US Ambassador Schapiro ends his term

Incoming president Trump has asked all political appointees to step down on inauguration day

US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Andrew Schapiro has ended his tenure, along with all other political appointees of the Barack Obama administration. Incoming US President Donald Trump asked all the political appointees to step down by the Jan. 20 inauguration. Usually, the incoming president allows ambassadors a grace period so their children can complete the school year, but Trump has broken with tradition. Schapiro was appointed September 2014.

Schapiro, who is a lawyer and not a career diplomat, will be staying on in Prague as a private citizen for the rest of the school semester so his children can complete their studies. He is expected to return to legal practice and to commute between the US and the Czech Republic.

His replacement has not yet been named, although Trump's first wife, Czech-born Ivana Trump, has expressed interest in the position. Until a new ambassador is appointed, career diplomat Deputy Chief of Mission Kelly Adams-Smith will head up the embassy in Prague.

Schapiro was a very popular figure in Prague, making use of social media to reach out to people and share his travels across the country. He was an ardent supporter of education and human rights, and an enthusiastic participant in the annual Prague Pride march, where the embassy had a truck distributing buttons and other trinkets. He also attended celebrations of D-Day in Plzeň, the largest city that was liberated by American forces in World War II, and many cultural and charitable events that the embassy was active in sponsoring.

His stay was not without controversy. He fell out with Czech President Miloš Zeman in April 2015 when the ambassador made a critical remark about the president's trip to Moscow for a World War II memorial parade that most western leaders were avoiding because of the conflict in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Zeman said the doors of the Castle were closed to the ambassador after that.

Ambassador Schapiro was also involved in the fight against corruption, along with a group of other diplomats. Zeman was critical of foreign governments trying to interfere in Czech affairs, especially when some of the countries involved had their own corruption issues.

For his part, Schapiro defended his efforts, and has said that it is important for US representatives to not be silent and to stand up for people's rights and the rule of law.

In a farewell video the ambassador released on Youtube (see below), Schapiro said he wanted to thank everyone who sent positive comments in the form of letters, photographs and songs. “We will always remember and treasure the time we have spent in this wonderful country, the terrific people we have met and all of the experiences that we have had while we are here. So I just wanted to say, 'Diky moc všem!'” he said in the video. The Czech phrase means, “Thanks a lot, everyone.”

The four-minute video includes photographs of the highlights of his tenure set to music, and a short video clip of his excellency sky diving.

At a public discussion before the US presidential election, Schapiro declined to criticize then-candidate Donald Trump, saying that the ambassador represented all of the American people and not just one political party. He said the US is a democracy and would follow the will of the people, as it had in the past.

Schapiro wanted to be posted to the Czech Republic because he has Czech roots. His mother Raya Czerner Schapiro was born in Prague but left in 1939 due to the Holocaust. She became a psychiatrist, and his father Joseph Schapiro was a pediatrician. The ambassador often pointed out a US embassy stamp on a travel document that allowed his mother to emigrate to the United States.

Video on YouTube

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