A 200-year journey as important as the destination

The British are known for wonderful understatement, and after a year as ambassador I’ve developed a better ear for it. As for my fellow Americans and me? Well, as a Brit might say, less so. So I’m okay with boasting a little about the strength of the relationship between our two countries.

We do indeed share the strongest political, cultural and financial alliance on earth. And we like to think that our bond can be an example for other counties.  I talk about these things proudly and often. But while I don’t understate those things — the happy part of our story — I also don’t understate the hard parts.

All too often we skip our backstory, the long journey that got us to this point. But the truth is that a stark accounting of our nations’ early and not-so-special relationship makes what we have today much more compelling and inspiring.

In fact, one of the lowest points happened 200 years ago when British soldiers set fire to the White House (it was called the President’s House back then).  They also torched both houses of Congress and destroyed most other government buildings.  Imagine how Americans felt about that kind of attack on our own soil four decades years after the Declaration of Independence.

But our nations did something that we in the global diplomatic community strive for every day: We healed. We forgave. And we built a new and stronger partnership. Over time we set aside our differences, fused our common bonds and built the greatest alliance the world has ever known.  It’s pretty amazing when you think about it: The only country to have captured and occupied our capital is now our closest ally.

So, when we talk about this Special Relationship, let’s make sure the epic chapter on reconciliation is a prominent part of the story. Let’s celebrate the peace, prosperity and justice that it has brought the world for generations, and will continue to bring for generations to come.