Well, it is so wonderful to be here – to be back again in Mongolia – to see all the changes over the last 17 years. And I want to thank the Ambassador and Mrs. Addleton for all of their leadership. They will be well remembered. I had so many nice compliments about your work here, Ambassador, from the Mongolian officials. And I know that you started coming to Mongolia representing the United States almost a dozen years ago. And I imagine that you will be still connected somehow to Mongolia for the years to come.
I certainly remember being here 17 years ago as First Lady. Soviet aid had been withdrawn, the economy was imploding, Mongolia was isolated. It was a very challenging time, but I was impressed by the young people and by the officials with whom I met. I saw that there was a real resilience and a dedication to the country. And now, 17 years later, I can see it in action. I also remember visiting what was then the Embassy, which was a house and a garage. (Laughter.) And I have with me Ambassador Victoria Nuland – come on up here, Toria – who opened our mission in 1989 at the – (applause) – Ulaanbaatar Hotel. So she’s marveling at all of the changes as well.
And I want to thank you for everything you’re doing to support Mongolian democracy, the Mongolian economy, Mongolian civil society. In just the past year, you’ve helped to monitor elections, to really strengthen civil society organizations, broker a deal with Boeing to supply three new airplanes. You get to travel to the most remote parts of the country – I’m very jealous, because I would love to do that as well – you’re helping to improve vocational training, to protect the environment, and your work is producing real results. U.S. exports increased from just 40 million in 2009 to more than 300 million last year. Seventy thousand families living on the edge of the city now have fuel-efficient cookstoves, which saves lives, prevents disease, and fights climate change.
And I know you sometimes face some pretty daunting odds in doing your work. You travel with Arctic-tested sleeping bags just in case the temperature dips below 40 degrees. One group of employees crossed the Gobi Desert. They had to fix a flat on their tire five times, but they persevered just like the Mongolian people. You volunteer at vet clinics, hammer nails for Habitat for Humanity, participate in runs for the environment, help the people with disabilities find jobs.
And I particularly want to thank our locally-engaged staff. You could not be a better representative of the friendship between our two countries. We really rely on you. We’re grateful to you. I also want to thank the families of all our employees. You’ve made real sacrifices for which we are very grateful. You’ve demonstrated such a commitment. I’m really excited about the future for Mongolia and to broaden and strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen a lot of progress. I think we can see even more. I think you’ll have a chance in just a few days to enjoy the upcoming Naadam festivities. I wish I could stay; I’m quite disappointed. But I’ve told the President I intend to come back and to bring my husband, who keeps – he keeps saying the only thing that he’s envious of is that I’ve been Mongolia twice – (laughter) – and he hasn’t been here yet. So we will remedy that, I am sure. But I will take with me even new and fond memories, and they would not be possible without the hard work that each and every one of you do.
So thank you again very much, and I would love to shake some hands. (Applause.)