MS. BLASER: Good evening, U.S. Mission Kampala.
AUDIENCE: Good evening.
MS. BLASER: That’s all I get? (Laughter.) Look who I brought to you. (Applause.) There you go. I know how very hard you have all been working for this visit throughout the summer, really throughout the year, and I just want to say how proud I am of this team and how well you all worked together – the contributions of your family members, your kids, your spouses, your members of household. It is just such a fabulous U.S. Mission Kampala team. I’m also really proud to stand up here today and have the privilege to introduce our guest, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
A visit from the Secretary is always exciting, but today it’s especially nice, because I know that Secretary Clinton takes great personal interest in all the accomplishments of Mission Kampala and the goals that you work so hard to achieve every day from strengthening democracy and human rights, to building the economy of Uganda, to creating a healthy and productive society, strengthening regional peace and security, or working on public affairs and integrative public diplomacy. You can rest assured that your work has the attention and the support of the Secretary of State. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, my colleagues, my family, will you please help me give a very warm welcome to Secretary Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, thank you so much, Virginia, for that introduction, but more than that, for your leadership as you lead this great mission and wait for the arrival of a new ambassador. You’ve done a very good job in every way. You’ve got a great team here. It’s a vibrant Embassy community and you’re doing so much to deepen and strengthen our relationship with the government and people of Uganda.
I was thinking about the first time I came to Kampala back in the ‘90s. The second time I came back with my husband when he was President, and now here today as Secretary of State. And although some things change, what hasn’t changed is our commitment to the partnership and friendship between our nations. We are deeply committed to it. We have a lot of confidence in what Uganda can do, and we’re going to keep working very hard to fulfill the potential of this relationship.
Now, a major focus of our engagement has been working with the government and civil society to promote and protect human rights. And a few minutes ago, I presented the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award to the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. This is, as many of you know, a group of brave men and women standing up for universal human rights right here in Uganda, not to carve out special privileges for any group, but to ensure that universal rights are shared by all people. And we very much know the importance of this, because Uganda has so many talented people – men and women – and we want to see everybody have a chance to live up to their own God-given potential, to make a contribution to themselves, their families, and to society and their country.
There are a lot of issues that we’re dealing with right now. I just visited an incredible program for HIV/AIDS. We’ve had a long history here. I met the first gentleman ever treated by PEPFAR, and that was right here in Uganda. Just last week, when we heard reports of an Ebola outbreak, Mission Uganda health team members from CDC, USAID, NIH, the Department of Defense, PEPFAR, the Peace Corps, the State Department, all came together to help Uganda respond.
This is typical of what you do every day in so many ways, and I want you to know how grateful we are to you. I especially want to thank the family members who are serving here when your loved ones are not here because they’re in Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan. And I want to thank you for being family members serving here because I know that that’s a commitment on your part. And we could not run our diplomacy or our development work without that level of commitment from our Foreign Service and our civil service and from our entire U.S. Government team.
And I want to thank our locally-employed staff. Will all the Ugandans who work here at the mission raise your hands so we can give you a round of applause? (Applause.) We know we could not do our work without you, without your insight, without your experience, without your expertise. We also know something else. Ambassadors and charges come and go, Secretaries of State come and go, but it is the locally-employed staff who serve as the memory bank and the nerve center year in and year out for our Embassy. (Applause.)
And of course, I’m glad to hear that we’ve got Peace Corps volunteers in the audience. (Applause.) I know there are lots of you across Uganda, and you’re helping to build that people-to-people relationship that is absolutely critical to all the work that we do.
Now, I am a little bit jealous because I am afraid I can’t take our first and second tour Americans out to the shooting range like my Defense Department colleagues do, but I’m going to certainly give you permission when I’m finally out of your area of responsibility to take a little time and relax because I know that with everything you do all day every day, adding a visit from someone like me increases the burden. And I’m sorry we were running late, but all of our meetings – I started out in South Sudan this morning, and that was a very important stop as we try to support the newest nation on earth, and then our meetings and our events here were so substantive, so well prepared. I thank everyone who worked on this trip because I think it’s really critical to our relationship that we continue to reach across the ocean, reach across any kind of barrier of geography, and make it clear that we are partners and friends for the long term. And we could not do that without each and every one of you.
So on behalf of President Obama and myself and the people of the United States of America, thank you for your service and for representing the United States so well here in Uganda. (Applause.)