Thank you, Cambodia, for remaining interested in my “Ask the Ambassador” column. Your comments and questions are quite interesting. Let’s keep the dialogue going by e-mail at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov. I received quite a diversity of questions from readers this past week, so I’ll try to answer a variety to give you an idea of what’s on people’s minds.
First, here’s a question I have received several times about the United States: “Why are there fifty stars on the American flag when there are 52 states?” Many people think that Hawaii and Alaska are two additional states to the 50 within the continental U.S. However, there are actually only 48 states in the continental U.S., and when you add Alaska and Hawaii, that gives us 50 states represented by the 50 stars on the American flag. There are also some U.S. territories, like Guam and Puerto Rico, that aren’t represented by stars on the flag since they are not states, even though the residents of these territories enjoy U.S. citizenship.
Many of you have also asked what I think about the Olympic Games in London. To be concise, I’m thrilled! Since I was a boy, I’ve loved the Games and their inspiring stories show how perseverance and hard work are so important for achieving greatness.
The Olympics are always an exciting time because they bring out the best in people and inspire a spirit of togetherness. While the Olympic Games promote a sense of strong national identity, they also foster international awareness and cross-cultural friendships, things that I hope to accomplish as an Ambassador. I am truly excited to cheer on the American athletes as well as those competing for Cambodia: Mr. Khom Ratanakmony (judo), Ms. Sorn Darvin (taekwondo), Mr. Kieng Samorn (running), Ms. Chan Seyha (running), Ms. Hem Thonvitiny (swimming), and Mr. Hem thonponloeu (swimming). Their hard work and determination are impressive, and I wish them all the best of luck this year.
Lastly, I’d like to address another popular question, “What is coming up on the embassy’s calendar?” Today marks the start of Pacific Partnership 2012 in Cambodia. Pacific Partnership is a significant humanitarian mission providing medical services to people across the Asia-Pacific region. This year’s Pacific Partnership involves over 1,200 military members and civilians from multiple countries and NGOs.
In Cambodia, Pacific Partnership will run for two weeks and began with yesterday’s arrival of the medical ship USNS Mercy, which is providing free healthcare to thousands of Cambodians – everything from basic medicine, vitamins, and advice to surgeries on board the ship. Additionally, U.S. sailors are participating in community events like sharing recipes and sanitation tips through “cooking exchanges,” donating school supplies to kids, and conducting band workshops. In fact, the Pacific Fleet Band gave a free concert yesterday in Sihanoukville and will come to Phnom Penh to play on Sunday, August 5. Also, this year, Pacific Partnership is doing something it has never done before: USNS Mercy doctors and Cambodian doctors will perform surgeries together in a Phnom Penh hospital, epitomizing the cultural exchange and humanitarian ideals that Pacific Partnership promotes.
William E. Todd is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia