ASSISTANT SECRETARY SMITH: Good morning. On behalf of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Diplomatic Security Service, welcome. This is the 21st year of the United – of the U.S. Department of State’s participation in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. We are honored to have U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Brigadier General Len Anderson, commanding general of the 4th Marine Air Wing division and his wife, Mrs. Anderson, with us today. Their presence shows the commitment of both organizations to brightening the lives of children during this holiday season.
Toys for Tots is special in the hearts of Diplomatic Security Service colleagues because of the close relationship over the years between our organization and the U.S. Marine Corps. We honor in particular the valor of the Marine security guards who protect our embassies and consulates throughout the world.
During his remarks in Mission Nigeria at the staff meeting in November of this year, Secretary Blinken recognized this important relationship, stating that we have a special bond with the Marines in the State Department. Every single embassy that you go into around the world, if you’re an American citizen walking into that embassy, the first person you’re likely to see is a United States Marine. We cannot do our jobs without you and we’re grateful every single day.
And what better way for the U.S. Department of State to recognize this important relationship than to do so on behalf of the children and the Toys for Tots campaign. Throughout the years, the department has been a leader among our federal agency counterparts in supporting this program. And judging from the toys that I’m seeing over here, I can – I’m pleased to confirm that the U.S. Department of State has maintained its leadership.
It’s my honor to present Secretary Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very, very much, and good morning, everyone. Gentry, thank you both for the introduction, but especially for your leadership every single day of the Diplomatic Security Bureau, working tirelessly to keep our people safe around the world, and I am the – one of the primary beneficiaries of your incredible work. I’m also incredibly impressed that you gave up your own bicycle for the – for this. (Laughter.) So thank you for that.
Brigadier General Anderson, thank you so much for representing the Marines today, and to domestic security officers Byron Harley, Allen Finley, all that you did to help coordinate Toys for Tots here at the State Department. And I think as we’ll see a little later, there’s been terrific participation and support from the department.
I’ve got to say, this event is almost certainly going to be the highlight of my day, probably my week, maybe even my month.
Every year during the holidays, the State Department employees donate gifts to kids across the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, through the U.S. Marine Corps’ national Toys for Tots program.
I think the program says a lot about the character of the Marines. You’re some of the toughest people in the world. You also have huge, huge hearts. You want to make sure that no child feels left behind, left out, forgotten during the holidays, and that parents or grandparents who need it can get a little bit of help. Millions of children have received toys through Toys for Tots going back to 1947. It is a terrific program, and I have to say we are very proud here at the State Department to be able to support it.
Diplomatic Security has organized annual donation drives for Toys for Tots going back more than two decades, so we’ve done a little math. By our estimate, State Department employees here in Washington have donated more than 40,000 gifts for kids in our communities. And every year, our uniformed protection officers coordinate their own fundraiser to buy bikes for Toys for Tots. So this is literally a department-wide commitment, and I’m grateful to every single one of you who participated in it.
We know Toys for Tots can have a lasting impact well beyond one Christmas, one holiday season. Ratheone Mitchell received gifts from Toys for Tots for a few years of his own childhood, and he says, and I quote, “All I wanted was the little green men, the green tanks… maybe some Ninja Turtles. Being able to get those gifts restored my hope.” Then Ratheone grew up, joined the Marine Corps, rose to the rank of gunnery sergeant, and now he coordinates Toys for Tots in the program at Selfridge Air Force – Air National Guard Base, excuse me, in Michigan.
So that’s one reason this program has thrived over the decades, because those tots grow up, and they grow up and keep the joy and hope going for the next generation.
And just to echo very briefly what Gentry said, we do have – the State Department does have a special relationship with the Marines that goes back more than 200 years. And as Gentry noted, as I’ve noted before, indeed the first person you often see going into any U.S. embassy anywhere in the world is a U.S. Marine. And that is a source, I know, of tremendous comfort for so many Americans as they travel the world and go into our embassies. And of course, our embassies couldn’t – literally couldn’t function without the security and protection offered by the Marines. So we have a partnership that goes back a long time and that thrives to this day, and we’re grateful for it. Simply put, no diplomat, no development worker could do their jobs without the Marines doing theirs.
So thank you all for your partnership. Thank you for your service. And thank you especially for your remarkable generosity to kids across the entire capital area.
And with that, General, over to you, and then we have a few toys to give out. Thank you.
BGEN ANDERSON: Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken. Great words. You reminded me of a few times that I’ve been overseas at a few of your locations, and you’re right – certainly an incredible partnership that we have. A no-fail mission for the Marines, of course, and yeah, as I mentioned with the assistant secretary with his recent travels as a place that I was – I was at locally. So thank you both for being here today.
The State Department, the number of donations that this group has brought to Toys for Tots has been incredible over the last years of partnership that Mr. Ryan mentioned earlier. So on behalf of Lieutenant General Bellon, the commander of the Marine Corps Reserve, thank you. Thank you to all that are here. We know you have an important mission to do outside our borders. To be able to have the opportunity to focus inside, take care of some children that are in need, and be able to have that present under the tree for them in the morning is really the mission of what we’re doing here at Toys for Tots.
I know some of you in the room are probably a little closer to remembering what it was like to be a child and wait for Christmas morning. It’s a distant memory for some of us others that are here. However, these toys will bring that same feeling back. If you can remember that pit in your stomach and what it was like to wake up Christmas morning, it’s more than just what we have here in the boxes and then the bikes and all the fantastic gifts that are here. It’s trying to replicate that feeling of Christmas morning, and you all are doing this here at the State Department.
We couldn’t thank you more for this. Over 8 million children last year were able to receive gifts via Toys for Tots, and we think that number is going to be even higher this year in 2021. So the American public steps up even during the times of pandemic, some of the tough times that kids are dealing with locally, and people really understand the Christmas spirit. So thank you to all. I appreciate it. Please, a round of applause for everybody that’s joining here today. Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SMITH: So on behalf of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Diplomatic Security Service, we’d like to thank the Secretary for his participation today along with Brigadier General Anderson. And for all of you all, we wish you Happy Holidays. And this concludes the program, thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great. Thank you.