It’s great to see all of you. I just saw some beautiful children in the room next door. And I wanted to start by telling you how much I appreciate the opportunity to come by and thank you for all that you do every single day, starting with the Ambassador. Thank you so much for your leadership here in Japan and the team that you work with. I am grateful for what each and every one of the members of this mission do on behalf of this extraordinarily vital relationship.
It’s been a challenging year-plus for Japan. And I just had an opportunity to meet with some of the young people who are part of the Tomodachi Generation, and the ties between our countries, I don’t think, have ever been stronger. And the extraordinary outpouring of support from our civilian workforce, a whole-of-government effort plus our military, in responding to the earthquake and the tsunami and the nuclear plant meltdown has demonstrated more than any words could how essential it is that the United States and Japan have the kind of deep and strong partnership that we have.
Thanks to your efforts, we are not only working on our bilateral relationship in all of its comprehensiveness, but also regional and global issues, whether it be North Korea or Iran, increasing trade and investment, even exploring areas such as missile defense and cyber security. And as we look at the 1,000 Japanese students who will travel to the United States this summer as part of the Tomodachi initiative, we can see the future of our relationship.
When I last here shortly after the triple disasters, Japan was just beginning to rebuild and recover. Many of the team that was here had been working extraordinarily long hours under very difficult circumstances, plus volunteering for relief and recovery. Many of you were traveling to the places hardest hit, but now we can see the debris has been removed, the roads have been rebuilt, and you continue to volunteer at retirement homes or painting houses, really building those personal relationships that are at the root of any other kind of partnership.
The United States has proven to be a good friend, and this Embassy has certainly proven to be a good neighbor. I want to thank not only our Foreign Service and Civil Service officers here, plus everyone from every other agency and department of our government posted here, but all of the Foreign Service families. I know some had to leave; and difficult that was, but I thank you for your own sacrifice and commitment. And I also want to thank the locally employed staff, because after all, you were directly affected by what happened last year and we could not run any embassy anywhere in the world without our locally employed staff. Secretaries come and go. Ambassadors come and go. But the locally employed staff remain as the nerve center and the memory bank of all that has gone on before.
We appreciate what you’re doing back in Washington. Certainly, I think we were very proud of the high level of performance that we saw in the wake of the disasters here. And on behalf of President Obama and myself and all that serve in our government back home as well as the American people, thank you for what you did, thank you for what you’re doing, and thank you for really creating the kind of future that will bring our relationship to an even stronger plane. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)