The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Tommaso Caputo, dean of the diplomatic corps citation for Ambassador Douglas Kmiec
During his roughly two years of diplomatic service in the Republic of Malta, Ambassador Kmiec brought to successful completion a $125 million new embassy compound, secured the ratification of the double taxation agreement, entered into a comprehensive agreement allowing for the better inspection of cargo at the Freeport reducing the risk of the transfer of weapons-grade uranium; established a framework for the better detection of human trafficking; and obtained state-of-the art screening equipment and training to upgrade airport security.
Ambassador Kmiec hosted a large number of foreign dignitaries at his residence, including on several occasions the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta. The Ambassador has also welcomed a number of American dignitaries, including the United States Secretary of the Navy; as well as such operational leaders of the U.S. Navy as Vice Admiral Harris the Commander of the Navy's Sixth Fleet; the director of the European Bureau in the State Department; members and senior staff of Congress; and American film and television stars (such as Martin Sheen, who brought the first film premier to Malta in over three decades as part of an inspired and highly successful fundraiser for the John XXIII Peace Lab). Among other frequent guests sponsored by Ambassador Kmiec were prominent scholars of law, politics, and religion; numerous Fulbright fellows; and leading American businessmen.
Ambassador Kmiec was also instrumental in the development of a workable, strategic plan for his embassy. The Ambassador focused the attention of his embassy for the first time since Malta joined the EU on developing a U.S. foreign policy specifically for the Mediterranean. The strategic plan that emerged identified the potential for widespread instability in the region a year in advance of the uprisings.
When the dangers in Libya rose to unsafe levels, and regular means of transport had been foreclosed, Ambassador Kmiec innovatively engaged a ferry service to rescue several hundred evacuees, including virtually all of the U.S. embassy personnel in Embassy-Tripoli, as well as citizens of a wide range of third countries: such as Malta, Canada, and Australia. The rescue, humanitarian and coordination roles of Ambassador Kmiec's embassy became so pivotal that when a budget impasse in Washington threatened a government shut-down, the embassy in Malta was one of the few embassies not shuttered since it had been designated by Secretary Clinton as "essential" and necessary to stay at 100% functionality. Ambassador Kmiec successfully advocated with representatives of the European Union for a clearer, more defensible human rights posture to be balanced against responsibly defined security needs. Relatedly, the Ambassador greatly assisted his country in monitoring the effective implementation of embargoes and other sanctions aimed at promoting dialogue rather than prolonged conflict in Iran and Libya.
Perhaps Ambassador Kmiec's most compelling intervention in an international meeting occurred in early 2010 when he was asked by Senator Mitchell to represent the United States at the UN-Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Arab-Israeli conference. When the Israeli delegation walked out after the first morning, the meeting was momentarily in turmoil. Overcoming resistance within his own State Department, Ambassador Kmiec calmed matters at the margins the first day and in a keynote address on the second indicated that under President Obama, the US would be neither lawyer for Israel nor agent of Palestine, but an honest broker working toward a two state, comprehensive solution.
Giving notable humanitarian example, while working with the UNHCR and the Jesuit Relief Services, Ambassador Kmiec expanded the opportunity for migrant families from Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Somalia to resettle in the U.S. With over 700 successful placements to date, virtually all of whom the Ambassador met with personally over a light dinner at his residence in order to encourage, to inspire, and to "insist" that these "new American arrivals" cheer on his favorite base-ball franchise, the Chicago Cubs. A prolific and popular writer, one of Ambassador Kmiec's proudest moments was co-authoring an essay against racial and migrant discrimination with the President of the Republic for the Sunday Times.
