November 24, 2022
As prepared for delivery
” I arrived here at the very end of May, so this is my first Thanksgiving on British soil. And I am the second woman to be Ambassador to the UK in over 200 years. So, on this holiday of thanksgiving, let me start by expressing gratitude for the women in my life who served as role models. The women who helped me on my way up, and those I admired from afar, like Nancy Pelosi, who will soon step down after two decades of graceful leadership under the fiercest public microscope.”
Ambassador Jane Hartley: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. It is a joy to be here in this beautiful cathedral and an honor to speak to you.I am Jane Hartley, the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I arrived here at the very end of May, so this is my first Thanksgiving on British soil. And I am the second woman to be Ambassador to the UK in over 200 years. So, on this holiday of Thanksgiving, let me start by expressing gratitude for the women in my life who served as role models. The women who helped me on my way up, and those I admired from afar, like Nancy Pelosi, who will soon step down after two decades of graceful leadership under the fiercest public microscope.
Like her and like them, I aim to be a role model for women leaders of tomorrow, and especially for my strong, independent daughter.
Even though I have been an ambassador before, this is not how I usually spend my Thanksgivings. At home on our farm, I would have on jeans and a sweater. I would be setting the table right now and my husband, Ralph, would be toiling away in the kitchen – he is the cook in the family.
Today will be different. Dinner will be at Winfield House, the ambassador’s residence in London, and it will be cooked by our team. Ralph will still try to sneak into the kitchen to make his special mashed potatoes, and Bear – my Instagram famous Australian Shepherd – will be begging for scraps of food under the table.
While it won’t feel like a normal thanksgiving… for me, the most important thing is that I will be surrounded by my family. And they are all here – sitting in the front row today. My husband, Ralph: who has been on this amazing journey with me for almost 43 years! My incredible daughter, Kate…who I don’t see enough because she lives in New York City. My amazing son, Jamie, who lives here in London with my wonderful (and new!) daughter-in-law, Francesca. I am also grateful to my parents who passed away years ago. They had big dreams for their daughter, and I know their dreams live on for my children, both Kate and Jamie.
My parents had an abiding faith in the possibilities of our country, even though times were difficult for them. They imbued in me a sense of duty, which is why I have served three Presidents. I have promised my family, though, that this one would be the last!
Duty…it is a funny concept. In our modern age, the idea of “doing one’s duty” can feel outdated or stuffy. But we all have a duty, and we all can come to it in our own way.
When I think about duty, I think about The Late Queen Elizabeth II. At 25 years old, she committed to put her country first, no matter where her life took her. For 70 years she lived her promise faithfully, performing her last official duty two days before she died.
I think about our Ambassador to the United Kingdom during World War Two, Gil Winant. When the Blitz started, he had the option to move out of harm’s way but instead, he chose to live downtown with the people of London as the bombs fell. After bombings, he walked the streets, helping dig people out.
I think about the young marine I spoke with the other night at the Marine Corps Ball. He was 17 years old when he enlisted because he wanted to fight for the values we hold dear.
Duty is what we saw in the faces of the Ukrainians who fought to liberate Kherson – exhausted and injured – but who broke into song when they saw their city, knowing that they had brought liberty and freedom back to their homeland.
What about our duty? Our duty as citizens in this very difficult world?
There is no doubt that we live in stressful times. A war in Europe. A changing climate. Economic uncertainty. Political division. It is important now for all of us to reaffirm the values that we hold dear. To hold them against a hard reality. We are required to be active citizens if there is to be a better future – for us and for future generations.
To all of you, I would say: get involved. In your community. In your church. In politics. Volunteer, as my daughter recently did, in a political race or a cause that you care about.
Be informed – information shines a light on ignorance. Being informed also means voting, by the way. The younger generation – my children among them – are some of the most informed people ever to walk the earth. Kate keeps me informed about U.S. politics, and Jamie has been so helpful to me here about UK business and culture. We need young people everywhere – their intelligence, energy and passion – to help us older folks solve our biggest problems.
Be kind – a kinder society is a more just one. Recently, I was chairman of Sesame Street (a bit of a departure for me). Our motto was: we’re teaching children to be smarter, stronger, and kinder.
So that’s my thanksgiving message today: Be informed. Be kind. And get involved.
Because the challenges we face are too big for one person, or one country, to solve alone. It is our collective responsibility to fight against climate change, discrimination, poverty, and hunger. Our collective responsibility…to defend freedom and liberty against tyrants and dictators. And together, I believe that we will do our duty.
I would like to end by paraphrasing one of my favorite Presidents, President Obama, who summed up why we should feel a sense of duty to our country. “We gather to affirm the greatness of our nation,” he said, “not because of the height of skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. But because we have faith in a simple dream, a dream that has guided our nation for centuries: all men (and women) are created equal.”
That is the true genius of America. So I say to all of you: go build a world you can be thankful for. Go make sure that dream still exists.
Now, I am going home to have dinner, and to feed Bear a little turkey under the table.