Departing AIT director shares love for Taiwan in farewell letter

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute of Taiwan, on Friday (July 9) presented a farewell letter as his three-year tenure comes to an end.

Christensen said that serving in Taiwan has been an honor and one of his career goals. He added there are three main reasons he loves the East Asian country.

First is the nation’s ability to simultaneously spearhead innovation and carefully preserve tradition. “Taiwan’s industry continues to set the benchmark for global innovation in some of the most sophisticated technologies, but at the same time, Taiwan society is remarkable for its stability and cultural continuity,” he said.

Christensen also praised Taiwan for its blossoming democracy, booming economy, well-protected environment, and lively arts and culture. He also expressed admiration for the country’s cultural and historic sites being so well-preserved.

The director said that Taiwan “exemplifies the intersection of shared interests and shared values.” The Taiwan-U.S. partnership, he added, aims to ensure that the economies of both countries benefit from technological advancements and promote the shared values of freedom, diversity, equality, and transparency. He added that Taipei and Washington will continue to address global issues.

Christensen stated that “hope, promise, and growth” come to mind when he thinks about Taiwan and bilateral ties. He noted that Taiwan-U.S. relations have made much progress in the past 40 years, adding that he believes each diplomat who has served as AIT director has “left this partnership better than they found it.”

The director said that he will never forget the kindness of Taiwanese and that he will always remember how Taiwan touched his life and the lives of his family members.

Sandra Oudkirk, who currently serves as the senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, is set to replace Christensen as the new AIT director.

Newly vaccinated in U.S., Taiwanese woman gets COVID-19

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AIT Director Oudkirk takes office

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AIT Director Oudkirk takes office

‘HELLO TAIWAN’: The incoming director is to start after completing 14 days of quarantine, while former director Christensen was sent off by officials yesterday

By Lu Yi-hsuan and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporter, staff writer, with CNA

Sandra Oudkirk yesterday took over as director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) as the country bid farewell to her predecessor, Brent Christensen, who departed for the US.

Oudkirk was seen arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Monday with a mask bearing the greeting, “Hello Taiwan.”

The AIT in a statement yesterday described Oudkirk as a 30-year veteran of the US Foreign Service with a deep understanding of East Asia and Pacific affairs.

American Institute in Taiwan Director Sandra Oudkirk arrives in Taiwan on Monday. Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times

She is expected to start in her new role after completing 14 days of quarantine and seven days of self-health management in accordance with Taiwan’s COVID-19 protocols, the AIT said.

Oudkirk “looks forward to building on the successes of her predecessors and to further advancing the US-Taiwan relationship,” it said.

Christensen, who had been the de facto US representative in Taiwan since 2018, arrived at the airport with Taiwanese officials at about 8:30am.

Former American Institute in Taiwan director Brent Christensen waves goodbye as he leaves Taiwan yesterday. Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times

Christensen told reporters that he would “absolutely” return to visit Taiwan.

He was seen waving to reporters as he entered customs to board a US-bound United Airlines flight.

“The first time I left my hometown at age 19, it was to come to Taiwan,” Christensen wrote in a farewell letter released by the AIT on Friday last week.

“From that early age, Taiwan became synonymous for me with the ideas of exchange and understanding, exploration and adventure,” he wrote.

“I may be leaving Taiwan, but Taiwan will never leave me,” he added.

Christensen received a warm send-off from Democratic Progressive Party politicians, who hailed his tenure as a period of significant breakthroughs in Taiwan-US relations.

On June 25, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) awarded Christensen the Order of the Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon in commendation of his efforts in advancing bilateral relations, including facilitating the delivery of 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the US.

Vice President William Lai (賴清德), Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) also thanked Christensen for his contributions to Taiwan.

When asked about his gift of Aiwen mangoes to Christensen, Huang said the fruit was originally imported from Florida and to him it symbolized the friendship between the two countries.

“I hope Christensen was able to enjoy the sweetness of this famous Tainan produce, to show my thanks for the fruitfulness of the bilateral relationship that has prospered under his watch over the past years,” Huang said.