SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you so much. On behalf of myself, my wife Evan Ryan, welcome, welcome, welcome. Welcome to the State Department. Welcome to the Benjamin Franklin Room. It is so good to see this room full again. It’s been a while, and it’s especially so good to see it filled with so many friends and colleagues.
So, there’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now I’m trying to calculate how many words we’re up to tonight. (Laughter.) But it was really a pleasure to get a chance to at least say hello to every single one of you.
Now, some of you have been to these receptions many, many times over, with many secretaries of state. The dean of the Diplomatic Corps – where’s the dean? Ambassador Kyota, where are you?
AMBASSADOR KYOTA: Right here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mr. Ambassador, you have served in this role since 1997, the longest serving ambassador to the United States. (Applause.)
Now, for others, this might be your first time in these Diplomatic Reception Rooms, but welcome to one and all. It really is a pleasure, and more than that a privilege, to host an incredibly distinguished group of diplomats and friends. We’re joined, as I think some of you have seen, by senior officials at the State Department, including our two outstanding deputy secretaries, Wendy Sherman, Brian McKeon. Wendy, Brian, thank you. (Applause.)
We have other senior officials from the Biden administration here with us tonight, including our Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the Acting Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy Alondra Nelson. We’re grateful for their participation this evening, and it says something important.
They’re here and other colleagues are here because now more than ever the broad array of issues that they work on, that we work on, draw upon our relationships with other countries. It’s true across our entire administration. On everything from tech standards to infrastructure to environmental policy to growing a strong workforce, we’re able to do so much more when we do it in partnership with others. That is the foundational premise that President Biden brings to our foreign policy, brings to our diplomacy.
And of course, when it comes to the urgent challenges that we face, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s climate, whether it’s trying to build a more equitable global economy, we know this simple truth: No single one of us can do it effectively alone. We need to be working together. We need to build cooperation. We need to strengthen cooperation. And that’s what we’re intent on doing.
President Biden said on day one that our foreign policy would lead with diplomacy. We’ve invested a lot in our bilateral relationships, in our alliances and partnerships, in regional and global institutions, where so much of this vital work takes place. I’m personally grateful to every one of the Diplomatic Corps for taking up this mission with us, doing it together.
This is your life’s work. It’s our life’s work. And you know the power of partnership better than anyone on Earth. Your missions here in the United States are dedicated to building stronger ties between our countries, to helping us address differences that arise, to work together on all that brings us together and all that has to bring us together if we’re going to meet the challenges of our time.
I also want to say that your missions make a huge contribution to the cultural life of our city, Washington, D.C. My wife Evan Ryan was the assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs during the Obama administration here at the State Department. We’re big believers in the power of culture to connect people across languages, across borders, and Washington is uniquely lucky to be home to diplomats from around the world who are helping also to share their countries’ music, art, food, language, history, culture with all of us. This city is so much richer and more interesting for your presence and everything that you do every day, so my thanks to you for that.
Now, hanging on the wall over there is a portrait of Ben Franklin. He, of course, was America’s very first diplomat. He served on a commission to France, charged with gaining French support for American independence. Sorry, Karen. I know you’re here somewhere. (Laughter.)
Now, if you’re wondering whether he succeeded, there is a desk over in the John Quincy Adams Room where the treaty ending the Revolutionary War was signed in Paris in 1783. Mr. Franklin became something of a pop cultural icon in France, at the time. Images of him wearing a fur cap instead of a wig, like many European dignitaries did, was printed on everything from rings to medallions to snuffboxes. He charmed the French with his wit, with his good humor; he made possible some extraordinary diplomatic feats, including France’s official recognition of the United States as an independent country.
So, I think it’s appropriate that he watches over us this evening, because no one knew better than Mr. Franklin the power of personal engagement, relationship building, and simply having a good time together. As he said, and I quote, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better [person].”
So thank you all for joining us this evening in the spirit of peace, in the spirit of friendship, in the spirit of diplomacy, and welcome again to the State Department. Please, enjoy yourselves. Thank you. (Applause.)