What do the U.S. Navy, Estonia’s May Day, and the 1977 iconic U.S. movie Smokey and the Bandit have in common? How about “freedom?” The U.S. Navy is a main guarantor of freedom of the seas and NATO security. My first Estonian May Day was characterized by a free society exercising one of the essential freedoms of a democratic society: for citizens basically to do as they please, within the law. Estonians chose to celebrate the “day of the worker” by working on their country’s beauty. And finally, what greater expression of the freedom of the open road (even if breaking a few traffic regulations in the process) than the screen comedy Smokey and the Bandit? I hope a good number of my readers are old enough to remember this road movie classic.
In Tallinn this past weekend I experienced all three freedoms in full measure with American and Estonian friends! Last Friday, together with the Captain of the U.S. Guided Missile Destroyer USS Laboon, we hosted our Estonian and international guests on the flight deck of this ship as it was docked in Tallinn harbor. On Saturday, together with members of my Embassy and sailors from the Laboon, my wife and I joined in the cleaning of a Tallinn park together with citizens of the city. And finally, I joined a jubilant ralley of classic Amerian cars, lovingly maintained by their Estonian owners, together with hundreds of enthusiasts, in the Rottermanni district of the city. What an outpouring of enthusiasm for a common love of American automobiles, both old and new! And what a uniting factor between our two countries.
Frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed by this feeling of commonality among Estonians and Americans. In and of themselves none of these events may appear to be earth shattering: a naval ship visit, a clean-up campaign, and a vintage car show. But then again, they were a powerful and tangible sign of the ties that bind Estonia and the United States. I was reminded of my responsibility to use my years here as Ambassador to the fullest to maintain and deepen this powerful relationship of two peoples sharing common values across 5000 miles of ocean.