Well, I am delighted to see all of you. I’m sorry this is one of the shortest visits on record to The Hague, but I appreciate you coming out at the end of the day to say hello. And thank you for not only that introduction but the coffee advice, which I’ve followed faithfully ever since. (Laughter.)
I am delighted to have a chance to come by and thank you in person for the work that you do every day. I just hope that my visit and the preparations for it hasn’t interfered your (inaudible) festivities. (Laughter.)
This landmark building here in The Hague – even, I was told, on one of the stamps, the postal stamps from the Netherlands – has been a great home. But I know that you’ll be moving on to a new building at some point. We were just discussing when ground would be broken. But it really represents our enduring commitment to this relationship. And I want to thank your chargé and DCM. Edwin, thank you for quickly picking up where you left off. Ned’s wearing lots of different hats right now, but they all seem to fit him pretty well.
And I want to congratulate Mieke Gronheid and Jan Sluiter and Charles Woolley on their upcoming retirements. Together, they – where are they, if they’re here? (Applause.) Together, they’ve given more than 100 years of service – (laughter) – to the United States Government and to this relationship between our companies. And they really – not companies, our countries. (Laughter.) And they really do – they do a lot of work for companies too, though. (Laughter.) They really do represent the quality of our local employed staff here at Embassy The Hague, and I wish you all the very best as you go into a new chapter of your life.
That’s what’s so special about these embassy families. We have, as Ned said, good cross-section of the United States Government here from a number of different agencies, and then we have locally employed staff. And of course, we have the families that support you all that are really at the heart of this mission. And I can’t thank them – they’re not here in person – but I want you to please do so for me.
This relationship is one of our oldest and best. When it comes to our top priorities, we’re either right side-by-side or we’re running to catch up with the Dutch. And for 400 years, it’s been that kind of partnership and friendship. I was delighted when the Prince of Orange and his wife were in Manhattan last year – maybe it was the year before, I can’t remember – to see the replica of the Half Moon passing by on the Hudson River to remind us.
And I got a list of some of the things that you’ve been doing to really keep moving that relationship forward. I was told just last month you brought young African American musicians to conduct classical music workshops and concerts in minority schools in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, giving some children the first time they’d ever been to a live concert, or certainly seen and heard classical musicians.
You invited Dutch high school and college students to participate in a dialogue with U.S. speakers and young Afghans. And you have done a lot with creative programming and modern technology.
Now, thanks to your diplomatic efforts, we have learned that the Dutch Government has contributed $2 million to the Global Cookstove Alliance. That’s a high priority for us because it has the potential to save countless lives as well as improve the environment. And we know that many of you have, and are serving, in some of the most challenging posts, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Because in addition to the five who are there now, this has been a (inaudible) rotation for a lot of our people here.
Now, just last week, which seem to be the case – I run into people from this Embassy everywhere – I met your former coworker, Erin Webster-Main and her three-year-old son, Toby, while I was visiting the mission in Burma. And Toby broke his leg; he’s now wearing a cast, and so his mother wanted me to sign the cast. And as the child of a true diplomat, he negotiated for a while. (Laughter.) He had to decide where and then he had to say, “Only one word,” so he got “Hillary,” and that was it. (Laughter.) But it was a reminder of the interconnectedness amongst the entire State Department family, from one post to the next.
So I wish you a very happy holiday season, and I hope that you will be enjoying your time here, and those of you who get leave, wherever that might lead you to. So again, Ned, thanks so much for picking up from our ambassador who had to leave, and thanks so much for doing such a great job. And thanks to all of you for the same.
Thank you. (Applause.)