AMBASSADOR MARSHALL: Well, good morning. Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Capricia Penavic Marshall, the Chief of Protocol, and it is my pleasure to welcome you today to the Benjamin Franklin Room for the swearing in of Michael Hammer to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. (Applause and cheering.)
We are very privileged today to have the Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, officiating our ceremony this morning. We are also very pleased to welcome Mr. Hammer’s family: his wife Margret, his daughters Monika, Brynja, and their son Mike Thor, and his mother Magdalena. Please join me in welcoming them as well. (Applause.)
We’ll begin our ceremony with remarks by the Secretary of State. That will be followed by the administration of the oath of office and the signing of the appointment papers, followed with remarks by our new Assistant Secretary. It’s now my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of State. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Well, I have been waiting for this day – (laughter) – a long time because we are here finally, officially to swear in our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Mike Hammer. Now we’re also here to celebrate the color purple. (Laughter.) And, Mike, I was in a real dilemma. I have pantsuits in nearly every color – (laughter) – except purple. (Laughter.) And so I’ve got to get appropriately attired. As you can see, the entire family is appropriately attired. And thanks to the good work of the PA staff – (laughter and applause) – and then of course the piece de resistance – (laughter and applause) – okay.
So let me formally welcome – (laughter) – Mike’s family – (laughter) – the people in purple – (laughter) – of course his wonderful mother, who has come all the way from Madrid, his wonderful wife Margret and children, Monika, Mike Thor, and Brynja and the rest of the extended Hammer family.
And of course, it is appropriate that we’re swearing Mike in during what he will surely tell you is one of soccer’s biggest months. Now, you may have wondered why we rescheduled this event. It has nothing to do with my trip to Rio. Mike was worried about missing this afternoon’s Euro Cup quarterfinal matches. (Laughter.) Now here at the State Department – (laughter) – when I wanted to put together my own power team, I couldn’t find a better all-star than Mike. We enticed him away from the White House – after they had taken him from us, so it was only fair – and this time we’re not letting him go.
He brings deep experience to the role of Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. He understands the imperative to engage in a global dialogue 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all corners of the earth, in all languages. And what he doesn’t quite understand is he doesn’t have to actually be awake 24 hours a day – (laughter) – seven days a week, emailing with everybody around the world.
Now, there’s a debate, but he may have one of the messiest offices in Public Affairs, but he has an unprecedented attention to detail, follow-through, and execution. The minute after I host an event – probably this one included – he will engage with social media, and his team will be hard at work measuring results and effectiveness. We’ve come up with a lot of new ideas that, thanks to Mike and his team, have been implemented. He understands the importance of what we’re trying to do, not just government-to-government diplomacy, but people to people.
He’s hosted the State Department’s first-ever briefings in Spanish, traveled with Under Secretary Wendy Sherman for our P-5+1 discussions on Iran, accompanied Deputy Secretary Nides to Mexico to strengthen our relations, and he’s been all over our country talking about what the State Department does, from North Dakota to Miami, engaging with local and regional press, which I think is so important.
And with information rocketing around the globe faster and in more varied ways, we have to be exercising smart power in how we communicate. And that’s why Mike has led Public Affairs to become a collaborative, comprehensive, one-stop shop for all State Department bureaus.
And I thank you, Mike. I thank you for your creativity, your collaboration. I can’t think of anyone better suited to lead our efforts at this time. You have served our country with honor and distinction over so many years, and your warmth, your humor, your energy, and your friendship are added bonuses to your professionalism.
So, if we’re finally ready, I will once again put on these glasses. (Laughter.) Okay. (Laughter.) So repeat after me – (laughter) – I, state your name.
(The oath was administered.)