The Ambassador has also devoted his considerable legal acumen to working with the Chief Justice and the Attorney General as well as the members of the bar to address perennial problems of delay in the prosecution of criminal cases in Malta. As part of this effort, Ambassador Kmiec arranged for a member of the appellate court of Malta to visit with the Supreme Court of the United States and to receive counsel from the federal administrative office of the US courts. Most recently, Ambassador Kmiec similarly arranged for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the United States Court of Appeals to spend several days in Malta in order to deliver separate lectures to the bench, bar and students of jurisprudence. Efforts to apply a version of the speedy trial act and to allow for bail by the use of electronic monitoring are now under active study by the legislative office of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Ambassador has been a strong advocate of equal and expanded opportunities for women and regularly addressed meetings and conventions on US business practice and equal opportunity. On a number of occasions, the theatrical venues of Malta have had plays and other cultural activities ably supported by the Ambassador facilitating cultural exchange.
The Ambassador has been generous with his time giving lectures and presentations at virtually all of Malta's colleges, the minor seminary and many of the schools and departments within the university as well as the Mediterranean Diplomatic Academy. In this regard, Ambassador Kmiec secured the intervention of former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and the personal participation of former Presidential Chief of Staff John Sununu for the 20th anniversary conference on the end of the Cold War.
The Ambassador authored numerous essays related to among other things: international women's day; internet freedom of speech; the remembrance of the Holocaust and the life of Anne Frank; the first priority of the diplomatic partnership between the European Union and the United States; necessary qualities for judicial appointment; Malta as a comparative example in America's quest to expand health care; understanding the realities of climate change; meeting the needs of natural disaster in Haiti and elsewhere; and a respectful and constructively positive exploration of neutrality in the Maltese Constitution.
Finally, Ambassador Kmiec will long be remembered as a man of faith. Gentle in demeanor; thoughtful in remark; open to competing idea; Ambassador Kmiec is willing to be challenged on every supposition without any defensiveness and manifesting abundant good humor. There is little doubt that Ambassador Kmiec won the hearts of the Maltese. Greeted with the same "uncommon kindness" accorded Saint Paul, Ambassador Kmiec's presence at daily Mass, his interest and attendance at Festas, as well as his authentic reflections of his own personal faith touched every one of us. Because he had so quickly and deeply established diplomatic friendship, we felt his own profound loss of friendship from the awful car accident which claimed two close friends and nearly took his life as well. How wonderful it was to see Ambassador Kmiec return to his post with dedication and even minimizing the disruption to Embassy work by undergoing a second, major reconstructive surgery in Malta over Christmas. The Ambassador was the object of much prayerful support in his host country. The Ambassador was assiduous in letting the Maltese know that their prayers were warmly received and were of much positive effect in his life. Every Saturday, the Ambassador could be found volunteering in social services of all kind, from the Little Sisters in Hamrun to the Holy Family Home in Naxxar to food distribution to the needy at the Millennium Chapel.
As it happened, it would not be accident, but bureaucratic politics, that would take Ambassador Kmiec from us earlier than he or we would have liked. Yet, even when a published report from an inspector regrettably created a false impression of the Ambassador's commitments, questioning in particular the usefulness of his faith commitments and inter-faith diplomacy, Ambassador Kmiec remained calm, demonstrating the lack of foundation and prudence for the later-added criticism that had been added out of regular process in Washington.
It was genuine diplomacy, informed by Christian charity that gave Ambassador Kmiec the courage to resign a position for which he was uniquely suited and so obviously enjoyed. When it became a choice between faith and freedom on the one hand or power and position on the other, Ambassador Kmiec did not hesitate to be, like Thomas More, his nation's good servant, but God's first. At the same time, his voice remained filled with love of country and respect for the President who appointed him. When the intensity of praise for the Ambassador led a few to harshly criticize his nation's thinking, the Ambassador had quick corrective response: "America is my home," he said, "and I love her not because she is always right – far from it; but because she is ever hopeful. As Churchill once noted, 'Americans always try to do the right thing after they've tried everything else.'" "In any event," the Ambassador reminded us, "a few people presently misusing authority to stifle the expression of faith does not erase the foundational understanding of America that, as the U.S. Supreme Court once said, 'Americans are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose the existence of a Supreme Being.'"
In diplomatic intelligence, enduring faith, and unbreakable friendship, Malta will long remember Douglas Kmiec, its Ambaxxatur Amerikan.