Bari yereko Minister Petrosyan hargeli teeknike yev paronike (Good evening ladies and gentlemen). Distinguished guests.
I am pleased to welcome you to my home this evening to meet Amber Stackhouse and Erin Comstock, two talented professional American snowboarders and sports filmmakers, and now, U.S. Department of State “Sports Envoys.” Working with national sports leagues and the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Department of State chooses exceptional athletes to serve as Sports Envoys – ambassadors of sport overseas. They conduct clinics, visit schools, and speak with youth. Amber and Erin were just in Vancouver for the Olympics – and now they are here for their first trip to Armenia. They are also the very first snowboarders to participate in the Sports Envoy program. I think this is just great, or to use some snowboarding slang, “Dude! This is rad!”
Many of you have personal experience in international competitions. You know that sports can bring us together to enjoy our shared passion, and make our differences insignificant in comparison. Through international sports, we can develop international understanding, cultural tolerance and mutual respect.
I am also especially happy to celebrate Amber and Erin’s arrival in Armenia because the U.S. Embassy is seeking to promote more involvement of women and girls in sports.
Sports teach important life skills, like team work, discipline, and confidence, but sports initiatives that support women also help break down gender stereotypes and promote strength in women – both physical and mental. This year, the U.S. Embassy sponsored the Hatis Armenian women’s basketball team, which included two American players, and we – including me – cheered them on in packed arenas. On the court, in the field, or on the slopes, women athletes – indeed all athletes – motivate their compatriots and inspire all of us to reach for our personal best. This snowboarding program also highlights the partnership between Armenia and the United States.
In particular, I want to thank the Armenian Olympic Committee, which has been extremely generous in their cooperation and support of this program. To all of the athletes here tonight – professional, aspiring, or armchair like me, I’d like to propose a toast:
Mohammad Ali once said that true athletes aren’t born in gyms. They are forged from something they possess deep inside of them – a desire, a dream, a vision. Here’s to all of our dreams and visions – and to Amber and Erin for helping us pursue those dreams. Welcome!