Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Ambassador Daniel B. Smith as Director of the Foreign Service Institute
He came to the State Department with prior experience in senior positions at the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and Justice, and is a good friend of and frequent visitor to FSI where he regularly speaks to the ambassadorial seminar and at other events.
We also appreciate his willingness to participate in other events organized by FSI, such as this morning he swore in the latest class of brand new civil servants. And that is proof of his commitment, I believe, to our workforce and to the future of the State Department.
It is therefore my distinct pleasure to ask Deputy Secretary Sullivan to take the microphone. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Julieta, for that kind introduction. And good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be back at FSI. I was here just earlier this week for the ambassadorial seminar, which is – just started this week. Marc was there, Marc Ostfield. And I want to begin by honoring him. He’s been the deputy director and acting director of FSI for five-plus years and has done an outstanding job here at this institution delivering world-class training to the women and men of the Department of State. He’s expertly modeled the dedication, team-first attitude, and integrity that we expect of all of our officers. So for that, thank you, Marc. (Applause.)
It would take far more time than we have here today to list everything that Marc has achieved here at FSI, but I think it can be summarized and highlighted with one particular recent event. A few weeks ago, FSI received the prestigious W. Edwards Deming Award for the development of FSI’s educational policies and standards. These guidelines developed under Marc’s leadership are already strengthening instruction at FSI for the benefit of all State Department employees.
FSI was one of only three recipients from among numerous state, federal, and local government organizations to win this award. And I know that the Secretary was excited about this news. In fact, he wrote, and I quote, “Good stuff,” exclamation point – (laughter) – in all caps on the memo that went to him about this. So praise from Caesar, praise indeed.
So I know Marc will do equally impressive work in his next role as the Department’s ombudsman and in continuing his career of service to the United States here at the Department. So please, everyone, join me in welcoming Marc to the podium. (Applause.)
MR OSTFIELD: Thank you, Deputy Secretary Sullivan, for the kind remarks. I’ve had the honor of introducing you on multiple occasions, so I'm very pleased that I can return the favor now. I’d note that the accomplishments you cited actually belong to the 1,500-strong team here at FSI. And today it is my turn to say thank you.
You, the staff of FSI, are what kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day I learned from you. You made me a better leader. You made me a better person. Each day here, I witness the fundamental optimism that belongs to everyone who is an educator. I think of it as the educator’s creed, and that is educators always believe things can be improved. After five years leading FSI, I know that the beating heart of this organization is our commitment to that ideal, to making the Department’s workforce stronger and more effective.
If I had told you five years ago that FSI would win multiple national awards, create industry-standard educational policies, expand overseas language training in the Middle East and now in Mexico, establish an innovative lab for cutting-edge technology, become the first department site to deploy WiFi facility-wide, open a language training building in Rosslyn, transform our cafeteria (laughter), and establish centers for lessons learned in resilience, you might have said that our sights were set a little too high, but that’s what we did. Or correction, that’s what you did. You were the change. You championed new approaches and you made it all happen, and because of you, FSI is a better, stronger, more inclusive place than it was when we started.
Journalist Ronan Farrow has called FSI “Hogwarts for diplomats.” It’s fanciful, but the magic that’s here is in all of you, and I’m so pleased that Ambassador Dan Smith will now be part of and leading that magic.
There are so many people I want to thank and I apologize in advance if I omit some, but I’m going to briefly cite some folks who have made a real difference here. Thank you to Ambassadors Wanda Nesbitt and Julieta Noyes, who are my partners, alter egos, sounding boards, advisors, and friends in leading FSI for the past 18 months.
Thank you to FSI’s senior leadership team that have made every policy more thoughtful, every decision better and every meeting more enjoyable with lots of laughs.
Thank you across FSI to the creators and implementers of FSI training in languages, diplomacy, IT tradecraft, leadership and transitions. You show us every day what excellence looks like.
Thank you to the educational policy team that we created. You are FSI’s conscience, catalyst, coordinator and cheerleader, with persuasion and partnership as your tools. I am inspired by what you do.
