Yet when Adams arrived in London just after the War of Independence, the British gave him a frosty reception.

He was the first ambassador to stand before king George III as a representative of our new nation, and British thought little of his talents. One of them wrote this about ambassador Adams: "He cannot dance, drink, flatter, promise, dress, or swear with the gentlemen, and he can't small talk and flirt with the ladies; in short, he has none of the essential art or ornament which constitute an ambassador."

Well, I hope I won't have to do those things to qualify as ambassador in Italy; otherwise, I might still be in Florida. That's a pretty intimidating job description.

Because this is my first formal speech in Italy, I'd like to give you a little bit of my personal history. I am, first and always, a family man -- a husband to Betty, a father to three sons, and a grandfather to eleven. But I am also, and have been for forty years, a businessman.

I build, own, and operate shopping centers, mostly in the American Southeast, and have had a hand in developing over two hundred of them. That's how I have supported my family and paid the bills. But I have had many other interests. In fact, I am what you might call… an activist.

Betty and I founded and directed for many years a program that rehabilitated over 12,000 young drug abusers.

We have traveled widely, many times to this lovely country. I have been a diplomat – the ambassador to Australia from 1989–93. And I have been active in politics, mostly in fund raising for the Republican Party and its candidates both in Florida and nationally. Through these activities Betty and I have become friends of the Bush family, going back to 1979 and `80, when Bush senior first ran for president.

It should come as no surprise to you that, because of our political activism and friendship with the Bush family, we are here tonight.

When President Bush (the current one) called and asked me to serve in Rome, he said, "Mel, I want to send a friend to a Country that is a close friend of the United States. I want you to go to Italy." I accepted quickly and eagerly.

Later, when he returned from his trip to Italy in July, we talked again. He told me about his discussions with Prime Minister Berlusconi, about their warm personal relationship, and about the coincidence of their views on economic and defense matters.

He related how he had come to Rome and met with president Ciampi and the Pope and the conversations he had with those two wise and good men.

Mercy, I thought, if that's how the president feels about Italy, then I'm going to the right place.