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Diplomacy in Action

Secretary Kerry Meets With Staff and Families at Embassy London


Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
London, United Kingdom
June 13, 2014

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AMBASSADOR BARZUN: Well, it is great to see your faces. Now, as you look at the faces on the walls up here, there’s some you may recognize – Abraham Lincoln, President Obama, George Washington, my predecessor over here -- there’s one you might – oh, where did he go? – might not recognize over there, which is Ambassador John Wynant. And he was ambassador here from 1941-1946, and I would argue, and I think the case can be made that there’s no single American outside of uniform and outside of FDR who did more to get the United States to join the fight with Great Britain in World War II. And it just so happens that John Wynant went to the same small, little prep school in New Hampshire that Secretary Kerry went to and that I went to. And when he went there, he was so inspired by the example of John Wynant that he founded the Wynant Society to get young people excited about serving overseas. And so I got to benefit from what you started and what you inspired. And here is what is written on John Wynant’s gravestone, based on the memoirs he wrote about being a diplomat.

He wrote: “Doing the days’ work, day by day, doing a little, adding a little, broadening our bases, wanting not only for ourselves, but for others also a fair chance for all people everywhere.” Each of you here at Mission UK is living up to that vision every single day. And that is inspiring. And when I got out of that little prep school, I went to go be an intern with none other than then-Senator Kerry. So I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to all the interns and the summer hires who’re here today. Can you raise your hands? (Applause.)

Secretary Kerry inspired me then; he inspires me now. And I just had a master class in diplomacy from him when I got to drive in the car with you when you arrived at Stansted on your first trip here, when I was here, and we were a few minutes into the drive and his phone rang and it was the foreign minister from Russia. And you very graciously said, “Do you mind?” I said, “Sure. Take the call.” (Laughter.) And then I thought to myself, “This is so cool. I’ll get to hear at least 50 percent of a fascinating conversation.” (Laughter.) But I didn’t quite hear 50 percent. Because what I heard Secretary Kerry do is start off with a clear and concise, filled-with-conviction, articulation of what our government policy was. And then he listened and listened and listened. And at the end played back to his interlocutor in his own words what he thought he had just heard. And so I didn’t end up hearing 50 percent at all, but what I got to see was daily diplomacy in action – active listening, active engagement, and that inspires all of us. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you. (Applause.)

I was looking to get a caffeine boost after our long morning together, and I’m not kidding you, downstairs I reached into the thing and I pull it out and it says: “Share a coke with Kerry.” So this is meant to be, sir. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s unbelievable. Thank you. Hi. Hello Embassy London. How are you?

AUDIENCE: Good.

SECRETARY KERRY: Everybody good? (Applause.) All right. It’s wonderful to be here. You guys are all thrilled to be out of school? And the first thing you do is you get trotted down in the embassy. (Laughter.) That’s great. Anyway, Matthew did not tell you the whole story. Matthew is actually a cousin of mine – not so close that it amounts to pure nepotism – (laughter) – but cousins. And his mom and I were sort of the same generation growing up together with all of our cousins, and when she came back to the State Department to celebrate Matthew’s swearing-in, I thought I was really being a wise guy and say – I turned to her, I said, “Serita, did you ever think that Matthew was going to grow up to be the ambassador to the Court of St. James?” And without missing a beat, she looked at me and said, “No. I never thought you were going to grow up to be Secretary of State.” (Laughter.) So it’s a good tradition of back and forth.

But it’s really a pleasure for me to see Matthew here. And Matthew, I don’t want to put pressure on you, but five of your predecessors at Court of St. James have gone on to be President of the United States. (Laughter.) This young man – he is – has had an incredible career, literally beginning by being an intern for me. And he was a terrific intern and he went on from that to do a number of other things, most importantly going into the private sector, be out in California, be involved with a start-up company, and a really interesting life. But already in his forties, he’s serving in his second ambassadorship. He was ambassador to Sweden; he came back to America because President Obama had so much confidence in him, he asked him to be the chairman of his finance committee for the entire campaign. And as you know, in today’s American politics in a race for presidency, you’re raising something like a billion dollars when you put it all together and everything that’s going on.

So you folks are blessed to have an ambassador who is savvy, smart, creative, an entrepreneur, who looks for new ways of doing things, but who’s really thoughtful and I think very, very tuned in to people and to your needs. So I’m honored that he’s here. And Brooke, is she here somewhere? Is Brooke hiding? She’s not here. But he’s also blessed to have a good wife. I know Brooke, have gotten to know here over the years, and she was incredibly supportive and helpful to all of us. So Matthew, thank you for you what you’re doing. We appreciate it very, very much.

Likewise, I want to single out a couple of people. The DCM Liz Dibble is over here. (Applause.) I know Liz, I met Liz – I met her in Rome where she was serving and doing an incredible job running the whole show for a period of time. And she’s been in various incredible places – Islamabad, Tunis, in – where else? – Damascus. You’ve been in Damascus, I believe. And so a hugely interesting career, and we’re blessed to have you here with your daughter. Nice to have you here also. Thank you.