Thank you to the too-often unsung team in our executive office, our EX. You make this place run. Rooms are set up, contracts established, bills paid, systems repaired, videos produced, courses registered and people hired. Thanks to what you do behind the scenes. You make the rest of us look darn good.
To the front office team that I work with constantly, you embody warmth, camaraderie, humor and skill. Many of you know that I’ve been an active volunteer firefighter for the last 23 years and I always thought that I’d never work with a team that’s as tightly knit as the crew on my fire department. I was wrong. The very tiny but tough team in the FSI front office gives new meaning to the concept of taking care of one another.
And finally, to Marylou Bothwell, senior policy coordinator and chief of staff who have been my close advisor and confidant for more than five years: Any successes I’ve achieved are equally hers. Any mistakes are mine probably because I didn’t heed her counsel. (Laughter.)
So the only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done together is the thought of the remarkable things that you’ll all achieve going forward. That’s why I leave FSI today even more optimistic about this institution than I was when I arrived. U.S. foreign policy makes the world fairer, healthier, safer, more just and more prosperous, and your commitment to that mission shines through in all that you do.
It’s been an honor to work with you and I won’t stop. In fact, from my role as ombudsman and for whatever next steps I make within the department, I will be right there with you promoting the kind of training that truly makes a difference.
A while back, someone at FSI told me that every time I deliver a speech at FSI, I quote either a famous philosopher or a Broadway musical. (Laughter.) Kierkegaard or A Chorus Line, Heidegger or Hello Dolly! or Hamilton. They’re probably right. I’ve probably done that every time. Well, today I shall cite a different kind of philosopher to sum up how I feel. To quote the always-wise Winnie the Pooh – (laughter) – “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” With hope for the future and overflowing with gratitude, I close with the two most worthwhile words in the English language: Thank you. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Marc. As a sign of the Department’s appreciation and respect for your service, I’d like to present you with this American flag that has flown over FSI. (Applause.)
Thank you. And now it’s my honor to celebrate a changing of the guard here at the top of FSI by recognizing another model leader, Ambassador Dan Smith.
A career Foreign Service officer, Dan has served in the Department of State since 1983. Among his many roles, he has been our – most recently our assistant secretary for intelligence and research, ambassador to Greece, where I am told – and I am relying on staff for this, that his staff at post gave him the nickname, quote, “Ambassador Wonderful,” unquote. (Laughter.) That’s pretty good. He has also served as the executive secretary of the Department, as well as overseas in Bern, Istanbul, Ottawa, and Stockholm.
I would also like to add that this past September, following Secretary Pompeo’s recommendation, the United States Senate and President Trump bestowed upon Dan the rank of career ambassador.
This is the highest and most prestigious rank the Foreign Service offers. Not bad for a guy who took the Foreign Service exam on a whim in graduate school.
Dan is the right person to head FSI because of the level of respect he has earned from his peers and colleagues. I know this from personal experience. Both my prior boss, Secretary Tillerson and current boss, Secretary Pompeo, have relied on Dan in many different situations for his guidance, his judgment, and I have in particular been rewarded by relying on him in so many different circumstances for his judgment in difficult situations.
And I have – we have solicited from his colleagues comments on Dan’s service, and one colleague notes, quote, “When Dan was exec sec, I never saw him miss an event, big or small, from a bureau-wide awards ceremony to a retirement party for a cleaning lady,” unquote. Another said, quote, “He’s been a champion of a diverse workforce in the State Department, especially in the leadership ranks,” unquote.
And Dan believes, as Secretary Pompeo does, that the rich knowledge and expertise of all our employees must undergird our mission of advancing America’s interests and values abroad.
I’m also pleased to announce that the new deputy director of FSI is Ambassador Julieta Noyes, our host today – (applause) – a career Foreign Service officer who has been the acting deputy director since January.
Most recently, she served as ambassador to the Republic of Croatia. She, too, has held a range of other domestic and overseas positions during her 30-plus years with the Department. And by the way, I’m married to a Cubana, so we have – (laughter) – we have the Latin relationship as well. Congratulations, Julieta. (Applause.)