Congratulations. (Laughter and applause.) So now we’re going to go down and sign –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Now that is one tough act to follow. (Laughter.) Can I borrow the glasses?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You got ’em, babe.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: Absolutely. (Laughter.) You guys are so cool. Madam Secretary, I am deeply grateful for the confidence, although you may wonder now – (laughter) – that you and President Obama have shown in me with giving me this position.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. You can take them off now. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: I think so. There are cameras rolling. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is going to be so hard to explain. (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HAMMER: It has been just an incredible experience to work these past three years for a man and a woman who are the force at the White House and at the State Department. And of course, I mean Denis McDonough and Cheryl Mills. (Laughter.) I must admit it was really hard to meet their expectations. I still really quite haven’t mastered the art of no sleep. (Laughter.) But seriously, they’re wonderful people – passionate, sharp, and always looking to see how we can advance the interests of our country. And I thank them both for the great opportunities they’ve given me.
A special thanks goes to Dave Adams and his leg team for the remarkable job they did finally getting me confirmed. Also to Wendy Sherman; boy, is she one tough negotiator. We were in Moscow, as you know, and even if the Iranians offered us the best deal ending all their nuclear program, no – she said, “No, we’re not staying here any longer. We got to get you back. You’ve got to get sworn in.” (Laughter.) So thank you very much, Wendy. You rock. (Laughter.)
I’ve had a great career – opportunities, fantastic mentors. Glyn Davies, who I see there, Marc Grossman, they’re just class acts who have given me opportunities. There are several others who I so much look up to: Bill Burns, Pat Kennedy, Anne Patterson, I see Bob Blake there, a former boss. There are a lot of former bosses, but really, you guys set such an incredible standard, such professional integrity, intellectual rigor, and courage, and I just hope to try to meet those standards as I try to carry on my day job, sometimes at night. (Laughter.)
Madam Secretary, you inspire, you motivate, you empower us. In PA, our job is to promote U.S. foreign policy, to communicate accurately, effectively, and quickly to the American people and the world. We watch how you do it. We are in awe. You do it every day, you do it powerfully, and tirelessly. As you have laid out, Public Affairs is busy advancing a robust agenda using, as you say, smart power, 21st century statecraft, and innovation. We amplify priorities which you have laid out: elevating diplomacy and development, pushing forward the QDDR, stepping up our game in Asia, managing challenges and opportunities in the Arab Spring, empowering women and girls. And as Tom Nides likes to say, we are focused like a laser beam on advancing economic statecraft.
In fact, as I travel the country and speak at universities and at Chambers of Commerce, the American people get that if we do our job right here at the State Department, at USAID, if we execute diplomacy and development effectively, we will actually prevent conflicts and save expending blood and treasure. Simply put, Madam Secretary, you are a visionary. You have made the State Department more relevant. You have fought to provide us tools and resources to carry out our mission and succeed. Frankly, it is fun to be a diplomat under your watch.
Let me turn to the folks that really make everything happen, the leadership team who is transforming Public Affairs into the flagship bureau we want to it to be: my Principal Deputy Dana Shell Smith, who I think had something to do with the glasses. (Laughter.) Our ace pitcher on the podium – and I hope she’s not prepping, I hope she’s here, Toria – and then her reliever, who is actually on leave, Mark Toner. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach Cheryl Benton – I hope she’s here. Our Digital DAS Victoria Esser, who is actually traveling. Our Historian, Steve Randolph. And of course, our vital Executive Director Hattie Jones. And our secret weapon, our designated hitter, Philippe. If you’ve all noticed, he’s certainly a real slugger.
We have a dedicated corps of Civil Service and Foreign Service who are the backbone of the Bureau, who make the magic happen: our techs, our press officers, our social media pioneers, transcribers, and the best photographer in the business – (laughter) – at least the best-dressed photographer in the business, Michael Gross. (Laughter.) But look out, Michael. I think Ben Chang’s around and he’s an aspiring paparazzi, so – (laughter). I am proud of how PA has stepped up its game – (laughter) – save a little for later – (laughter) – to sort of – to meet the challenges of the dynamic warp-speed media environment.
We have to be the ones telling our narrative. We can’t cede the ground to the Al Jazeeras and Xinhuas of this world. We have increased the numbers of briefings, empowered our six regional media hubs, launched 10 foreign-language Twitter feeds, briefed in Spanish, pushed out video statements in multiple languages, and gone virtual with our domestic Hometown Diplomats Program.
