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MS. MARSHALL: Well, good morning, distinguished guests, to the James Monroe Room for the flag presentation ceremony for the United States Ambassador to Ireland, the Honorable Dan Rooney. (Applause.) We are so very privileged to have the Secretary of State here this morning officiating this wonderful ceremony. We’re also very pleased to welcome Ambassador Rooney’s wife Patricia and his granddaughter Sarah. Please join me in welcoming them this morning. (Applause.)
We will begin our ceremony with remarks by the Secretary and then the official flag presentation, and then followed by remarks by the Ambassador. So let me please introduce the Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Capricia, and let me welcome all of you here to the eighth floor, and especially welcome the Rooneys. As you may have seen earlier this week, my staff gave me a personalized football helmet and jersey. They told me it was a welcome-back gift, but I suspect they also were thinking about the fact that you would be here in a few days, and we wanted to make you feel right at home. But I have chosen to forego the football gear this morning in place of this opportunity to really thank both Dan and Patricia, and to celebrate your service on behalf of the United States.
Dan Rooney is someone who never seems to miss making friends everywhere he goes, whether it’s western Pennsylvania or Ireland. And we’re delighted to have some of your friends and colleagues here for this ceremony. I want to say a special word of thanks to Patricia, who has been a fabulous support and great person in reaching out to the Irish on her own behalf alongside Dan. And Sarah, welcome here to the State Department. And we have a number of the people you’ve worked with. We knew that if we opened it to the entire State Department, we would not have a room big enough to hold everybody.
When Dan Rooney became U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, he was fulfilling a lifelong dream. But I think it’s also fair to say he was making the dreams of a lot of other people come true because he has been a dream ambassador. That’s partly because of the depth of his lifelong experience on behalf of Irish-American relations. He spent decades building ties between the United States and Ireland through the American Ireland Fund, which he co-founded. It’s also partly because of his willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to get the job done.
Dan Rooney was the first U.S. Ambassador to visit all 32 counties in Ireland and its outer islands, including remote places that can only be reached at certain times of year and then only by ferry or puddle-jumper. Often, it was Dan himself at the controls of the plane. Now, Under Secretary Pat Kennedy would have had a terrible experience if he knew that, so I’m happy he did not. (Laughter.)
But in fact, Dan returned to the United States midway through his tenure to be recertified to fly. And let me also commend Patricia, who accompanied Dan to every single one of those counties and islands. Together, you showed the people of Ireland in a powerful, personal way how much Americans value our friendship with them.
Now above all, Dan has been a dream ambassador because, like everything he does, he has performed this job with enormous integrity and warmth and good humor. He doesn’t give you his business card; he gives you a Steelers pin. His pockets are full of them. He lines up his multiple cell phones on his desk, makes calls all day long, moving from time zone to time zone, staying on top of the news, spreading good cheer to Dublin, Washington, Pittsburgh, everywhere he has friends, and that’s across the world. He’s also built a terrific team at our Embassy in Ireland that I got to see firsthand when I was there. And you put together a team like you put together a football franchise, Dan. They’ve done extraordinary work under your leadership. Our relationship, as the Taoiseach told me, has never been stronger. And I wanted to pass that on to you.
We’ve increased trade and investment between our countries. The U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership has been reinvigorated. We helped support Ireland in hosting a successful OSCE ministerial and to begin its EU presidency this month. We worked closely, even more so, with Ireland on security and peace, development and human rights. And of course, what Dan would call the Super Bowl of his tenure, President Obama visited Ireland and had a fabulous trip where he really demonstrated the depth of his commitment to the relationship.
So you and Patricia have done a fabulous job and I am so pleased to have this chance formally to present you two flags – the Chief of Mission flag, and the flag of the United States, as a small token of your very successful tenure in Ireland.
There you go. (Applause.) And Patricia, this one’s for you. You also served.
MS. ROONEY: Thank you so much. Beautiful.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Dan, would you like to say a few words?
AMBASSADOR ROONEY: All right. Madam Secretary, thank you for the kind words. Patricia and I are really honored to be here today in the State Department. It really is like coming home, from the time we started taking the courses in charm school, it’s known as, and we were sorry that we missed you when you were in Dublin this past month.