Ambassador Smith and Ambassador Noyes share Secretary Pompeo’s vision of a workforce with the highest level of training, professionalism, and integrity in the world. They will execute Secretary Pompeo’s mission of taking FSI to a level it has never been before. Secretary Pompeo believes that as the complexity of the challenges we face as a nation have grown, we must expand FSI’s ability to deliver world-class training and support to our employees and their families. FSI will be at the center of a true long-term reinvestment in the Department’s talent. We must ensure that the Department’s team can meet the needs of the American people well into the future.
Let me speak specifically about the professional ethos of the Department that the Secretary has in mind. Ambassador Smith and FSI have a critical task. They are responsing for – responsible for introducing to new employees and reinforcing for all employees, for all of us, the professional standards we expect for everyone at the State Department. The Secretary will be speaking more comprehensively about this topic in the near future, but for now I’d like to share some principles that he’s begun to articulate.
First, teamwork is essential to effective diplomacy. Personal disagreements and private agendas should never get in the way of the public good, and the distinctions of Foreign Service, Civil Service, political appointee, et cetera should not matter when there is a job to be done. We must be one team concentrated on one mission toward one future for the people of the United States.
Second, being a team player means placing fidelity to the Department’s mission above adherence to one’s own policy preferences. We all need to carry out the mission, whatever the task may be. If you have substantial disagreements over what you are being asked to do, go through the authorized channels to address them. Keep at the forefront of your mind the 325 million Americans who are depending on you, on us. Wherever you serve and whatever your role, measure your success by how well you advance the nation’s interests.
Third, your attitude, your bearing, your character – not your pay grade – is the true mark of professionalism. I encourage everyone in the Department to embody integrity and accountability in your work, show respect to everyone, and adopt a servant-leadership mentality that’ll surely pay dividends for our team, the Department, and the United States. Remember those who have – you admire who have shaped you professionally and emulate their best qualities.
Finally, everyone goes through tough times at work sooner or later, but when you do, remember that it is a privilege to represent the greatest nation in the world, to serve your fellow Americans. When you come to work each day, look up at that American flag. Be proud that our flag, with all it stands for, flies above you as you carry out the mission of our department and our country.
So before I administer the Oath of Office to Dan as the next leader of FSI, I would like to present Ambassador Smith with a token of the importance of his role in leading FSI. This is a small statue of America’s very first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin. When you see it, I hope you will remember Franklin’s words about education, which are as true today as when he said them: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn” unquote.
Dan, I know that you will ably lead the training and professional development of all our employees of the Department of State and our partners, following in that tradition.
AMBASSADOR NOYES: The deputy secretary will now administer the Oath of Office. Could we ask Ambassador Smith’s family to join us up front?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Diane and Troy, I want to thank you for your support to Ambassador Smith. I know how important family is to all of us and to particularly to those who serve in the Foreign Service, so thank you.
AMBASSADOR SMITH: Thank you, sir.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Now the Oath.
(The Oath of Office is administered.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Congratulations.
AMBASSADOR SMITH: Thank you, sir.
AMBASSADOR SMITH: Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary Sullivan. Counselor Brechbuhl, Under Secretary-designate Brian Bulatao, I think we invited some members of the Senate. I hope that they will note that one of the key priorities of the Secretary is to have our under secretary for management confirmed as quickly as possible. (Laughter.) It is a priority for all of us, I will note.
Distinguished guests, family, friends, colleagues, thank you for coming here today. The Foreign Service Institute has earned an outstanding reputation over the past 70 years as the center of training and professional development for the Department of State and the foreign affairs community. I want to second the deputy secretary’s praise for Marc Ostfield’s strong leadership of FSI and especially his work to develop and implement FSI’s Educational Policies and Standards. In the past few years, FSI has won seven industry awards for excellence in innovation, use of technology, collaboration, leadership, and human capital management.
