For 12-year-old Matthew Hill, 2022 has been a year of many firsts. His first passport, first travel outside of the United States and first time speaking these words: “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. President.”
In June, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune welcomed Matthew to his residence in Oran. Matthew spoke to the president in his newly learned Arabic, and after their meeting, Tebboune called Matthew a “friend and lover of Algeria” who is “passionate about the Arabic language.”
الرئيس الجزائري #عبد_المجيد_تبون يستقبل بمقر إقامته بـ #وهران، الطفل الأمريكي، ماثيو هيل، صديق #الجزائر ومُحبَها، وحلُم دوما بزيارتها..هو شديد التعلق بالعربية، ويتمنى أن يكون يوما، سفيرا لبلاده، في الجزائر. pic.twitter.com/xTVstzCjiQ
— AL24news – قناة الجزائر الدولية (@AL24newschannel) June 26, 2022
The presidential reception was the highlight of Matthew’s incredible journey, which began with his curiosity about the world and love of different cultures. His mother, Stephanie Hill, said that even before Matthew could talk, “he was drawn to flags, and would endlessly read this book of countries’ flags.”
Matthew’s adventure began in August 2021, when he emailed U.S. embassies around the world, sharing his dream of one day serving as a U.S. diplomat.
“A lot of embassies wrote me back, like the U.S. ambassadors in Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Singapore,” he said.
Then in September, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra saw a video Matthew had sent to the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, showcasing his knowledge of Algerian history and geography and stating his ambition to one day serve as U.S. ambassador to Algeria. Matthew also shared that he has autism, a neurodevelopmental condition.
Lamamra tweeted an encouraging reply, beginning Matthew’s relationship with the Algerian government, which eventually led to an invitation to visit the country.
First, in December, Matthew visited the Algerian Embassy in Washington and met Algerian Ambassador Ahmed Boutache. During a visit to the U.S. Department of State, Matthew impressed Joey Hood, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, with his knowledge of Algeria and of Foreign Minister Lamamra’s professional experience.
Matthew also began studying Arabic, taking lessons six days a week by videoconference with an Algerian tutor in Constantine. By the time Matthew arrived at Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers on June 25, he was able to speak Arabic to the Algerians who greeted him and on a video that captured the hearts of Algerians, receiving 2 million views on the U.S. Embassy’s social media sites.
During his two-week visit to Algeria, Matthew attended the Mediterranean Games and met with Algerian officials, who encouraged him to continue pursuing his dream of becoming a U.S. diplomat and working to achieve a safer, better world.
Lamamra posted a tweet telling Matthew, “Glad that your dream of visiting Algeria has come true. Keep it high dear Matthew to achieve your ambition of becoming U.S Ambassador to Algeria.”
“I’m honored to be here in Algeria,” Matthew said in his arrival video. “This is the best experience ever.”
— Ambassador Aubin (@USAmbtoAlgeria) June 25, 2022