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For me, the transatlantic relationship is personal. 16 years ago on Sunday, my family and I (and our dog Matty) emigrated from Huntingdon, near Cambridge, to Chico, California. Of course, there are more extreme contrasts than the UK and California, but as a twelve year-old, everything was so different. When we moved in November 1997, a number of things took a while to adjust to. First, my new friends were unexposed to the Spice Girls. Needless to say, I proudly educated them. I also spoke differently. The words I used were slightly different. My English teacher beat the U’s out of my spelling of words like flavo(u)r and colo(u)r, and forbade me from using “whilst”. On the plus side, I was met by applause when I read aloud in Mr. Battaglia’s history class.

My sister and I on the eve of our one way ticket to California

My sister and I on the eve of our one way ticket to California

Over time, I assimilated into American life. My family adjusted to a new way of living. However, as I graduated from Pleasant Valley High School (cue the American cliché) and entered university, I began to question what I was -  American? Or English? I sounded English, and while ‘English’ wasn’t my middle name, it was my last name. I understood British humour and personalities more, but identified more with American history and its identity. When I returned to the United Kingdom for my postgraduate degree, I tried to nail down where I belonged. Yet I returned to the United States more confused than before! I was fluent in British culture, yet comfortable with American institutions.

It wasn’t until I began working at the British Embassy that slowly, it started to come together. The Embassy workforce is made up of a mixture of UK-based and locally-hired staff who work on varying levels to uphold arguably the most important relationship in the world. As I was exposed to new departments, I slowly recognized that this relationship is strong because it is made up of numerous strands of engagement that few countries can replicate. On a cultural level, we exchange music and television, often adopting ideas from each other (Modern Family, the Office, House of Cards, to name a few). On security, our defence partnership is composed of exchanges, engagement abroad (such as through NATO) and collaborating to address a multitude of common threats and concerns. On a political level, the friendships between Reagan and Thatcher, FDR and Churchill, and Obama and Cameron are unlike many others. These connections bind us in unique and enduring way.

So I am truly a citizen of both countries, not just on my passports, but on a very personal level. There are differences between the place I was born and the country I have lived in for the past 16 years, but in the grand scheme of things they are insignificant.

This was made quite clear to me a couple of months ago on Capitol Hill—where I spend a lot of my time—I was asked why I care so much about the UK-US relationship. Interestingly, this was during the unveiling of the Churchill Bust at US Capitol, where Secretary Kerry and  a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders highlighted the numerous ways that Churchill had impacted their own lives, notwithstanding the bilateral relationship.

Like myself, Churchill also had a unique tie to the United States; his mother was an American, and he was one of very few people to receive an honorary passport to the United States. Although he was a British citizen, his loyalty and commitment to the bilateral relationship was unwavering and deeply personal. He realized that we are better together. His parting words from 10 Downing Street were: “Never be separated from the Americans.”

And so, almost 50 years after his passing, many people remain allegiant to the UK-US relationship and committed to efforts – small and large – to maintain its strength. Although I’m unsure whether Mr. Churchill would have endorsed my efforts of promoting the musical genius of the Spice Girls, he was certainly someone who understood that the links which bonded our two nations are vast and varied. But most importantly, they require work. It’s not effortless, but my commitment to this relationship is built around a strong belief that the bilateral relationship benefits our nations and the world when we are united. In Churchill’s words, “There is nothing we could not do if we were together.”

3 Responses

  1. Tom S. says:

    As a former classmate from Mr. Battaglia’s History class: It’s nice to see that you’ve come from being that new girl, to have achieved so much. Doing work that you enjoy is rarely easy to find in life. You’ve managed to strive bringing out the best of both our countries.

    I am glad that you have found a home in both nations.

    • Amy English says:

      Tom! So lovely to hear from you, and thanks for the comment. It’s hard to believe that I moved 16 years ago, and so much has changed! But the memories from my first day at Bidwell will never escape my memory – especially Mr. B’s history class and his love for The Princess Bride!

      Best,

      Amy

  2. Denise Walker says:

    I’m very pleased to read this and happy to know someone from the UK feels this way. I’m an American, born and raised in the state of Georgia, where I still live. I’ve never been to the UK but have always wanted to visit. I don’t know why but I’ve always felt a strong, emotional connection to the UK. For me it’s also very personal and not just about music or common language. It runs deeper than that for me and I can’t explain why, since I’ve never been there and don’t have family there. Maybe it’s because I know that my ancestors came from there. I feel like we are family. I’ve always admired Churchill and wish I could hug the man. I’m so happy we have the bust of him at Capitol Hill. My love for the UK has prompted me to form online friendships with some Brits, one of them I had the pleasure of meeting in person when he came to Georgia. We’ve been corresponding for 8 years now. I hope our two nations remain very close.

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