The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) and Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) joined forces to present to their distinguished guests a co-sponsored program, “Tunisia in the Spotlight,” on Friday, February 9, 2018.
During a delicious lunch in the historic atmosphere of the DACOR Bacon House, His Excellency Ambassador H.E. Fayçal Gouia of the Republic of Tunisia enlightened AAFSA and DACOR’s guests with a tribute to the United States’ continued partnership with Tunisia, ongoing cooperation and commitment toward both countries’ shared goals and values.
The event unfolded exquisitely at the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, which was established in 1985 to contribute to the development of mutual international understanding and the strengthening of ties between the people of the United States and other nations. Guests mingled during a lively cocktail reception in the grand room dominated by the gilt mirror shipped to the DACOR House from England nearly 200 years ago. Then, Sheila Switzer, AAFSW Program Chair and FBS State Liaison, and Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President, invited the guests to the elegant mid-nineteenth century Victorian dining room, adorned with a crystal candelabrum and portraits of Virginia Murray Bacon’s ancestors.
Ms. Switzer and Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen introduced the guest speaker and acknowledged the great efforts of Executive Director Susan Cimburek and members of the DACOR Bacon House for their support organizing this event.
In front of more than seventy delighted guests, Ambassador Fayçal Gouia noted that Tunisia was the second country to recognize the United States as an independent nation during the American Revolution. Ambassador Gouia thanked the U.S. government’s commitment to support Tunisia in achieving its most important goals: actively defending fundamental freedoms, the rights of women, the freedom of the press, and respect for civil and political rights through security, development, diplomacy, economic ties and innovation, the fruit of a partnership based on trust between the two nations.
Ambassador Gouia noted that Tunisia’s economy had suffered greatly since the peaceful transition towards democracy and freedom called the Jasmine Revolution, especially the tourism industry in the face of terror and attacks targeting Tunisian interests and people. However, there was optimism as tourism increased by 64% in 2017 over 2016, as American and Tunisian armed forces were collaborating closely on security, to combat the shared threat from terrorism and secure democratic development.
Ambassador Gouia commented that the U.S.-Tunisia bilateral commercial relationship was strong as both countries have been trading partners for centuries, with cultural and business ties increasing every day. He singled out the expansion of trade and investment led by the private sector as critical for Tunisia’s democratic transition, as well as the U.S. government bilateral program funding increase from $34 million in 2015 to $220 million in 2017.
The participants were able to exchange many thoughts, insights, and ideas with the Ambassador on Tunisia, a nation characterized by exceptional tolerance and hospitality. The event concluded by honoring the late Virginia Murray Bacon’s vision of the House as a meeting place “to facilitate international peace and understanding by bringing together leaders in the field of foreign policy and international relations and law,” as Ambassador Faycal Gouia praised the world’s oldest modern democracy for standing with one of the world’s newest democracies.
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