17:48 Monday 18th November 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[J]EREMY SALLIS: The US Ambassador to the UK Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Matthew Barzun, is in Cambridge today. He’s giving a speech at the Cambridge Union this evening, and has spent the day visiting businesses, Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, and also the American Cemetery at Madingley. And I’m very happy to say he’s taken a little time out of his busy schedule to join me in the studio this afternoon. A very good afternoon to you Matthew. Thank you so much for coming along.
MATTHEW BARZUN: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
JEREMY SALLIS: And have you had a productive day?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Absolutely. Started early and we’re going late.
JEREMY SALLIS: Ok. What have you been doing exactly today?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Well you touched on a few of the highlights. We started the day at the Institute for Manufacturing, and got to see some great cutting edge technology happening, in partnership with some American engineers teaming up with British engineers doing great stuff.
JEREMY SALLIS: And the Hills Road Sixth Form College students, did they test you?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Oh they sure did. I think I got 45 questions on every topic imaginable. We covered it all. We talked about health care. We talked about gun control. We talked about a lot of domestic issues back home. We talked about Syria. We talked about the NSA disclosures that have come out. We covered the full range.
JEREMY SALLIS: Were you surprised by the questions?
MATTHEW BARZUN: I wasn’t surprised. I was impressed.
JEREMY SALLIS: Lord Green the Minister for State, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was on this show not too long ago. He stressed on this programme the importance for Cambridgeshire businesses to tap into the export market. Can we improve links any further than they are at present between our two countries?
MATTHEW BARZUN: I’m sure we can. There’s always room for improvement. And when it comes to trade and investment, well on the investment side the US and the UK are each other’s biggest investors. We have a million Americans waking up every day in America going to work for British companies, a million Brits waking up working for American companies. And that didn’t grow by accident. That grew by entrepreneurs building businesses and having the trust and understanding and respect to build and invest in each other’s countries.
JEREMY SALLIS: You speak as an entrepreneur as well, because your route here, to being Ambassador, I imagine is not the normal one.
MATTHEW BARZUN: I don’t know if it’s normal or not. We have about 25% of the US ambassadors representing us overseas come from outside of the career foreign service. And (some come) from business. I was in the internet business. Some come from academia. And so it’s a nice mix.
JEREMY SALLIS: And yet you seem very young, to the point where I feel a bit embarrassed that you’ve achieved so much at such a young age, and I’m here talking to you.
MATTHEW BARZUN: That is sweet of you to say so.
JEREMY SALLIS: I’m not flirting.
MATTHEW BARZUN: Let me assure you that I felt anything but young as I met with the Sixth Form College folks at Hills Road. They were filled with great ideas, and they’re really the future, which is why I’m up here trying to talk about this special relationship. And making a point to them that this is not some relic. This isn’t a bronze statue somewhere. As important as the past is, and we see lots of it here in Cambridge, the special relationship is alive, and is in their hands.
JEREMY SALLIS: You mention about the special relationship. You’re speaking to a local boy who’s sister married a fighter pilot from USAF Lakenheath.
MATTHEW BARZUN: Well done!
JEREMY SALLIS: (LAUGHS) He is a great guy actually, I have to say. But we have the Mildenhall Lakenheath bases just across our border. We have Alconbury here in Cambridgeshire as well. They play a massive part in the local economy, in the local communities. Can you tell us anything about their future? Can we depend on their future? You are looking at cuts across the board in the States.
MATTHEW BARZUN: Yes. I think it’s important in answering that question to start with the past. To start with reverence for the past. And you mentioned that I visited the American Cemetery. I also got to go to the Eagle pub and look at the ceiling and see the names and the squadrons burnt up there. And it’s just such a powerful reminder of our shared sacrifice and shared service. As we head into the future, look I think the United States, we’re having a debate back home about what the right level of investment is to keep us safe, as we get about the very important work of rebuilding at home. A similar but different debate going on here. And I think what we share in common is the incredibly strong bonds of having fought together for so many decades. And it is just really humbling to come and be here, and see that up on the ceiling, or on the walls, of those who were lost at the Cemetery.
JEREMY SALLIS: I know this isn’t your first visit to Cambridgeshire. The last one was a brief one. But what have you made of this recent trip?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Oh it’s amazing. You know in this I get asked to talk about the special relationship, and often it’s at a level of abstraction which is appropriate. But to come here to Cambridge and see it in the concrete, in the names on the wall in the Cemetery, on the ceiling of the Eagle Pub, on the plaque celebrating Watson and Crick. So it’s not just governments, and it’s not just military, as important as they are. It’s the scientists, and seeing them collaborating at the Institute For Manufacturing right now and today. And then to see it in the group of young faces from the Sixth Form College who are fresh back from a trip to Washington, full of questions, full of ideas, and eager I may add to go visit again and to study again. 100% of the hands went up when I asked who would like to go back.
JEREMY SALLIS: Well you’re being very brave, taking on yet more students this evening at the Cambridge Union. What’s the topic of your discussion tonight?
MATTHEW BARZUN: I hope that will be fun. I hope to get a lot of good questions.
JEREMY SALLIS: I’m not sure other guest speakers have referred to it as fun before.
MATTHEW BARZUN: Well I think this debate and this discussion, I choose to focus more on the discussion than the debate. This isn’t about winners and losers. This is about the dialogue. I’m going to, I hope, provoke some good discussion around, “Can the world count on the United States and the UK, and can we count on each other“. Now I don’t want to be a spoil sport, but I think the answer to both questions is yes.
JEREMY SALLIS: We’ll be marking on this radio station, as all radio stations will I dare say across the country, the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Will the Embassy be marking it? Or will you be marking it this week?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Absolutely. I’ll be heading to Runnymede, and I’ll be there with the Kennedy Memorial Trust. And we will be joined by one of JFK’s grand-daughters. His daughter Caroline Kennedy’s daughter will be joining us for that memorial. And it’s a powerful time obviously for all Americans, but with all of his connections to the UK, when his father served in the role that I now have. And so it will be a sad time and a time to reflect.
JEREMY SALLIS: And bringing us up to modern times, some very sad images coming through, the devastation caused by the tornado. I don’t know where home is for you originally. Has it escaped any of your relatives .. the damage?
MATTHEW BARZUN: Well I’m following it closely and with great care, and just our thoughts and prayers are with all the people suffering there. And certainly back home and also thinking of in the Philippines, where they’ve been through such devastation, and where I think it’s appropriate to us we talk about our two countries, that the US and the UK are the top two providers of support to that critical region. Yet another example of where we’re staying globally engaged and doing it together.
JEREMY SALLIS: Great stuff. It’s been a delight to talk to you.
MATTHEW BARZUN: I really enjoyed it.
JEREMY SALLIS: Thank you. Thank you. Well let’s hope you enjoy your appearance at the Cambridge Union as well tonight.
MATTHEW BARZUN: I hope so.
JEREMY SALLIS: All the best. Matthew Barzun there, US Ambassador to the UK Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who’s been on a visit to Cambridgeshire today.