October 30, 2023
On October 23, 2023, the International and Comparative Politics (ICP) department, in collaboration with the President’s Office at AUCA, launched the “Ambassador Talks” Series, which became the first guest lecture series with distinguished Ambassadors to the Kyrgyz Republic. The occasion featured an address by His Excellency Mr. Lesslie Viguerie, the U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic. Mr. Viguerie delivered his talk in front of AUCA students, faculty, and staff on the evolution of U.S. and Kyrgyz relations over the past four decades.
This momentous event, graced by the presence of President O'Connor, esteemed faculty, and AUCA students, served as an opportunity to celebrate the enduring and significant partnership between the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic.
Ambassador Viguerie's address commenced with an acknowledgment of a mutual affinity for history and a profound appreciation for the foundations of the U.S.-Kyrgyz relationship. He delved into a recollection of the early 1980s, an era when international politics were distinctly characterized by the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. During this period, Central Asia was a remote and improbable destination for American travelers. However, Ambassador Viguerie underscored the transformation that has occurred over the course of four decades, culminating in the present moment at AUCA, which now stands as a symbol of academic collaboration between the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic.
The AUCA campus, with its Liberal Arts and Sciences traditions and environment, bears testament to the remarkable strides made in U.S.-Kyrgyz relations. It acts as a bridge between the two nations, facilitating the collaboration of U.S. Fulbright scholars with their Kyrgyz counterparts on pioneering research projects, while AUCA's renowned faculty contributes to developing future leaders in the region. Ambassador Viguerie notably highlighted the pivotal role that AUCA plays in shaping the U.S.-Kyrgyz connection, underscoring the shared commitment to academic excellence and community development.
The Ambassador's address also dispelled any ambiguity regarding the United States' intention, reiterating the aim to provide Kyrgyzstan with options and avoid the imposition of a choice between partners. He emphasized the strategic importance of expanding regional and international ties, referencing recent meetings between Central Asian leaders and President Biden in New York as a testament to the commitment to enhancing connectivity within the region.
Moreover, the Ambassador's discourse delved into U.S. development programs, which have played a pivotal role in supporting Kyrgyz agricultural businesses, contributing to exports of nearly $30 million worth of goods to neighboring Central Asian countries and beyond over the past five years. Furthermore, he emphasized the collaborative endeavors aimed at enhancing education, security, and public health in the Kyrgyz Republic. The United States' active participation in responding to health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, was duly acknowledged.
Ambassador Viguerie's address extolled the support provided by the U.S. Embassy for democratic institutions, human rights, the rule of law, and civil society. In particular, he praised the Kyrgyz Republic's heritage of active civil society organizations, freedom of expression, and academic freedom, underscoring their critical role in shaping the nation's future prosperity.
Cultural preservation and exchanges were considered paramount in fortifying the bilateral relationship. Ambassador Viguerie personally recounted experiences exploring the cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan. Initiatives such as the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation have significantly contributed to the preservation and restoration of historic sites, ensuring their continued existence for generations to come.
Furthermore, the speech highlighted concerted efforts to promote the Kyrgyz language and culture. This involves the translation of American titles into Kyrgyz and the active support for Kyrgyz-language content creation.
In conclusion, Ambassador Viguerie's address delivered an unequivocal call to action. It urged students to utilize their education as a force for the betterment of their communities and as a means to elevate the U.S.-Kyrgyz relationship to new echelons. The Ambassador emphasized that diplomacy is not a passive endeavor and underscored the indispensable role of each individual in bridging the United States and their home countries. The essence of his message was profoundly clear: knowledge is the wing of humanity. Through education and collaboration, the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic can continue to fortify their historic partnership, forging a path toward a brighter and mutually prosperous future. At the conclusion of the meeting, His Excellency the Ambassador conducted a question-and-answer session during which students had the opportunity to personally pose their inquiries to Mr. Ambassador and receive responses.