Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for Ambassador Craig Allen

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
January 30, 2015

Remarks as prepared

Thank you.

I would like to welcome everyone to the State Department who has come to celebrate this important day for Craig and his family.

Let me start with a special welcome to Craig’s wife, Micheline, and their children Christopher and Caroline, and other members of his family, including his mother, Bette Allan. Your support for him doesn’t just benefit Craig, it supports the important work of our country. So, thank you.

It’s terrific to see so many people here who have come to support Craig.

We are honored to have Charge d’affaires for the Embassy of Brunei, Norhashimah Hassan with us today; as well as our own Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Danny Russel.

I see many familiar faces from across Government, including Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews; Under Secretary for International Trade Stefan Selig; Deputy Under Secretary Ken Hyatt; Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar; and former Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez.

I’d better stop here – or the orchestra might start playing before I get a chance to talk about Craig!

I was so honored that Craig asked me to participate in his swearing-in, and I accepted without reservation, for reasons I will share with you in a few moments. But first, I want to tell you a story about Craig that, in many ways, foretells the trajectory of his life.

Craig’s father was a businessman whose work took him to Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo. So Craig essentially grew up in Japan.

When he was in high school over there, the father of a close friend asked him what he wanted to do for a living.

Craig felt like he had to think fast. So he said: “A diplomat.”

His friend’s father immediately burst out laughing. Apparently the idea was hugely amusing to him. Instead of being dissuaded, Craig says, that laugh cemented his future. From that moment on, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Today, we can see just how far that quiet resolution has taken him. We stand with Craig, pleased and proud, as he prepares to be our next United States Ambassador to Brunei.

Craig has become the consummate diplomat, and an accomplished economic officer to boot.

He has worked for the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration for almost 30 years, 16 of them in Japan and more than a decade in either China or Taiwan.

As a Foreign Commercial Service officer, and Minister Counselor, Craig has taken a strong leadership role particularly in our trade, commercial and economic efforts. And in 1984, he received the Presidential Award for his work in creating a network of Chinese government officials to help American companies find opportunities across China.

One of the reasons I am so pleased to be a part of Craig’s swearing is because of our mutual desire to enhance and further deepen the partnership between the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. Nothing could be more important as we work to support the President's foreign policy goals.

Craig is what I call a “bridge person,” a positive change agent who has worked diligently to bring both departments together, and make sure we are always focused on the people who matter most: our ultimate board of governors, the American people.

I can think of no better illustration of Craig’s bridge building than our partnership posts.

As a Senior Commercial Officer in South Africa, he was trying to think of a way to support American companies in countries where Commerce had no presence.

The proverbial lightbulb clicked on. Working with other architects, he created partnership posts, where State Department’s foreign service officers or their local staff colleagues could work on behalf of Commerce, identifying opportunities for U.S. firms in their particular countries.

This meant that American businesses could receive the same customized high-quality matchmaking or due diligence service as they would from any Commercial Service office around the world.

Craig’s idea took some persuading, as new ideas often do. But today, we have more than 50 partnership posts in place. We have not only helped to break down the silos between our departments, but to better serve the small and medium sized businesses who are the backbone of our economy.

One of those partnership posts happens to be in Brunei, where the U.S. Embassy coordinates with, and draws on, the expertise of the Commercial Service office in Singapore.

I believe this is a great precedent setter for both our agencies to find even more ways to share and coordinate our work.

Which brings me to my final point about Craig, quite possibly the most important reason I’m so honored to be here today: and that’s Craig himself.

Experience is a requisite for the job, but so is character. No matter who you ask, you hear the same words and phrases about Craig. He always has time for others. He considers public service a higher calling. He has integrity. He’s diligent. He’s always focused on the higher goal.

These are the qualities we want to see in our ambassadors. Just as importantly, they are qualities we want people around the world to see. That’s why I have nothing but confidence that Craig will achieve great things in Brunei and bring honor to the position.

In conversations with Craig, I learned about his passion for long distance running. Craig doesn’t just compete in marathons. He runs ultra-marathons, which can mean covering distances of anywhere from 50 to 100 miles. What Craig refers to as a good run, I call a train trip!

I have no doubt that Craig will prevail in any challenge before him because, as the diplomat and gentleman that he is, I know he’s in this for the long run.

That’s good for the United States because we’re in this for the long run too. We are lucky to have him as a friend, family member, or colleague; and America is equally lucky to have him.

So, before we begin the official swearing in, won’t you please join me in applauding our next Ambassador to Brunei, Craig Allen.