We certainly appreciate the tremendous support of our dynamic Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine, and we leverage our cooperation with Dawn’s and Maureen’s IIP, with Anne and Stock’s ECA, as we together work to support our seventh floor principals, special envoys, regional and functional bureaus, and amplify our policies and reach new, broader audiences around the globe.
I want to also recognize my NSC communications brethren/family – Ben Rhodes, Tommy Vietor, and two of our own State rising stars, Caitlin Hayden and Erin Pelton, as well as DOD’s Tanya Bradsher. And of course, the person who makes it all happen, the magic over at the NSC, Natalie Wozniak. I hope she made it over. Excellent, Natalie. Thanks for everything. You’re awesome.
Let me talk for a moment – this is the hard part for me, so – about my home team, the family that has allowed me to pursue my dream. My dream to be a Foreign Service officer was inspired by my dad. I grew up in Latin America. He instilled in me the public service and advancing America’s interests abroad was an honorable pursuit. He sacrificed his life for our great country and rests across the way in Arlington. Today would have been his birthday. And today, I honor him and I thank my mami, who is here from Madrid. Y mi mami, gracias por tu apoyo, lo has hecho todo muy bien.
My three awesome kids – they’re dreading this part of this – (laughter) – who have served in their own way as junior diplomats – Monika, whose life I’ve ruined at least twice. (Laughter.) You may remember when we left from seventh grade down to go to Bolivia. You didn’t want to leave Washington, then we’re down in La Paz coming back to Washington, didn’t want to leave La Paz. (Laughter.) But I’m sure you’re now at least looking forward to your next adventure at Syracuse at Newhouse to study broadcast journalism. We are so very proud of you. (Applause.) Our son Mike Thor, who hadn’t realized how cool his name was until the movie Thor came out. (Laughter.) Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to call me Old Man anymore; you can call me Mr. Assistant Secretary Daddy. (Laughter.) Keep up the good work. We’ve still got to get you to college. (Laughter.) And our cutie, Brynja. You don’t have to worry about college, not quite yet. And that’s a good thing for our wallets.
Margret, what can I say? You have been my partner, best friend, and staunchest supporter for over two decades. Wow, that’s a long time. When we were in grad school, we did a course on human rights in Strasbourg while Margaret was working in the Council of Europe. I was applying to the Foreign Service and she typed out my application on that goofy A4 European paper. I thought I’d never get in. But somehow, it happened. Years later, when Glyn was kind enough – or crazy enough – to offer me a job in the NSC doing press, I was really unsure, but Margaret, you said, “Go do it,” and it’s worked out pretty well. Thanks, Sandy, who may be here, and Jim Steinberg and Glyn for giving me that opportunity.
Let me just say a word about our press colleagues, some of which I see are here today. We admire the work that you do. You keep us honest, accountable, and you make sure that our democracy remains vibrant. You’re under tremendous pressure to produce. Perhaps we do not always make it easy for you, but we have a shared common goal: to inform the American people and the world. Our government will always stand up for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and now internet freedom, as the Secretary has eloquently said.
Thank you all for sharing this special occasion with my family and me. I may have been a bit – gone a little bit too long; I probably should have spoken in Spanish. I’m told by our transcribers that when I speak in Spanish, I speak much faster. (Laughter.) And so I could have gotten a lot more in more quickly, but thanks for bearing with me.
Finally, let’s go out there and promote America’s interests, and as the Secretary says, let’s always be looking to see how we can do better. I assure you, Madam Secretary that PA will try. We are even considering adding more PA purple days. Right now, we only have PA purple Fridays. We may do more.
So thank you all very much, go team, and thank you for coming and sharing this with us. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yay. All right, nice job. Really nice. You have a lot of friends and fans out there. (Inaudible.)
MODERATOR: On behalf of our Assistant Secretary and his entire family, we thank you for joining us for this very special ceremony. Please join him now in a receiving line in front of the podium to offer your own personal congratulations.
Congratulations again, Assistant Secretary.