AMBASSADOR HOLTZ: Good morning, everybody. It is my very great pleasure to welcome Secretary of State John F. Kerry to Oman. On behalf of our entire mission, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your leadership, vision, and constant support of our efforts to promote U.S. interests in Oman and in the region.
Secretary Kerry has a personal appreciation for the work we do here in Muscat and in embassies around the world because he grew up in the Foreign Service. His long tenure in the United States Senate, particularly in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his deep knowledge of the Middle East region make him intimately familiar with our work. He also knows and salutes the important role our families play in helping us accomplish our tasks, and he knows without our locally employed teams across the globe we could not succeed.
The Secretary is with us today to highlight the important contributions each of you makes every day to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Oman as we work together to promote security and stability in the region and increase trade and investment between our nations.
Our outstanding embassy staff takes on all manner of tough jobs, from making sure the embassy is safe and secure to stretching our budgets so we can continue to operate effectively. I can assure you, Mr. Secretary, that you have before you here today an exceptionally talented team and their families. I’m proud of each and every one of them. I know you share my admiration for all that they do.
Secretary Kerry has said many times that he’s proud to represent everyone who works in American embassies around the world and greatly appreciates the difficult, daunting, and increasingly complex work that we do. Let us take this opportunity to let him know we are equally proud to have him representing us around the world and leading the Department of State.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in warmly welcoming Secretary Kerry. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Ambassador. Thank you very, very much. I appreciate the introduction. I appreciate your leadership here, and thank you. Where’s Paul Malik? Is he here somewhere hiding? Where’s Paul?
PARTICIPANT: Back here.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, wonderful. Thank you. Our new deputy chief of mission and somebody who’s helped make this trip a great success. Good morning, everybody. Assalamu alaikum.
PARTICIPANTS: Wa alaikum assalaam
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. How are you? Wow, woke up. (Laughter.) Everybody’s awake. I like that. That’s fantastic. It’s so nice to see. I walked in here and everybody was so quiet. I wondered if you were just still asleep. (Laughter.)
Anyway, hi guys. How are you? Tell me about these uniforms you have on. What are these about? Is this school?
PARTICIPANT: Yes. It’s a school. TAISM.
SECRETARY KERRY: TAISM school? How come you have three people here? Everybody else at school? (Laughter.) So you guys skipped school. Well, you got to come up here and be with me. I want to protect you from your teachers. (Laughter.) No, no, come on up here. I’m glad you're here. Bring the others. Yes, come on guys. How old are you?
SECRETARY KERRY: How old are you?
PARTICIPANT: Ten, ten. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Is that a special year, 10 years ago? (Laughter.) I want to know what’s going on here. Anyway, how are you young man?
SECRETARY KERRY: Where do you go to school?
SECRETARY KERRY: TAISM. You’re all at the same school?
SECRETARY KERRY: So how come you’re all dressed up?
PARTICIPANT: My dad made me. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Who’s your dad? Thank you very much. (Laughter.) Nice to see you. I think it looks great. I think it looks great. He’s ready to be a senator. (Laughter.) Anyway, you’re how old?
SECRETARY KERRY: Thirteen. Wow. He’s two years older than I was when I was a young Foreign Service officer’s son. (Laughter.) And I started this journey that many of you are on, so it’s very special for me to be able to visit with you. Thank you.
I just want to say to everybody, first of all, you are lucky to be in a wonderful place like Oman. It is so beautiful, so beautiful. And I had a wonderful meeting with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos yesterday. He is a very, very thoughtful, wise leader who spends a lot of time thinking about issues, as I think you know. And we value – we being the United States and a lot of people in the world – value his sense of the future and his efforts to try to diversify the economy, build for the future, listen to people.
Obviously, there is a transition taking place throughout the Middle East, throughout the Arab world, and nobody quite knows sort of how it’s all going to unfold. But some leaders have been ahead of the curve and looking carefully at how to empower people, create a transition, but do it in a way that’s thoughtful and works for everybody. And I think that His Majesty has been particularly thoughtful about that.
I know you have a legislature; you have a very active debate that goes on. Ministers get grilled on TV, not unlike the way they get grilled in the United States, something a little more politely I think, actually. (Laughter.) But it’s a pleasure for me to be able to be in a country that is contributing as much to the possibilities of peace. And I value his advice and the advice of other leaders in Oman with respect to the region, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the issues of Iran, the issues of all of the countries that are going through a transition, economic transition in the region.