As the twenty-first director of the Foreign Service Institute, I want to build on those successes and make FSI even stronger. That means delivering the best possible training to all of the Department’s employees, whether Foreign Service, Civil Service, locally employed staff or non-career, as well as for employees of other agencies. It also means providing support for our vital eligible family members.
Above all, however, it means valuing the contributions of everyone who works at FSI regardless of their employment category, whether Foreign or Civil Service or contractor, and treating everyone with the respect and courtesy they deserve.
Like most Foreign Service officers, the first day of my career literally began at FSI, though not on this lovely campus of the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, I will note. My introduction to the State Department and the Foreign Service was in the famous “A-100” course then held in Rosslyn. I just want to note in the “small world” category that the instructor in that course at the time was Kathy Peterson, who herself, as many of you in this audience know, later became the director of the Foreign Service Institute. She was a terrific role model for all of the new FSOs. I then went on to take “ConGen Rosslyn,” our consular training course, and six months in Swedish language training. To my Swedish language instructors – I know they have long retired – Jag talar svenska. (Laughter.)
I was struck then and have been enormously impressed ever since by the dedication and professionalism of those who taught those courses, and indeed of all those from FSI with whom I’ve had the pleasure of coming into contact over the years.
The Foreign Service Institute is a tremendous asset for the entire foreign affairs community. Both Secretary Pompeo and Deputy Secretary Sullivan have made crystal clear their strong support for training and professional development, and have recognized the critical role that FSI will play in ensuring we provide all of our employees with the knowledge and skills they will need to carry out our vital mission on behalf of the American people. As the Deputy Secretary has emphasized, we must be guided by the vision of one team, one mission, one future.
I want to thank the Deputy Secretary for taking time out of his busy schedule to join us here today. I think he’s devoted more time to FSI today than anything else. He also did some press interviews with me earlier today. We also look forward to welcoming again the Secretary to the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. He has been out here and he sends his regrets for not being able to be here today.
To succeed in our mission, we must deliver training that is effective, relevant and impactful, and deliver that training to people who are literally all over the world. We need to draw lessons from the public and private sectors, and I’m glad to see so many of our partners here in the audience today, as well as academia, and ensure that we deliver a world-class standard of training. We need to work closely with partners at higher educational institutions as well as other U.S. Government agencies and training centers. And we need to draw on the goodwill and support we have from many veterans of the State Department, both career and non-career.
I’m delighted that we are joined here today not just by the terrific team here at FSI, but also by so many colleagues and friends in the Department of State who made the trek out on what was supposed to be a very rainy day. One of my first actions when I arrive on FSI’s campus next week will be to plant what was described as a sapling but is clearly an enormous tree behind me. (Laughter.) I’m thinking this will take an entire day, so we’ll see. This will help beautify FSI’s lovely campus and it will also serve as a symbol of the ever-growing and developing nature of the training we provide here.
I want to thank my new deputy, Ambassador Julieta Noyes, and the terrific leadership team here at FSI for all the work they have done and will continue to do to help ensure that we prepare our foreign affairs team to deliver on the State Department’s critical mission: advancing our nation’s interests and representing the American people abroad.
Finally, I want to acknowledge my wife Diane and my son Troy – my youngest son Troy – who are here today. Like all of you, I would not be able to accomplish anything without their love and support. Thank you all for coming and now let’s get to work. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Dan, for those remarks and again, thank you Diane and Troy for being such great support to Ambassador Smith. This is a proud day for the Department of State. On behalf of Secretary Pompeo and the entire department, I want to thank you for taking this critical post, Dan. I encourage everyone who walks through the doors of FSI to embrace a lifelong commitment to training and the highest professional standards of American diplomacy. With Ambassador Smith at the helm, we’re in good hands to accomplish this. Thank you. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR NOYES: Ambassador Smith and Dr. Ostfield will be remaining behind for anyone who may wish to come and say hello or farewell. And with that, we thank again the Deputy Secretary for his presence and all of our invited guests for joining us. And that concludes today’s ceremony. Thank you so much. (Applause.)