AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Madame Secretary, thank you for doing this wonderful event to honor one of the bravest and best Foreign Service officers I’ve ever been privileged to work with.
Before I turn it over to the Secretary, I want to remind you all that Secretary Clinton was in Pakistan just a few weeks ago, on a very important trip, and then in Afghanistan just two weeks ago for President Karzai’s inauguration. On those trips, I saw another form of extraordinary leadership in addition to the one we’re going to honor today for Lynne Tracy. I don’t think you’ve ever had a stranger audience. Everyone said they admired you, they loved you, you’re their role model, and then they attacked everything – every part of our policy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m used to that.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: (Laughter.) And the Secretary had an absolutely spectacular trip, showing the results, recommitted us and refocused our efforts on Pakistan in a series of public appearances, all of which were covered live on television. We are in the process of resetting our policy towards Pakistan based on the President’s speech last week, the high importance we attach to Pakistan, and many more developments that are coming up in the near future.
Secretary Clinton, I am so delighted you have done this. The Foreign Service is near and dear to my heart, having entered it 47 years ago, in this very room and next door, when Dean Rusk was one of your distinguished predecessors. And I think the person we’re honoring exemplifies the very best of the Foreign Service. So I can’t tell you how grateful I am for you to do this.
And it’s my honor to present to you all the Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Richard. (Applause.) Well, I am absolutely delighted to have all of you here to join in honoring Lynne Tracy with the Department of State Award for Heroism. This award recognizes acts of courage, sacrifice and exceptional performance at the risk of personal safety.
I’m also happy to welcome Lynne’s family – her mother, Carol; her father, Albert; as well as her two sisters, Anita and Mary Lou; as well as her niece and nephew and others who have supported Lynne throughout her career as a Foreign Service officer.
The men and women serving the Department here and in over 160 countries are the heart and soul of our foreign policy. There are nearly 8,000 Foreign Service officers and Civil Service officers working at posts abroad, and both President Obama and I count on them to carry out our diplomatic efforts.
They negotiate the treaties that promote trade, develop the bilateral and multilateral partnerships that keep us safe, create opportunities for robust diplomacy and development, and do it all while serving in so many different capacities in places that are often very difficult and challenging.
This important work does not come without risk. Unfortunately, it is a reality that our efforts are often needed most where security challenges are the gravest. But even in areas of conflict, crisis, and natural disaster, Foreign Service and Civil Service officers continually rise to the challenge and serve our nation with great distinction even in the face of danger.
Today, I’m pleased to honor one whose courage and performance under fire was nothing short of extraordinary. Since 2006, Principal Officer Lynne Tracy has led our Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan while a growing insurgency in the border regions degraded the country’s security situation. With her knowledge of the politics, personalities, and dynamics of Pakistan’s frontier region, she helped explain the insurgency to policymakers in Washington and helped explain Washington to the people of Pakistan.
And she relied on her experience serving in Astana, Kabul, Bishkek to triple the size of the mission in Peshawar, enabling her to better partner with the Pakistani Government as she worked with local leaders to confront terrorist activity in tribal areas.
On August 26th, 2008, Lynne became the target of violent extremists attempting to undermine progress and sow instability. As Lynne was being driven to work, gunmen launched an attack on her, shooting out her car’s two front tires and leaving the vehicle riddled with bullets. Thanks to her driver and her bodyguard’s quick thinking, Lynne escaped. She returned to post later that day, believing it was important to inform the staff about what had happened, what it meant for the mission, and to think through their next steps as a community.
In the aftermath of the attack, the threat of another attempt on Lynne’s life and on others at post loomed large. As a precaution, some Consulate officials were required to stay home, and others were relocated to Islamabad.
But Lynne did neither. Determined and unflappable, she stayed in Peshawar to look after the remaining Consulate staff. In the following days, she visited the staff, asking how they were faring while being honest about the dangers they faced. She worked tirelessly with senior leadership at Embassy Islamabad to improve security measures for all of the Consulate’s employees. Her decision to stay and lead not only boosted morale, but inspired an even greater focus on strengthening the bonds of collaboration with the people of Pakistan to promote peace, stability, and security throughout the region.
Her leadership was also felt beyond the diplomatic community. For the next year, Lynne continued serving as a public face of our mission in Pakistan, hosting several iftaars for members of the Pakistani community just weeks after the attack, even hosting some of the Consulate’s official visitors in her home when it was too dangerous for them to stay in hotels. By working with the local population – even as the militants’ presence grew stronger and the threats on the Consulate became more frequent – Lynne helped strengthen the Pakistani people’s trust and confidence in the United States and in our efforts to help bring stability to that country.