And there’s a lot for us to be working on, and all of you know that because you’re working on it every single day in so many ways. I want to thank all of the Foreign Service officers, all of the civil servants. A few of you may be political appointees. Some of you are doing TDY duty from one agency or another. Some of you represent one agency or another, Justice Department, Commerce Department, and so far.
And many of you critically are local employees, Omanis hired here and even some third-country nationals. We simply couldn’t do this job without you, and everybody wants to join me in saying thank you to our local employees for the extraordinary job that you do. (Applause.)
I understand – I – somebody slipped me something earlier. I gather we have – who have we got here? Where do we have him? Wazir Khatib? Where's Wazir?
PARTICIPANT: Right here.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thirty-seven years. Thirty-seven years. (Applause.) And Fida Jawad. Where’s Fida? (Applause.) Thirty-seven years. (Applause.) You guys must have been three years old when you got hired – (laughter) – when they started working, it’s amazing. And then finally Gopal (inaudible). Only 32 years. I don't know what to say about it. Where’s Gopal? Is Gopal not here?
PARTICIPANT: Still working the embassies. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Gopal’s making the place work while not being here, shirking your duty here with me, which is fabulous. And I want to thank Colonel Paul Ross and Colonel Todd Lyons for their work in the building. Are they over here, colonels? Thank you for your work in helping (inaudible). (Applause.)
And more important than ever, many of us have learned through sad events in various parts of the world that security is always an issue, and I want to thank Nick Porter, the RSO here for his terrific job in helping not just with this trip, but to keep everybody safe and work on security all the time.
Now I understand you guys have a great tradition that in November you have a Thanksgiving lunch, correct? And everybody has a Thanksgiving lunch for local employees. And then local folks give you a (inaudible) lunch. Is that right? That’s a great new tradition. I love it. Thank you for doing that. And if I’m here sometime in November I can have a (inaudible) lunch. (Laughter.) I just saw some pheasants somewhere. I don't know if you serve pheasant (inaudible). But there are a few around.
Thank you. How are you? You were asleep a moment ago. (Laughter.) Now she’s all full of energy and ready to go.
Can I just say to everybody --
SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want to look at the speech?
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, okay. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you very much.
I just want to say very quickly, because I'd like to have a chance to shake hands and say hello and take a few pictures and everything, I gave a speech yesterday in Washington to a bunch of our Foreign Service officers who are training in Washington and about to go out to various parts of the world. And as all of you know, we had some sad events, some difficult events, over the last year with Benghazi, and Ankara, Turkey and some other places.
And so it reminds us that you’re not wearing a uniform and you’re not troops, but you are on the frontlines of diplomacy. And when you are in other countries, when you are traveling in various places, less so here than in some places, but it’s always a challenge. And it’s one that we’re not going to shrink away from. It’s one that we shouldn’t shy away from.
This is not a light undertaking. It’s not a simple undertaking. What we are doing is engaged in trying to reach out to people in the world and prove to people that peace is possible, that relationships are possible, that you don’t have to hate people, that you don’t have to blow people up that you’ve never met, don’t know, and have no real agenda that would improve things, just blow people up, create terror without any organizing principle around which life is going to be better for people.
We have a different point of view. And happily, we share it with most of the people of the world. Most people on this planet want peace. Most people on this planet would like nothing more than to live their lives free of oppression and torture and violence. And it takes work to push back against those things. Because we saw what happened in the last century with World War I and World War II, with Korea and Vietnam, and the Cold War. We can spend a lot of money fighting, or we can do a lot to invest in people, in education, in health, and in the possibilities of life, let families grow up without burying their children.
So I think this effort that we are all engaged in to reach out to other countries, to cross cultural barriers, to try to promote your values but not do it a way that is oppressive and that doesn’t give people choice – this is as valuable an enterprise as anybody could engage in in life. We are lucky. We get up every single day and feel excited about the possibilities of what we’re doing, every single one of you, honestly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time in a consulate office and the work you do is interviewing and working on visas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going out and doing some kind of a family reunification issue. Whatever it is, every one of you is an ambassador. And even those of you who are local employees, whether you are Omani or some other nationality in the region, you’re not American, you’re still an ambassador of a set of values about how people ought to be treated and how we ought to try to work together.
So I come to you today as a way to say thank you on behalf of the President of the United States, on behalf of the American people. I know you go away from families, you travel, you pack a lot, it’s not easy, kids go to different schools (inaudible) whatever. It’s complicated. But let me tell you something, there is no more valuable career or endeavor. And I just wanted to say a profound thank you to every single one of you for being part of it. And it’s an honor for me to be here in Oman with you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. (Applause.)