Ambassador John Berry checks in Down Under

John Berry, the former director of the Office of Personnel Management, recently started his new job as U.S. Ambassador to Australia.

He and his husband, Curtis Yee, did what any couple does when they move into a new neighborhood — they introduce themselves and get to know their neighbors.

But, this is the Digital Age and Berry is America’s top diplomatic to the Land Down Under. Rather than knock on neighbors’ doors, he posted a video on YouTube to share a little bit about who he is and what he hopes to accomplish while in Oz. The video was produced by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs.

Story continues after video

The U.S. Embassy Canberra also asked people to post comments about the video on the embassy Facebook page and share their suggestions about where the new ambassador and his spouse should visit.

What we learned about John Berry from the video:

  • Native of Washington, D.C.
  • Loves the outdoors
  • Swam at the North Pole
  • Stood at the South Pole
  • Married to Curtis Yee, a triathlete from Hawaii
  • Father fought in 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal in World War II
  • Named after uncle, who was a Marine fighter pilot killed in action in World War II
  • A lion was named for him at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington
  • Former National Zoo director

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 200 people had posted responses, most of which were warm and cordial.

“Welcome to Australia Mr. Berry, to both you and Curtis, I enjoyed your welcome video, you seem like a nice, genuinely engaging person,” wrote Matt Miller of Balmain, New South Wales. “I’m heartened that an openly gay couple occupy such a prominent and important position. I hope you guys will enjoy your stay here with us, welcome aboard, take care and soak up all the great things Australia and Australians have to offer.”

“Welcome to Australia, you seem like a very affable bloke,” wrote Sax Cucvara of Sydney. “Let us know if you’re hanging around Newtown, we can go for a schnitzel.”

Ross Warmington recommended if Berry and Yee liked cheese and wine, they should check out Margaret River near his home in Perth, Western Australia.

Tom Write-One of Melbourne, Victoria, suggested the couple snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, especially since Yee is a triathlete.

The Parkes Shire Tourism page invited the couple to visit Parkes, New South Wales — the “Elvis Capital of Australia.”

“Come to the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter to see the best Australian and international folk and roots music, dance and performance,” wrote Zena Armstrong. “We have had some fabulous U.S. artists and tutors at this fest with the support of the Embassy!”

Berry announced he was going to step down from his previous job as OPM director when his term ended on April 13. He had held that post since April 9, 2009.

During his tenure, he led OPM efforts to address some of the most challenging aspects of federal human resources management, including reducing hiring times for new employees, cutting the retirement claims backlog and improving the Senior Executive Service.

Elaine Kaplan succeeded Berry as OPM’s acting director. President Barack Obama nominated Katherine Archuleta as the new director. She is waiting for a vote by the full Senate for her confirmation.


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