MS QUINVILLE: Mr. Secretary, here and virtually, you have the community of mighty Mission Germany.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: All right. (Applause.)
MS QUINVILLE: This is our embassy and five consulates in Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, and Leipzig. We are 1,700 strong. We are Americans from across our government. We are Germans and folks from around the world who are resident here in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany. We are creative, committed, energetic, and flexible. In a crisis, we bend but never break.
When COVID hit, we knew it was going to define us as a community, so we were generous with each other. We shifted to a mix of home office and in-office work with remarkable grace. We accidentally met families and pets during our Zoom meetings, and we forgave each other our worst hair days. For the 16 months of sometimes-tough-to-take lockdown, we have stood six feet apart and still supported each other. And you will not find a better team to power our policy. So I am proud to be part of this extraordinary group.
Now, for mighty Mission Germany, please welcome Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you all so very, very much. Robin, I think you’ve summed it up better than I could. I’ve heard about mighty Mission Germany. Now I get to see mighty Mission Germany here on the screen, and to hear it also in your words. I am so grateful to have everyone or have so many of you together in this room, to get to meet face to face or maybe mask to mask, depending.
And I just can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of the work that you’ve been doing, the way that you’ve been doing it in a time of tremendous, tremendous challenge. And to your point, Robin, I think what we’ve seen here – and I’ve got to tell you, what we’ve seen in our missions around the world that I’ve had the privilege in these past couple of months to visit – we have seen exactly what you described, which is our teams, our people coming together, and six feet apart but standing together, continuing the work that you’re entrusted with. And I am truly grateful for that.
There are few more important places to be doing that then right here in Germany. I said yesterday that it’s hard to think of a better friend or a stronger partner to the United States. And we need those strong partners and those good friends. Everything that we’re doing on behalf of our fellow citizens back home, the challenges that they face, the things that are going to have a real impact on their lives, we can’t do it alone, certainly not as effectively.
And whether it’s the big issues of our time like dealing with this pandemic, climate change, disruptive impact of technology, to smaller day-in/day-out things, we know that even the United States can’t get the job done alone, that we benefit profoundly from working in coordination and cooperation with others. And to me, it’s a tremendous sense of strength and comfort to know that we have such a strong, committed partner in Germany. And that partnership, the day-in/day-out work of making it strong, building it, keeping it resilient – that’s exactly what all of you, each and every one of you, is doing every single day. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
We had a short but very, very good visit here in these last 24-plus hours, including a very, very productive meeting with Chancellor Merkel that I’m grateful for, a lot of time with my friend and a wonderful person, Heiko Maas, the foreign minister. You all saw that we took part of the important conference that Germany brought together on Libya and its future. And just now, just across the street, we launched the U.S.-Germany Dialogue on Holocaust Issues. That, in just a small way, captures the incredible breadth as well as the depth of what we’re doing together.
Robin, I know you are heading back home in just a few days, and I just want to salute your remarkable leadership these last 16 months at this mission. Thank you. (Applause.) With your very dynamic DCM, I think you’ve demonstrated what an incredibly powerful duo can do and get done with the remarkable team here at Mission Germany.
I do want to spend one more second just on the resilience that all of you showed during COVID. We are getting to the end of it. I know we’ve had – continue to have ups and downs, but we’re getting there. But I have some feeling and understanding for what these months of lockdowns and being closed in and quarantined and other restrictions have meant. And again, I just want to say thank you for doing, in so many different ways, big and small, what it took to keep morale high, to keep the mission going, to keep working on behalf of the American people, to take care of Americans here in Germany, just to keep the work of this mission going.
I heard about a couple of things that just struck me. And, again, we’re – when we’re doing a lot of this work we sometimes are talking in terms of big high-policy issues and strategic matters of one kind or another. But the human things have such a powerful impact too. So the mass community outreach initiative that I heard about handmade more than a thousand cloth masks donated to hospitals, to eldercare facilities, to refugee camps, to the Ronald McDonald House. I can’t begin to tell you how even that kind of gesture has a lasting, profound impact on people. That’s the human connection that you’re also making every single day.
Now, maybe on a more challenging note, I know that you’ve waited just a little bit for the completion of the annex renovations. (Laughter.)
MS QUINVILLE: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I know I’m treading on dangerous territory, but this is a major endeavor. I think it’s demanded two things: patience and you mentioned flexibility – well, there’s another example of it, but I think well worth the wait. New fitness facilities, basketball court, a satellite health office, beautiful community spaces – I hope, indeed, well worth the wait.
Let me close with this: Whether you are a direct hire, Foreign Service Officer, civil servant; whether you’re working with one of our many partner agencies, departments; whether you’re a family member; whether you’re locally employed staff – we count on each and every one of you to keep this relationship strong, to keep it vital, to keep it going, to do the work that is so important to our fellow citizens. And let me just say to the locally employed staff, very simply, thank you. You are the lifeblood of this mission. You’re the lifeblood of missions everywhere around the world. The real connectivity between our communities, you’re bringing that every single day. I know that a number of you are here in this room. I’m grateful to you on behalf of the United States.
So we’ve – we’re getting to the – I think the end of a challenging period. We have lots of other challenges that we have to grapple with every single day. When I get a chance to see each and every one of you, it gives me incredible hope. It gives me incredible confidence, conviction that we’re going to meet the tests and challenges of our time. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)