Well, thank you, and I am so pleased to be here with all of you today to thank you. Thank you for the great support that you are giving to the important relationship between the United States and Cote d'Ivoire and the people of both of our countries. I know that 2011 was a challenging year, and I am so grateful by what you did during the course of this past year. I want to thank the Ambassador. Thank you very much, Phil, and Mrs. Carter, Amanda, thank you for your leadership. Thanks to all of you who are here today representing the team that is so important that is our country, our government, with people from every agency, and all of you here.
It was quite a year because it started with conflict and violence, but it ended with successful elections. And for most of you, that was a return to a more normal workday, which I know was very welcome. But even in the hardest of times, as the government ground to a halt, as roads were shut down, as the legally elected president was trapped in a hotel, the future of the country at risk, you kept going. And I especially want to thank the locally employed staff, all of the Ivoirians who came to work every day, who took the risks, who worried about your families. Thank you. Thank you for the example and the service you provided. (Applause.)
And thanks to our Foreign Service and Civil Service officers who kept working on the programs that we support here. You kept delivering the lifesaving AIDS drugs, you kept the cables coming so we could have a firsthand view of what was going on. We didn’t have to just read the news; we could get it directly from those of you who were on the ground living it and seeing it. And I know that despite impassable roads and personal risks, that did not keep Ambassador Carter or DCM Julia Stanley, who I see back there, and their team from doing whatever was required – meeting with government leaders, meeting with those who were trying to bring an end to the crisis.
You do outstanding work every day, not just through a crisis. I’m aware of that because I see the results. Thank you for the partnerships you’ve created with NGOs. Thank you for helping women and men start small businesses. Thank you for working with farmers to increase their productivity. Thank you for working with American businesses to bring more of our businesses here to this country. Thank you for fighting malaria and other diseases. Thank you for everything. And I know that many of you are without your children, and we’re going to try to do something about that. The Ambassador and I talked about this last night, and I will certainly report back to our team in Washington that other embassy families have brought their children back here, and I hope that we will be able to do that as well. (Applause.)
Now I understand that we have a few people here on their first tours. And no matter what anyone tells you, this is not quite a model. Not every first tour is so eventful. But what great experience from great leadership you have acquired. And I remember when I called in to talk to the Ambassador and to express my concern about all of you, I was so proud to know that I was talking to such a first-rate team, Americans and Ivoirians alike. I also know that our locally employed staff are here providing continuity, providing the knowledge that new ambassadors, new secretaries always need.
This is a critical time in Cote d'Ivoire’s history. I had excellent meetings today with members of the government, with, of course, the president, the prime minister, and others. The United States stands ready to be a good partner and a friend as you restore peace and security, pursue reconciliation, follow an agenda for economic and social development. We are optimistic about what the future will be for Cote d'Ivoire and for our partnership. Twenty-five years ago when another Secretary of State – the last time a Secretary of State came, it was George Shultz – arrived here, Cote d'Ivoire was the economic engine of West Africa. You will be again. I have no doubt about that. (Applause.)
So thank you for your service, thank you for your commitment to this important relationship, and now, I’d like to shake hands and thank you personally for everything you do. (Applause.)