partnered to host an exhibit by world-class American artist Candy Chang. Some days ago, I attended a performance by the Orquesta Sinfonica Teatro Claudio Santoro in Brasilia of classic Americana pieces under the direction of American conductor Jeffrey Dokken.

It’s been such a rewarding experience meeting so many people who are doing such meaningful and important work to bring our two countries together.  From my dealings with Itamaraty’s world-class diplomats to visiting technology start-ups in Porto Alegre, as well as attending business meetings in São Paulo with American and Brazilian business executives of Mais Unidos, who take their commitment to corporate social responsibility seriously, the ties that bind our two countries continue to grow stronger and deeper. I also saw the bright and promising future of Brazil in the inspiring meetings I had with dozens of Youth Ambassadors.  Thank you, Brazil; thank you, amigos Brasileiros for three incredible years in your beautiful and vibrant country. I will always have you in my heart.