Lynne, you’ve shown all of us that heroism is more than standing your ground in the face of danger, it’s about moving forward even when fear and uncertainty are prevalent. You are an exemplar of public service, of sacrifice, and dedication. The Secretary’s Award for Heroism signifies our appreciation for all you have done on behalf of our nation and the American people.
The award reads, “In recognition of your brave service as Principal Officer in Peshawar, Pakistan from September 2006 to August 2009. Despite a violent kidnapping attempt and threats against your life, you remained at this critical post to complete your mission with steadfast courage and gallant leadership.”
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I thank you for your commitment, your work, and wish you best in your next assignment as you will become the Deputy Chief of Mission in Ashgabat.
And now, if I may, I’d like to present the award.
Lynne, would you like to say a word? And let me also add – (applause) – Ambassador Holbrooke will be hosting a reception in the Delegates Lounge immediately following the ceremony, and we invite everyone to come to be personally able to give this extraordinary Foreign Service officer your best wishes. And it comes with a medal, too. Now, I think I’ll try to pin this on here. But be careful because I don’t have my reading glasses. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s all yours.
MS. TRACY: Madame Secretary, Ambassador Holbrooke, colleagues, friends, I’m deeply honored to be recognized today by the Secretary for my service in Pakistan. But an award such as this rarely reflects simply one person, and that is certainly so in my case. My parents, sisters, and their families who are with me here today have been a wonderful source of support and strength throughout my Foreign Service career. Three years of a tough assignment in Peshawar simply would not have been possible without them and the encouragement that they have always given me from home.
I want to thank President Obama, the Secretary, and Ambassador Holbrooke for their leadership of our country and at the Department in times such as these, and on what has to be one of the most complex foreign policy and national security challenges that has ever faced our nation. When you’re out in the field in a difficult place such as Pakistan and looking back to Washington, that matters tremendously.
It is also impossible for me to imagine my time in Peshawar without Ambassador Patterson and her leadership of our mission in Pakistan. She is a role model for younger officers and what it means to serve in our most challenging and dangerous posts. I would gladly work with her anywhere, anytime again. We have an incredibly strong and dedicated team, civilian and military, at our Embassy and consulates in Pakistan. The more difficult our circumstances became, particularly over the past year, the more determined our staff became to meet their responsibilities.
That sort of commitment speaks volume about the character and quality of those serving our nation in these far-flung places, and I am proud to have worked alongside with them. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Boswell, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and especially my regional security officer staff for their unstinting support and personnel, training, and resources to strengthen and protect our Consulate in Peshawar as our security situation deteriorated.
When I wrote my report of the attack that took place on August 26th, 2008, my final and perhaps most important comments were on the value of training. I am certain that I survived that day because of the training that Diplomatic Security provides. It’s all about getting off the X and thinking ahead about what you’re going to do in a situation like that.
Finally, and in many respects, most importantly, I want to acknowledge and express my deep appreciation to our Pakistani colleagues, hosts, and friends. My brave Pakistan driver was the real hero of the day of the attack, and every day after that, along with my Pakistani bodyguards who made sure that I was able to continue doing my job, we have an incredibly brave, loyal, and talented local staff at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar.
I want to thank the Government of the Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan’s 11th corps military, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary and the Peshawar police for their assistance, cooperation, and many kindnesses. The challenges before them are serious and far-reaching. For my Pakistani friends who were horrified and worried that the attack on me would alter my view of Pakistan, I am mindful of how many innocent Pakistanis have suffered and are continuing to suffer from violence perpetrated by those who are so bankrupt in their ideology and vision that they are reduced to murdering women and children in markets and worshippers at mosques. This is a common foe and a common cause. I don’t believe in allowing a few bad minutes to define my experience or my view of Pakistan, and I look forward to being able to serve there again. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think for those of you who had the pleasure of knowing Lynne before what she said and how she said it is no surprise, but for those of you who may be meeting her for the first time, I think it speaks volumes about the dedication that she represents not only on her own behalf, but on behalf of all those who serve our country in the State Department, at USAID.
One of the aspects of the challenges that we are facing today is that we have men and women serving in many dangerous places around the world. They do not have the support that the military has to go into places that are conflict zones, but they’re there anyway. And they are just extraordinary in what they do and what they mean.
And so Lynne, congratulations, and on behalf of everyone who serves, thank you for being an example of who we are at the State Department and USAID and what we stand for as civilians who are promoting America’s foreign policy. Thank you. (Applause.)