US Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun officially opened the newly refurbished Mayflower Museum on Plymouth’s Barbican during his two day visit to the city.
The Ambassador and Council Leader Tudor Evans unveiled a plaque in the waterfront museum, which is immediately opposite the Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrims set off 395 years ago.
The Ambassador was in Plymouth to meet the leadership group responsible for planning the Mayflower 400 events, for which Plymouth is the lead city in the UK.
During his visit he met with students, young people and business representatives and visited sites connected to the historic voyage to the United States.
He also paid his respects at a memorial to US servicemen in Saltash Passage, where V and V11 Corps of the United States Army set off for the beaches of Normandy in June 1944.
The Ambassador’s visit to Plymouth is a high point to date in the Mayflower 400 campaign, which ultimately seeks to invite all US presidents past and present to stand on the Mayflower steps in 2020.
It also coincided with the launch of the Mayflower 400 website and a national Mayflower education pack which is being distributed to schools in all 11 English towns and cities that make up the Mayflower 400 Compact.
Adrian Vinken OBE, chair of the Mayflower 400 Leadership Group, said: “We were honoured to welcome Ambassador Barzun to Plymouth and delighted to learn that he shares our passion for the whole international Mayflower 400 project.
“It demonstrates that the ‘special relationship’ we share with the United States, which owes its origins to the Mayflower and the values of individual freedom and self-government which it embodied, is as relevant and strong as ever.”
“Ambassador Barzun was very enthusiastic to learn about our plans and is keen to ‘spread the word’ about the importance of the anniversary and the opportunities in provides on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Council Leader Tudor Evans wrote to the Ambassador last year inviting him to the city and a delegation from Plymouth to the USA in March visited the State Department to discuss Mayflower 400 and the international opportunity that the commemoration represents.
Councillor Evans said: “We’re delighted that Ambassador Barzun came to Plymouth almost exactly five years before this hugely important anniversary. The sailing of the Mayflower is arguably one the most influential single voyages in the history of the world and the spirit of that voyage and the beliefs that motivated it led to the creation of the most powerful nation on earth.
“We were able to discuss our plans with the Ambassador and he shared our excitement about the lasting potential for this anniversary on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It was also great to be able to share some of the many connections between Plymouth and the United States both past and present and show him the city where it all started.”
Ambassador Barzun said: “I love that the groups on both sides of the Atlantic are not just working behind the scenes for one big event on 16 September 2020, which will be a special day, but are spending time between now and then to give the project more momentum that can continue well beyond 2020.”
The Ambassador, who walked the Mayflower Trail in the Barbican and visited the Royal Navy base, said he would be recommending Plymouth to others.
“It’s worth coming here for the history and it’s worth coming for the vibrant things that are happening now,” he said. “You can see there’s an energy here, which is contagious.”