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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  This is really a remarkable space.  First of all, I remember when I was last at State and some of these efforts were in a more nascent stage.  It’s particularly wonderful and powerful to see what you’ve done, both with the Access Center and just the deployment of technology, the training that’s being done for people, making the workforce aware of what’s actually available.

It’s not totally fortuitous that we’re here today.  This is the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark achievement in our country.  It’s made a huge difference over these many years, and I think with all of you there are really two things that we’re trying to do.  One is to make good on that here within our department as well as in our missions throughout the world, but another is to do that through our diplomacy, to make sure through the incredible work that Sara Minkara is doing as our envoy for international disability rights that we are carrying that message in our work around the world.

And one of the things that’s been hugely important to me as part of my own agenda is making sure that we are generally – genuinely building a department that reflects the entirety of our country and brings to bear the contributions that every American can and wishes to make to our foreign policy and to government.  And to have a genuinely inclusive workplace, diverse workplace, equitable workplace – that doesn’t happen without accessibility, and that’s what you all have done so, so wonderfully.

I believe, according to the latest numbers I’ve seen, about 15 percent of our workforce is an American with a disability, and so by definition we have to be doing exactly what you’re doing to drive making sure that we have the technology, we have the policies in place, so that they can fully contribute.  And I’m really, really very, very glad to see this here today, and then Sara, your work around the world makes a big, big difference.  But it helps a lot if we are leading to some extent with the power of our example.  And so when we can say as you’re going around the world, as we’re going around the world, that this is what we’re doing in our own department at home, I think it helps us make the case in other countries.

So really, I’m just very – more than pleased, I’d say even moved to see some of this, because I know it’s been a long time in the making.  I’m grateful to you for your leadership, the whole team here in doing this, and thank you for sharing it.  To Raj, to you, Sara, to everyone, thank you, thank you, thank you.  And Marcia, I know how important this is for the entire workforce and the leadership.  I’m glad that this is something that you’re really paying attention to and making sure that we’re continuing to move forward on, so thank you all very much.

I really appreciate our colleagues from the media being here today because it’s important for us to send this message.  I hope that we’re doing everything we can to set the right example, but mostly to make sure that we genuinely have an inclusive work environment that draws on the talents of every American who wants to contribute.  So thank you all very much.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future