We must say that if we were approaching the big 60 and we have guns like that, we would pose without a shirt, too. And then you’d call that gun-boat diplomacy, no? But hey, so what?!
Last year Ambassador Oreck also wore a fashionable rhubarb summer hat but no one complained about that. Take a look, isn’t that cute?!
But we want to write this post because we actually are quite of fan of Ambassador Oreck’s approach to his job in Finland. Pardon me? Oh, yes … we know he is a political appointee, that’s not necessarily a red mark in our books. Why? We just happen to think that one is either a good steward of the U.S. mission overseas or not. So there’s no “but” here.
Anyway, you might not remember this but the US Embassy in Helsinki celebrated the 236th Independence Day with hard hats. That’s because they were in the middle of a renovation project at post. Instead of renting out a place somewhere for the 4th of July celebration, they (including the guests) just put on hard hats and carried on with the fun.
And remember the official residence in Embassy Port of Spain which the OIG described as having “a feeling of neglect and disrepair, in part because the previous Ambassador viewed repair activities as intrusive?” Well, it was the exact opposite in Finland. In December last year, Ambassador Oreck’s wife posted this on the embassy blog, which we thought was amiable and considerate:
Work continues apace here at the Embassy to restore the Residence and to open the Innovation Center. Since we are passionate about both historic preservation AND high-performance building techniques, we have decided that it is better to live through the chaos ourselves so that the next Ambassador won’t have to deal with the disruption. We deeply appreciate the forbearance of our dear neighbors. We do literally feel your pain!
State/OIG also did an inspection of US Embassy Helsinki. The report says that there were concerns about the 9 months of noisy and dirty construction, and the lack of information about what comes next but the inspectors reported that “It is clear that employees do not question the need to renovate the dilapidated and unsafe facilities at Embassy Helsinki. Many also understand that without the Ambassador’s persistence, the project would not be underway (a judgment shared by OBO).” Also this:
An energetic, construction savvy, and persistent Ambassador has revived a stalled project to renovate the antiquated and unsafe chancery buildings; he is extremely involved in all details of the renovation and sees keeping the project on schedule as one of the greatest contributions he can make during his time in Finland.
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) acknowledges that the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the Ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.
Ambassador Oreck reportedly logged about 250,000 miles in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns about costs and security. “In 36 months, we went from ‘no’ to ‘done,’ ” he said.
Early this year, the embassy staff returned to the building and the Innovation Center was officially opened in late February. The Innovation Center houses the public offices of the U.S. Embassy in Finland and is reportedly one of the most energy efficient embassy buildings in the world. According to the embassy, the Center also “harnesses the best of Finnish technology by being the first U.S. government building in the world to use district cooling and heating.”
Somebody once said that it’s what you do on your third and fourth tries that matters. We’re glad that Ambassador Oreck did not give up when he was told ‘no’ the first time.
- Genius in Helsinki! (pogue.blogs.nytimes.com)
- State Dept’s Leadership and Mgt School Needs Some Leadership, And It’s Not Alone (diplopundit.net)
- Name That Embassy: Where The DCM Has Two Official Residences (the Second, For DCM Junior’s Playdates) (diplopundit.net)
- US Embassy Bangui: 15% Danger Post With Terrifically Bad Trimmings, It’s Not Alone (diplopundit.net)