Almost four years ago, President Obama asked me if I would be his Ambassador in Dublin. I knew what a special honor it would be to represent President Obama in our country. I also knew it would give me the chance to serve on your behalf. Madam Secretary, before I left for Ireland, you asked me to strengthen the friendship and ties between Ireland and the United States. You charged me to keep special watch on the peace process and to look for ways we could better partner with the Irish Government to the advance and the cause of peace. This is what I have tried to do, and I believe this is what we did.
During my time in Dublin, I worked to strengthen the bonds between the American people and the people of Ireland. It took me to every county in Ireland, 32, as you mentioned. And I learned so much from everyone I met. I was also constantly reminded of the deep love and affection the Irish people have for you and your husband. The people of Ireland are aware of your commitment and sacrifices on behalf of peace and reconciliation.
We have lived through remarkable times. Who would have imagined that we would live to see Martin McGuinness take – shake hands with the Queen? At your direction, I worked with those in the loyalist community who have not fully felt the benefits of peace. You sent me up north, and I invited those people to my residence, and it worked. And we made it possible for them to visit the United States. The peace in the north is still a process. It’s an ongoing effort. But we have hope. Things are better and they will continue to get better despite the issues needing to be resolved.
I am pretty proud of the fact that I visited all 32 counties during my term as Ambassador. I was proud of myself and thought about really what I did until I read recently that you, Madam Secretary, have visited 112 countries. (Laughter.) You’re a remarkable leader, and amazing stamina and commitment. I also saw you were given a football helmet and jersey, as you mentioned. Since you can’t play the game without a ball, I wanted to make sure that you would receive this official Steeler football.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Thank you. That’s great. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR ROONEY: I would just like to say that it has really been great to be here. And as Secretary, you have motivated us all to be the best. You have given us confidence to take risk. You have been my deepest – I have my deepest respect and appreciation. I was deeply touched by your phone – personal call to Patricia and me on the loss of Rita, our daughter, last month.
I am an American of Irish heritage. Ireland has always been special to me, and I have a deep love for the Irish people. I have had a lifelong commitment to advancing the relationship between the American and the Irish people. I thank you and President Obama for your trust and the privilege of serving as Ambassador to the United States. This flag will remind us of our time in Dublin.
(Inaudible.) Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Dan. I am not letting anybody else even hold this. (Laughter.) We’re going to keep an eye on it. Thank you all, and I know people here want to come up and really thank you for the service that you’ve performed, and have a chance to express their personal best wishes. Thank you, Dan. Thank you, Patricia. Thank you, Sarah.
AMBASSADOR ROONEY: Thank you very much.
MS. ROONEY: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: All right. Madam Secretary, just on behalf of the press corps, welcome back to work.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Matt. I must – I have to say, Matt, I really missed you all. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I find that a little hard to believe.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. I wouldn’t say that under normal circumstances.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) I find it – well, as you know, Ambassador Rooney knows a thing or two about contact sport injuries, and I’m sure –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. That’s why I now have a helmet (inaudible).
QUESTION: I’m sure he wishes it was a Steelers helmet. It wasn’t, though. But how does it feel to be back? Were you frustrated to be cooped up, not out?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, Matt, I am thrilled to be back. And I am also incredibly grateful for this fabulous team that I have here at the State Department who never missed a beat for the time that I was away. And we are focused on continuing our work, finishing up everything that we can, and helping Senator Kerry with his transition.
QUESTION: So things – you’re ready – you’re back in the swing of things --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am back --
QUESTION: -- even though it’s closing down your operation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. It’s obviously somewhat bittersweet, because I’ve had the most extraordinary experience, and I work with just an amazing team of people. But I’m very much looking forward to doing everything we can these last few weeks to resolve and finish up wherever possible and then to have a very smooth, seamless transition to Senator Kerry to continue the work.
QUESTION: And then retirement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know that that’s the word I would use, but certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks, Matt. Great to see you.
QUESTION: Great to see you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, all.