By Naseer Ahmad
Portugal has enjoyed friendly relations, which has stood the test of times, with United States. So, it is natural for Portugal to send the country’s best diplomats to Washington DC.
H.E. Ambassador Francisco Duarte Lopes is one of the ablest diplomats to represent Portugal at a critical time in history. In accepting the Letter of Credence for Ambassador Duarte Lopes, President Joseph R. Biden wrote “You are arriving in Washington at a critical moment in our shared history. For nearly 250 years, the friendship between our nations has been supported by our enduring commitment to trade, investment, security, and cultural exchange.” President Biden received Ambassador Duarte Lopes on June 13, 2022, at the White House. “They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their strong and longstanding bilateral ties and the transatlantic relationship that brings the countries even closer together,” according to the Embassy of Portugal in Washington D.C.
Ambassador Duarte Lopes is the right man to represent his country because he brings a wealth of experience and a friendly demeanor with a warm smile that helps build bridges.
Before coming to Washington, Ambassador Duarte Lopes served as Portugal’s Permanent Representative in the United Nations (UN), a key post for diplomats around the world. In this position he became the Goodwill Ambassador for the UN and One Ocean Expedition and has been a strong advocate for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) with the approach that conservation and sustainable use of the Ocean go hand in hand. Ambassador Duarte Lopes has held senior positions in Portugal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as the diplomatic adviser to the Prime Minister.
During his travels around the country, Ambassador Duarte Lopes has been a very effective communicator for his country’s interests. For example, he was quoted in the Herald News: “Engineers in Portugal are very good and labor, if we compare it with the United States, is still relatively inexpensive,” he said. “So, it is a very good investment opportunity for American companies.”
For diplomats, empathy is important for community outreach. Ambassador Duarte Lopes has made a sincere effort in a forthright manner to understand and recognize the needs and concerns of the Portuguese American community, as reported by the Herald News.
Ongoing cultural exchange by embassies around the world helps promote interests of countries. The outreach effort by the Embassy of Portugal in Washington is both amazing and effective.
Washington can appear to be an inhospitable and a dysfunctional place, especially by the vitriol spewed by extremes on many sides. But it is actually a lovely place to work, live and enjoy life.
There is a hunger to know about the culture and music of other countries. Many people, after a very busy day people want to quench their thirst for experience the rich cultural experience – for example an exquisite concert at the residence of the Portuguese Ambassador. Take for example Professor George Philips – Vice-Chair (Department of Medicine), Attending Physician in Genitourinary Oncology (Georgetown University Hospital, Washington Cancer Institute and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center) – who was a guest of Ms. Marina Gelles for the concerted organized by Things To Do DC on March 9, 2023 and hosted by Ambassador Duarte Lopes and his wife Mrs. Paula Duarte Lope. There are many other organizations such as the Embassy Series and International Club of DC which organize cultural events at embassies around town.
The event was a classical music program in this historic Kalorama neighborhood residence, which is close to where former President Barack and his wife Michele Obama live, with acclaimed artists Catarina Ferreira (cello) and Ines Andrade (piano). The ambiance was enchanting, and the music represented the vibrant and rich Portuguese culture. Ambassador Duarte Lopes gave a personal touch by sharing that some of the tunes played were his parents’ favorite ones.
There is a strong connection between food, culture, and society. Culture can impact cuisine and vice-versa. The buffet dinner at the charming evening, attended by a sophisticated and engaged part of Washington metropolitan area, reminded many of their travels to Portugal and for a number of attendees a strong desire to visit the beautiful country again and again.
One of the notable things about the evening was not only the warm welcome extended by Ambassador Duarte Lopes and his wife Paula not to mention Cultural and Press Attaché Sandra Mendonça Pires, to the guests as they arrived but also the care throughout the evening.
Earlier in his career, Ambassador Duarte Lopes served in Pakistan from 1993 to 1995. It is an experience Ambassador Duarte Lopes and his wife Paula remember fondly and are please to tell their friends about.
C. Naseer Ahmad is a Washington based writer. His articles have been published in the Washington Post, the Washington Star, the Orlando Sentinel, the Diplomatic Courier, the Washington Diplomat, the Washington Jewish Weekly, the Eastern Times and the Astana Times. Ahmad has also worked to protect the human rights of religious minorities of different faiths across the world. He has worked for the World Bank in Africa, in Egypt for US Agency for International Development and with NASA on the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs as a consultant. In addition he has worked on a variety of projects for other governmental entities and the private sector. He has also served as adjunct faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. Ahmad currently works as a consultant in Washington, D.C.