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Remarks delivered by the Ambassador Butenis at the American Center Male' opening ceremony.

October 28, 2010

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Patricia Butenis opened the new American Center in Male’, Maldives at the new location of the National Library.  At its previous location, the National Library hosted an American Corner---a resource center offering information and programming about the US.  The new American Center will offer expanded resources including video conferences, an intra-library loan program, movies, internet access, and computer-based English Language classes.

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Thank you Fathun.
Good afternoon, Mr. Thoyib, Mr. Shiyam, honored guests—welcome to the opening of the American Center in Male’.  It is a pleasure to see you all here today.

Six years ago, in May 2004, we established an American Corner based at the National Library.  The American Corner served as a resource center for the general public, especially young adults.  In the American Corner, we provided current and reliable information about the United States through books, DVD collections, online research databases, free internet access, and through events such as public readings, films, speaker programs, workshops, exhibits and digital video conferences. 

When the National Library moved in July, we felt the time was right to rename our facility in order to more accurately represent our growing ties with the people and the government of the Maldives.
The American Center will continue the programs and resources we have offered over the past six years, but we will do even more.  We are adding more computers, and increasing the number of students able to participate in the Dyn Ed English language program.  This is a computer-based system that allows students to learn English at their own rate.  English is the language of international business, and the ability to speak and write English well opens opportunities for individuals and for their communities.

In the upcoming months, the American Corner will host discussions with visiting American experts.  A couple months ago, a young Imam from the United States, Imam Khalid Latif, visited Maldives and spoke with a number of groups about Islam in the United States.  He will return to Maldives in December.  In January, Dr. Richard Navarro, a senior expert on higher education, will begin a 9-month stay in Maldives on a Fulbright Fellowship.  

Every day there are people from my Embassy or from elsewhere in the US Government visiting Maldives on a variety of programs.  So, now that we have this enhanced facility, we will organize a series of public discussions here at the American Center during their visits.

We are also increasing the number of Digital Video Conferences with individuals from the United States.  In the coming months, experts from Harvard and Yale, two of the best institutions of higher education in the world, will present lectures, sharing their expertise across nine time zones with American Center participants in Male’—and they will look forward to your questions during the discussion. 

Digital Video Conferences are a flexible resource.  Recently, National Library employees participated in a professional development training program via DVC with the Director of our American Center in Colombo.  This technology is also a resource for Maldivian civil society to collaborate with their counterparts in the United States. 

I recognize the vital role technology plays today, and I am delighted that we offer so many resources that help connect Maldivians and Americans.  However, for me, a computer screen will never substitute for holding a book, magazine, or newspaper in my own hands.  So we are also starting an intra-library loan program for the American Center in Male’ with the American Center and American Corners in Sri Lanka.  This will increase the selection of books and journals available to Maldives patrons by over 4,000 titles—a collection that continues to grow each year.

I hope that the resources available in the American Center will help to increase understanding between American and Maldivians.  Our two countries, half a world apart in distance, share much in common.  In many ways, your own path to democracy mirrors ours.  Much like us, you have been working to strengthen your democracy and to ensure that your government reflects the will and interests of the people.  

We have a lot to learn from each other, and the American Center will facilitate that sharing and collaboration between the people of Maldives and the United States. 

Thank you for attending today’s opening.  I look forward to meeting you all again here at the American Center during my future trips to your beautiful country.