The President of Malta

Speech by H.E. George Vella, President of Malta, at an event in his honour hosted by the Maltese American Community Club, Friday 19 May 2023

Hon. Minister Byron Camilleri,

Circuit Court Justice Rosemarie Elizabeth Aquilina,

Senator Darrin Camilleri,

Ambassador Xuereb,

Dear friends from Malta and Gozo,

Għeżież ħutna Maltin u Għawdxin,

Ser nibda billi ngħidilkom kelmtejn bil-Malti biex nagħtu unur u ġieħ lill-ilsien uniku u prezzjuż tagħna.

Miriam u jien ninsabu ferm kuntenti li nistgħu niltaqgħu mal-komunità Maltija hawnhekk f’Michigan għall-ewwel darba mindu nħtart bħala President ta’ Malta f’April tal-2019.

Qed nieħdu pjaċir li flimkien qegħdin ingawdu minn din l-atmosfera ta’ ħbiberija u għaqda li żammejtu bejnietkom. Dawn huma marbutin ħafna mal-valuri li intom komplejtu tħaddnu bis-sħiħ, anki jekk tinsabu f’distanzi ’l bogħod ferm minn Malta.

Tul iż-żminijiet, il-bżulija, il-qalb tajba u d-determinazzjoni tagħkom komplew jispikkaw fid-dijaspora Maltija, mhux hawnhekk biss iżda madwar id-dinja kollha.

Aħna nqisukom u ngħożżukom kollha parti mill-familja kbira Maltija u Għawdxija tagħna.

Dear guests,

I am most thankful for the welcome you have given me, my wife Miriam and the rest of my delegation.

This is the first time I am visiting Michigan, and I could not have wished for a warmer start to my engagements in the US.

This visit has been planned for a very long time, but had to be postponed repeatedly because of the COVID pandemic which has set our plans backwards by well over two years.

We come to you with a clear and simple message.

You are part of our extended family and are always in our thoughts and prayers.

You are part of Malta and Gozo.

In the same way I interact with, and listen to, the Maltese public back home, I feel it is part of my mission and duty to establish and nurture contacts with you here in the US, and Michigan in particular.

I have worked with Malta’s community abroad quite extensively as Chairman of the Council for the Maltese Living Abroad during my tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2013-2017, so I am rather familiar with your history, background, challenges and aspirations.

They used to be clearly expressed by your representatives during the regular meetings of this Council.

Since taking Office and over these past four years, I have maintained a very active pattern of communications and meetings with most of our communities and associations abroad.

I therefore know how attached the Maltese communities abroad are to the values inherited from their parents – of loyalty, hard work, solidarity and generosity.

These attributes have traditionally been associated with Malta and its people. 

I know that distance from your motherland has not made you forget these noble characteristics of us Maltese.

The history of the Maltese diaspora in the US is a most interesting one. I am sure it means a lot to you personally, as most of the early migrants must have been your parents or grandparents.

The figures are quite impressive.

Taking the year 1920 as an example, 1,300 Maltese had emigrated to the US during only its first quarter with the figure reaching 4,000 by the end of that same year.

This was right after World War I when poverty and unemployment were the order of the day and prospects for the future were bleak.

Right after World War II, the Government in Malta launched a programme to pay passage costs, and this resulted in a further wave of migration to the US which went on until the late 1970s.

From the statistics I have in hand, it would appear that Michigan holds the record of Maltese living in the US, with a documented figure of over 13,000 individuals.

Being in your company this evening, I take pride in thinking that our small Island State bore so many valid individuals like you – who though you had to make huge sacrifices to ensure a future for yourselves and your children – still continued identifying yourselves as Maltese and Gozitans.

I urge you to keep in mind that you too have a role to play in giving Malta’s name the respect it deserves in your adoptive homelands and with other communities.

Living so far and yet keeping our flag, our culture and traditions alive in your everyday lives is a formidable and moving thing to do.

Back home, we are all proud of you and your achievements.

This applies fully to you, the Maltese community in Michigan.

I do realise that the diaspora today is made up mainly of second, third and possibly fourth generation Maltese, to whom customs and traditions may possibly be losing their meaning and appeal, if they are remembered at all.

It would be a pity to see these customs losing their importance as the years go by.

Traditions are important as they foster unity.

I am sure you will succeed to keep them alive, as while you have found a new way of life and success away from our shores, you have remained Maltese at heart. 

I urge you to remain united.

Keep up your active contacts and reach out to one another as often as possible through your cultural events, religious festivities, language classes, culinary traditions.

In your interactions, I appeal to you to keep the Maltese language alive, particularly with the younger generations. Our language is a unique treasure which we all – you included – need to preserve and nurture.

In this regard, I invite you all to follow the campaign entitled ‘L-ilsien Malti għal-Qalbi’, which I launched a few weeks ago. Your insights and suggestions would certainly enrich the debate in Malta, and I would very much welcome your involvement.

Dear friends,

Allow me now to make one last appeal to you, your families and friends, knowing very well that generosity is one trademark quality that we Maltese are very renowned for.

As you may know through your active contacts with Malta, the Malta Community Chest Fund works tirelessly to help patients who require specialised treatment for serious health conditions, especially cancer patients, as well as other individuals and families who are in a state of vulnerability.

It would give us great satisfaction to have you all joining us in this unique expression of solidarity with Maltese and Gozitans who need our help and thank you in advance for any initiatives you may decide to take in this regard.

I conclude my short address by thanking you all for your presence here today, and for the excellent work that you have continued to deliver along the years, through the Maltese American Community Club.

You are doing Malta a great service by promoting and protecting its traditions and customs, and we are grateful to you all for the perseverance you continue to show, despite the distance and the challenges.

Please keep this up, for your benefit and for the generations to come.

On behalf of the People of Malta and Gozo, I reiterate our sentiments of deep affection and fondness, and I look forward to meeting again in Malta.

Il-Lejla t-Tajba.

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