Today, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard took part in the ceremony organized by the Ministry of Culture celebrating the repatriation of five archaeological artifacts to be displayed permanently at the Beirut National Museum
In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted the close collaboration between the U.S. and the Lebanese governments to successfully recover the artifacts and return them to their home.
The following are Ambassador Richard’s remarks as delivered:
Thank you everyone for being here. Thank you Mr. Minister, distinguished guests and especially Anne Marie [Afeiche] who’s done so much on this particular case. You know, when I talk about our relationship with Lebanon, I almost always use the word partnership, and I use it on purpose because it is a very special word and has a very special meaning, and partnership only comes when we have shared values. That is the only time you have a partnership, and I think today is a great example of the fact that despite one disagreement here and an argument there, we the United States and Lebanon fundamentally share the same values, and one of these values is appreciation for our history, for our culture, and for our shared patrimony. I think if you look around this wonderful museum, you will see not just an exhibit of Lebanon’s history, but our history as the world. This is global history and I appreciate every day what everyone here is doing to conserve it.
The second thing I’d like to say on the issue of partnership is that Mr. Bogdanos was very eloquent about how hard the Lebanese have worked to obtain and return these antiquities to Lebanon. I’d also like to say a word about how hard Lebanon has worked to return other people’s antiquities to them. I know that it’s been a tireless effort over the years for Lebanese ministry officials, Directorate of Antiquities officials, but also the security services: the police, the army, the other security and border services, as they have found items coming from Syria, from Iraq, from other places, and confiscated these, kept them in safekeeping and managed in a number of cases to send them home to where they belong. So I’d like to say a word to you in appreciation for what you have done for others, and that it is the least of what we can do for Lebanon, to help you return what is rightfully yours.
The last thing I’d like to say to everyone today is, every time I have been to this museum, I have the same inspiration and I have really seen it today with all the work that has been done, and that is the power of one person to really make dramatic change. There was a curator somewhere in a museum in New York, and I don’t know who it was, who looked at that object and said something is not right. That person had supervisors who said, I am listening to you, something is not right. They contacted people in Lebanon, and you had individuals here who said, we are here, and we have been working quietly over many many years to document our patrimony and we are going to work with you on this. We have individuals in law enforcement who said we are going to work on this, we are going to take this on, and I really want to emphasize that, especially standing in this museum today, because I am always reminded of Maurice Chehab, who is an inspiration to me of the power of one: one person that took the initiative to say I am going to act to preserve for history what rightfully belongs to history, and he did that during the time of the civil war. Every time I am here, I am grateful for him and what he did. So I would just tell all of you, for myself personally that I take inspiration from these individuals and I hope all of us can take the inspiration to do what we need to do in the future to preserve the patrimony for all of us. Thank you so much for being here.