Thank you so much, Ambassador, and thanks to all of you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support on this trip. This is not a typical trip where you go to Wellington and Christchurch and Auckland. This took a lot of effort by everyone, and I’ve very grateful to you.
I want to thank the Ambassador for his leadership here at the mission, and also each and every one of you, both Americans and New Zealanders alike for helping us deepen and strengthen the already important bonds between the United States and New Zealand.
I thought it was very important that I come to the Pacific Islands Forum to really demonstrate unequivocally the importance that the Obama Administration and our government placed on sustainable relationships with the Pacific Island nations. It’s been great being here, everybody has a smile, they’re all waving, they’re all enthusiastic about us being here, and I couldn’t ever imagine.
But I know how challenging it was to actually do this from long distance, and then once you got here. So a special word of thanks on behalf of myself and the entire American delegation. We brought in ambassadors from three other countries, we have the commander of the Pacific Command, commander of the Coast Guard Command based in Hawaii, so we have a full complement of American officials who are here that you are supporting, and we’re grateful to you.
And finally, people often say, “Well, you know, New Zealand, that’s got to be an easy, great place to serve.” But after earthquakes and challenges that you have faced just in that time I’ve been Secretary, I want you to know how much we know that your work is important, because it’s not only the bilateral relationships, it’s partnering with New Zealand and Australia to enable us to really have a strong, lasting presence in the Pacific. And that is what all of you are doing. I mean, there’s not much we can do to improve the health of New Zealanders or Aussies, but there’s a lot we can do working together to improve the health of the Pacific Islands. And same goes true for education, for economic development, and so much more. So I’ve already had great meetings with my counterparts from New Zealand and Australia, and we’re going to continue to build on that firm and very solid foundation.
So with that, let me just shake a few hands. Why don’t you all just come on by and introduce yourselves and say hello?