U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Visits Havana

U.S.-Cuba relations
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Havana, Cuba

The U.S. Secretary of State presided at an official flag-raising ceremony today outside the six-story modernist steel and glass U.S. Embassy building on the Bay of Havana. Attendees included Cuban government officials, members of the Cuban-American community, U.S. political leaders, and the diplomatic corps.

But, John Kerry’s trip to Havana is about a lot more than ceremony. The first trip of an American Secretary of State to Havana in 70 years helps mark the start of an entire new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. The rest of the chapter hasn’t been written, but the first lines are hopeful.

You can watch Kerry’s full speech in Havana below.

It’s amazing how many messages can be reinforced through the human contact that even a short visit like this entails.

To Cuba’s leaders and government, the visit highlights U.S. recognition, an unmistakable strategic shift after a half-century of rupture—and the strong desire to work together, government-to-government, to build trust that can lead to new cooperation.

To Cuba’s people, including those Kerry will meet over the course of the day, the visit signals the respect and friendship Americans feel for their neighbors across the Florida Straits.

Importantly, to Americans, the visit, with its strong and emotional visuals, underscores the reality that a better relationship with this close neighbor will be built through human contact.

None of this obviates the differences between the U.S. and Cuba. Those are big, and deeply felt by many—and will take a long time to address. But the restoration of full diplomatic relations helps set the stage for doing so, respectfully and fairly.

Human contact is deepening, as record numbers of people travel between Cuba and the U.S. The number of people going from the U.S. to Cuba is up 35 percent since January, according to Kerry. This engagement, supported and encouraged by policies of both governments, helps point the way forward toward the sort of ties that should exist between people who are so close geographically and who share so many interests and values.

Our ultimate goal at is to enhance contact between Americans and Cubans. Get to know Havana and its people.

You can also watch the flag raising ceremony at U.S. Embassy in Havana below.

U.S.-based William McIlhenny is Associate Publisher of, and Co-Publisher of