Embassy Islamabad Meet and Greet
Embassy Islamabad Meet and Greet
Secretary of State
August 1, 2013
AMBASSADOR OLSON: Mr. Secretary, good morning. Colleagues, it is my great honor and privilege to introduce a man who needs no introduction here, especially, Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been to Pakistan more times than I think we can count. This is his first visit as Secretary of State, but of course, he is well known as a good friend of Pakistan.
And Mr. Secretary, it’s my honor to introduce you to the staff of the American Embassy in Islamabad. It’s one of our bigger missions in the world, and today you’ll have a chance to see the large building that we’re putting up over on the horizon on this side. But it’s really the people that make this mission. It’s a very dedicated, courageous, hardworking staff. We think we’re one of the best in the world. I’d particularly like to note the contributions of our locally engaged staff, who face many challenges in doing their work, have been with us for many years. I’d like to call out Abdullah Zafar, who is the longest standing – yes, sorry – (applause) – of the Embassy. He’s been here 30 years. And so we have a – and he’s standing in to represent all of our locally engaged staff.
So again, welcome, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much for joining us. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. As-Salaam Alaykum. Nice to see everybody, and Ramadan Kareem to those of you who are celebrating. And I can’t believe it. Do those fans really work over there? (Laughter.) Or is this a joke? I thought there was a great sense of humor when I walked out and I saw a line of fans down here. These blow the hot air around. Anyway.
It’s great to be here with all of you. As Ambassador Olson said, I have been here many, many times. Many of you have supported me in my visits here as a senator, and I’m deeply, deeply appreciative for everything that you do. So thank you, this is always a fascinating place to come to. I learned today that you have signs in front of the cafeteria that say, “Don’t feed the cats, don’t feed the mongoose, and don’t feed the jackals.” Not everywhere in the world can you find signs like that, I want you to know. (Laughter.) It makes it special.
But I want to congratulate Rick for the job he is doing. He seems to draw tough assignments – Iraq, Afghanistan, now Pakistan. And the reason he keeps getting them is because he does a hell of a good job. And we need good people in good places, so – (applause). And Dick Hoagland, thank you very much, sir, likewise. You’ve been around the horn in a lot of places, and I know you began – he began 27 years ago as a junior officer in Peshawar, for those of you who don’t know it. And so it sort of goes full circle, I guess, and now you can’t – it’s hard to go to Peshawar. We have to change that. We’re working on it.
A profound thank you to all of you. It’s a great privilege to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of State. As I think all of you know, it is a privilege to serve in the Foreign Service or in the Civil Service or to be here as local employees. And I would like just all the local employees, I want you to raise your hands, all local employees. Look at that. We cannot do this without you. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.) Shukran.
And I know that sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes you get a little harassment or somebody says, “Well, why are you working for the Americans? What’s this all about?” I have raised this issue previously in my visits here with President Zardari, with former Prime Minister Gilani and others, with the ambassadors from Pakistan who come to the United States. I don’t know many other countries that try to do as much good as we do. And I certainly don’t know – I’ve been up in the mountains when we delivered earthquake assistance. And I remember seeing those kids who came down out of the mountains and put on a uniform and went to school for the first time in their lives at age 12 and 13 and 14 and 15. And their parents loved it and they loved it.
And I think that all of the work that we do is really in the interests of people. That’s why I led the effort to put in place something called Kerry-Lugar-Berman, which was $7 billion over five years to make a statement that we weren’t just being transactional, we weren’t interested in just the day-to-day security relationship or in whatever the problems are with insurgencies; we’re interested in the people of Pakistan, and we want the people of Pakistan to know what we’re doing. And I will call on the politicians here, as I have previously, to stop playing to the lowest common denominator, where they begin to attack – because we make a good target, we’re big, we’re powerful, and we do a lot of things. But I think we do it for the right reasons, and I think you can all be very, very proud of that, and we’re proud of you.
So I want to thank you for your willingness to be here. Obviously, a difficult post. All you have to drive through the zone and you understand how difficult it is. And we know the history. My dream, and I think your dream, is that we can actually find a day when people fight their battles in the parliament debating and talking to each other and voting and living with what the majority makes a decision, and if they don’t like it, you go out to the country and you have an election.
This is an historic transition that just took place. Nobody should diminish it. I was here with now Vice President Biden and now Secretary of Defense Hagel. We were here just the three of us together when the election took place in 2005, I guess it was. And we came here to view the election, which was the first time there had been a transfer of the presidency in a peaceful way at the ballot box. I think President Zardari deserves credit that now these years later, after a full term of office, there has been a peaceful transfer of power to an opposing party. That’s progress. It’s an enormous step forward. It’s historic. And in the 66-year history of Pakistan, that has never happened.
So change comes over time. Remember we tend to sort of think that things are always the way they are today. They weren’t for the United States. We had a first round on our Constitution and it didn’t work so well. Remember? Well, you don’t remember firsthand, but you remember from the history books, right? And what happened was we had to meet again in 1789, come up with another constitution. And guess what? We had slavery written into our Constitution before it was written out, and we had our own Civil War. And it wasn’t until the late 1800s, 1863-5, we got rid of that in the Emancipation Proclamation. And it wasn’t until 1965 that people actually had a Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. And ladies and gentlemen, we are still fighting some of these battles.
So remember that as you go about this task. And I would just say to you very, very quickly, because it is hot and I don’t want to keep you all here, being in the Foreign Service, I think – I say this because I was a Foreign Service brat, I was 11 years old when I first traveled abroad – that I have great respect for what you all go through – how different and difficult and challenging but exciting it is to go to another country, learn another language, learn the culture and meet the people, make friends, and carry our values with you in ways that make a difference to people for a lifetime. You have no idea how many foreign ministers, prime ministers, finance ministers, presidents of countries I meet who proudly tell me of their years studying in the United States of America or on a Fulbright or doing something, or their kids are in America today at a university or a school. And now many of those universities are opening up adjunct universities in all of these other countries, in China, in Abu Dhabi. And you run the countries, they’re all over the place. Egypt.
So this is a great, great undertaking. It’s a great adventure. And I thank you on behalf of everybody in the United States for being the brave, courageous pioneers who are willing to step out and be part of this kind of an endeavor.
Now, sadly, sometimes, because we are a great extended family, we suffer losses together. And I think you all have heard the news, the sad news that we lost Meghan Aberle, who passed away several days ago in Bogota, literally three days after she arrived there, in her sleep. We do not know what happened – 32 years old, she served all of you here in human resources. She loved doing what she was doing. She’d been to all these exciting places in her life, in her short life. So we miss her today, but I’m confident – and I talked yesterday with her sister and there’s great pride. She comes from Massachusetts and there’s a great pride of service, a great pride in the friendships she made here. And I want every single one of you to continue to work in memory of her and Anne Smedinghoff and others that we lose and have lost along the way. Nobody said this is easy. It was always difficult.
So thank you very, very much for everything that you’re doing. I look forward to having a chance to say hello to a few of you now. Keep up the good work, and we’re going to keep fighting and backing you up in every way that we can. Thank you. (Applause.)