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Remarks at Civil Service Swearing In Ceremony

Remarks at Civil Service Swearing In Ceremony

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Remarks as prepared
Washington, DC
December 10, 2004

Thank you, Barry. I welcome all my new colleagues, your friends, co-workers, and family members to the Benjamin Franklin room. I should clarify that this magnificent place is part of a suite of diplomatic reception rooms on this floor. As some of you already know, chandeliers are not found in every office in the building. I would describe the standard décor as more along the lines of cubicle chic. But if these particular walls could talk, they would tell stories of counselors and kings, of state dinners and glittering receptions. Of course, this week, they might also be singing "Rocket Man." After all, the Secretary just hosted the Kennedy Center honorees in here and a certain Sir Elton John was among the awardees.

But of all the events we hold in here, perhaps none is more important than this one and others like it. Because today, it is you who honor this institution with your decision to join our ranks and live a life of service to the nation. Indeed, I am delighted to have this opportunity to swear you in and to officially welcome you to the Department of State family. We certainly can use your help; this is an eventful time for the Department and for the nation. Consider that just in these past two weeks alone, while you've been in orientation, a group of terrorists mounted an attack on our chancery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which was unsuccessful in its aims, though we did suffer the loss of valued personnel. We also saw terrible violence in Iraq as well as tremendous hope, as that nation prepares for imminent elections and full independence. Indeed, we've seen signs of hope all over the world in the past two weeks. From Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai became the first popularly elected president in that nation's history to Ghana and Niger, which both held free and fair elections, to Ukraine, where the institutions of democracy proved sound.

In fact, in a sense, I envy you. You are just starting off on a tremendous journey at an exciting time. I am, of course, coming to the end of this particular journey. As I'm sure you are aware, Secretary Powell and I are soon to depart. In 43 days, to be exact. Not that I am counting. But I can certainly say it's been an immensely rewarding four years. I'm proud of all we've achieved. Nothing makes me prouder, however, than what we have done to help make the Department of State a better place to work. And I believe you will directly see the benefits of that, from more training opportunities to better equipment to safer and more aesthetically pleasing facilities. We even added the orientation course you just completed. So I certainly hope you found it to be helpful.

Of course, you came to us with a wealth of prior experience. Many of you have years of experience in public service, working on everything from the regulation of food and drugs here in our own country to our presence in outer space. Soon, you will disperse into 21 bureaus and offices with diverse missions. But I ask you all to keep in mind that you are joined in the same fundamental mission: to promote and to protect American interests in the world and the world's interest in America. This is a monumental undertaking, and there has never been more at stake for our nation. Indeed, it is that sense of consequence, that we all stand together in service to something greater than ourselves, that ultimately makes us a family Foreign Service generalists and specialists, Foreign Service Nationals, and Civil Servants.

Just as you have shown your commitment to serving the country, I can assure you that this Department will continue to show a commitment to you. I have every reason to believe that the trend Secretary Powell started of taking care of the people of this Department has become firmly entrenched. Indeed, the incoming Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has already pledged to give you all the tools you need in order to succeed in your jobs. And so as your cousin and colleague in this extended family, I thank you for making the choice to serve the public interest, I wish you every success in the exciting years ahead, and if you are ready, I am ready to swear you in to the Civil Service of the United States.

[End]

Released on December 13, 2004

ENDS


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