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MR GREUBEL:  Those were our LE staff, they were not professionals.  They should be professionals, but they were an embassy staff.  (Applause.)

Izumi and I welcome you and all of our honored guests to U.S. Embassy Suva.  I wish to especially thank our FSNA president, Laisani, and our – Laisani, please raise your hand – (applause) – and our honor guard for this memorable and traditional Fijian welcome.

Our local staff are so excited and honored to perform for you on the occasion of this historic visit.  Our American staff and family members are so proud to serve the United States in this increasingly geostrategic region of the globe.  Your visit reinforces the importance of the Pacific Islands and our jobs.

Again, welcome, and bula, Mr. Secretary.

Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Blinken.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I am quite literally at a loss for words.  We’ve had a few greetings in the last year at missions around the world, but I think that really takes the cake.

I was tempted to say welcome to a typical morning at the State Department, that’s how we start the day.  (Laughter.)  But the truth is thank you, and that will stay with – I think – stay with all of us for a long time.

And to each and every one of you, to the locally employed staff, the performers, for that sevusevu and meke.  Amazing.

Tony, it’s great to be with you.  Thank you so much for your leadership of this mission at what is not just a critical time, but I think a time of incredible opportunity I wanted to try to and underscore by being here today.  But you’re carrying forward with this team, with all of you, that work every single day.

It was striking to me, as I mentioned, that it has been a little while since someone in my position has been here.  You have to go back to Secretary Shultz nearly four decades ago.  But I’m here for a very clear purpose:  the Indo-Pacific, is simply, going to write the story of the 21st century.  Fiji is a big part of that.  It has been and remains a remarkable force in the region itself with the Pacific Island Forum, with the University of the South Pacific, the regional mission of the IMF, and as we were talking about just a little while ago, remarkable leadership role on climate on the world stage, the first country to ratify Paris.  It has a strong voice.  And as a result, the work that each and every one of you is doing every day is not only helping to magnify that voice; it’s helping to build a stronger, deeper partnership between the United States and Fiji, and as a result as well between the United States and the entire region.

And as I said, we really see the future as being here – 60 percent of global GDP, 50 percent of the world’s population.  The future is here.  And as a result of the work that you’re doing, the future is now.  And I’m grateful for it.

You’re supporting local organizations to help lead an economy recovery after what has been and remains an incredibly challenging time.  You’re building mentorship programs for women entrepreneurs and making a difference and helping people find a way to make a difference in their lives.  The work that’s being done to boost cyber security awareness here at the embassy, all our partners in Fiji and civil society, training officials to fight human trafficking.  And of course, throughout, you’ve been doing this in the context of COVID, quarantine, curfews, pain and suffering, and the loss of loved ones, extreme weather.  I’ve heard about the extraordinary history of the cyclone season, volcanic eruption.

But through all of it, I really wanted to say thank you, because you’ve done it with incredible resilience, you’ve done it by sticking together, you’ve done it by having each other’s backs.  And it’s not lost on any of us, even though we’re a distance away, what you’ve done, how you’re doing it.  And I really wanted to stop by and say thank you for doing it so well and so effectively.

What really strikes me as I’ve had the opportunity to go from embassy to embassy around the world in this time of COVID, is this common denominator that I’m seeing of people caring for each other, having each other’s backs, collecting food and supplies, finances to support those who are in need, getting vaccinated to protect one another – 100 percent vaccination in this embassy by June of 2021.  And I want to say a special thanks to the medical unit here.  You’ve done such a remarkable job.  Andrea, Emily, Reapi, I think – I’m not sure if you’re here this evening, but I really want to thank you for everything you’ve done to make sure that this team, this mission, is safe and protected.

And thank you as well to the Foreign Service National Association, led by Laisani, a big part of community life here at the embassy, and of course, this truly remarkable local staff.  We find talent in all sorts of ways.  This was, again, almost overwhelming.  I really want to thank you for sharing that with me tonight.

But I also want to recognize a few people for their extraordinary service and partnership with us:   Kesaia Tauilagi, 33 years of service to the embassy; Jiva, 32 years; Iane Rigamoto, 31 years of service.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything that you’ve done building the partnership between our countries.

And let me just say to all of you, whether you are Foreign Service, Civil Service, locally employed staff, family, colleagues from USAID and other partnered and sister agencies, the Peace Corps:  thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you’re doing every single day to build this relationship, to do it so well, to do it so effectively, to do it in this challenging time.  As we say, “We’re from the Federal Government, we’re here to help.”  I’m here to say thank you.

I know how much work goes into these visits.  It often seems to those of us on the receiving end of all your work that everything is incredibly smooth.  We never see all the churn that goes on underneath the – underneath it all.  But I know that it’s there and it happens.  And mostly, I want to say to you have a really, really great wheels-up party when we take off.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, everyone.  (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

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