There’s another fellow I’d like to mention if I can quickly. I met Jeff Lodinsky -- he’s hiding over here – Jeff I met in Bethesda Naval Hospital the weekend after I was first sworn in quietly and privately on a Friday as Secretary of State. I hadn’t even been in the building yet – in the State Department – which I went into on Monday. But on Sunday, I went over and visited with Jeff and few other folks who had been wounded in a couple of different incidents. And I have to say thank you to him and to his spirit, to the example that he sets. He, as you know, he was seriously wounded in Kunar Province in Afghanistan. We were just reminiscing upstairs, because I literally walked around in that village and drove up to meet with the governor that he was going to meet with when I was in the Senate. And I know that area well, and I can just feel – imagine what he went through when he was out there doing his duty and doing his – every two weeks meeting with the governor to talk about the things we needed to do together. And now he’s here, and Jeff, we’re just so proud that your service and your daughter Rika is somewhere in here hiding out. I don’t know where she went off to. But it’s like my kids, they never want to be around – (laughter) – “Geez, Dad, don’t embarrass me.” (Laughter.)

Anyway, Jeff, thank you. I want everybody here to – (applause) – I’m not going to keep you long. I understand there’s an ice cream social. Is that correct? Is that really what brought you guys down here, huh, free ice cream? (Laughter.) So I’ve learned enough in politics and diplomacy never to stand between a young person and their ice cream. (Laughter.) So I’m going to be pretty brief here I promise you.

But I want to say thank you to all of you, and I want to say thank you to on behalf of the President of the United States, on behalf of the entire State Department and all of our senior leadership. And I really want to say thank you on behalf of the American people. We are living in an extraordinarily complicated world today. It’s very different from the world that – Cold War, which I grew up in. It’s even different from the 1990s and the exuberance after the fall of the Berlin Wall and this incredible bursting energy as people who have been quashed for years suddenly smelled freedom and lived freedom.

But now forces have been released that are challenging all of us. Globalization is one of them. No politician, no leader could conceivably put globalization back into the bottle no matter how hard they tried, can’t do it. Because people now are in touch with people everywhere. That’s what’s happened in these incredible 15 years. I rewrote, together with other members of the committee that I was chairman of the subcommittee, we wrote the telecommunications law back in 1995, ’96. By the time the ink was dry on the President’s signature, the law was outdated because the law was all about how you manage telephones. And boom, within months it was data, the movement of data on the internet. And back then you had a very few number of companies. Name them, I mean, Google and Yahoo and AOL and a few of those, et cetera, until today unbelievable numbers of companies, unbelievably how we take for granted every day moving around, looking at our smart phone, our mobile device, working this way in this new world. Well, so does everybody else.

Kids in Africa are running around with smart phones. They don’t have a job, they may not get an education, but they’ve got a smart phone. And they can go in and tune into how people are living everywhere else in the world and they want it. When I went to Kyiv a few months ago during the upheaval, I was really struck by a guy who came up to me when I was down on the Maidan walking down the street where the snipers had killed people and where there were flowers, unbelievable memorials that had been put together. And still barricades and tires and bedposts, and all the detritus that had come out to protect these people.

And a guy came up to me and said, “I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for coming. I was in Australia two weeks ago, and I saw what was happening in my country, and I came back here to be part of this change because I saw how people lived in Australia, and I said, ‘We have to be able to live like that, too.’”

That’s the aspiration that’s breaking out all over the world, but in too many countries, you have failed governments, you have failing governments, you have an absence of the ability of these people to participate and make their voices heard. And so we’re living in an era – a tectonic shift, a moment of extraordinary change. And our interests are at stake everywhere.

That’s what I want to reinforce in you. There’s no us and them, over there, over here, and you’re safe. We’re all connected to what’s going on. Terrorists in Syria today, in Iraq today are thinking about how they can hurt people in London or Paris or Berlin or even in the United States. And they don’t offer anything else to their people. They’re not offering an education plan, they’re not offering – well, actually, it’s do what we tell you. Read one book and that’s it, and you live by it. But they’re not offering a broad-based set of opportunities and education. They don’t talk about building their country, they don’t have healthcare, nothing. That’s what we’re struggling with.

And so what we do in each of our embassies is absolutely critical to helping people to tap into and understand our values and to be thoughtful about the choices in life itself. There are few jobs where you get to get up in the morning and go to work and know that you are working in as big an enterprise as – it has a universally aspired to set of principles and values, where you can feel like you’re making a difference changing somebody’s life.

No matter what you do in this embassy, whether you are Foreign Service, Civil Service, local employee, political appointee, you are an ambassador. And the people you meet on a daily basis may be the only – it’s conceivable particularly in other countries, not necessarily so much in London, but in plenty of places, that encounter may be the only encounter that person will ever have with an American or with somebody who works with Americans. And they’ll get a sense of who we are, how we behave, how we treat them, what we do, how quickly we can help them, if we help them at all.

So I thank you for doing this. And for those of you young guys who are here, I’ll tell you I was 11 years old when my dad packed up and we went off to Berlin, Germany after the war, and I was the son of a Foreign Service officer, and I got to know what it was like to pack and move and leave school and leave my friends and come back and go to another place. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was great. And you all should not think for an instant you’re missing anything anywhere.

The rest of your lives you’ll look back and say, “Wow, I had these great opportunities.” And you’ll learn a language, you’ll see another culture, you’ll travel, you’ll have a sense of history. So I just say thank you to your parents, thank you to all of you for being part of a great family, and I can promise you as long as I am Secretary of State we will do everything in my power to represent you, protect your interests, protect our embassies, make sure we are doing things that make sense and that advance the interests and the values of the United States of America. On behalf of President Obama, thank you all very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)



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