Remarks at Swearing-In Ceremony for Assistant Secretary Russel

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Daniel R. Russel
   Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
August 5, 2013

Date: 08/05/2013 Description: Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 5, 2013.  - State Dept ImageSECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, all of you, for being here. My apologies to you for keeping you waiting, but actually it wasn’t me it was that darn place where Danny used to work (laughter). They had us captive on a video conference. I apologize for keeping you waiting. Mostly I apologize because I want to get Danny to work.

I’m really happy to welcome Danny’s family -- Keiko, the kids. And I want to thank Danny’s former colleagues at the White House for coming and letting us steal back one of your best -- our best. Those of you who worked with Danny know that there are very few people who understand the Asia-Pacific region as well as Danny does. It’s his lifetime; he breathes it, lives it. Ambassadors, we are honored by your presence here. Thank you for being here to be a part of this. Most importantly, we think we are sharing with you a super diplomat. A man who has a passion for all of the regions and all of your countries and I think will work as effectively as any Assistant Secretary has. He particularly believes in relationships, and I know that is very, very important to all of you.

I will tell you a quick story. I was walking through the SitRoom area of the White House earlier in the year and happened to bang into one room, and there’s Danny sitting with Henry Kissinger. And I popped my head in the room and said, “Henry you’re giving Danny a briefing?” And he said, “No, no, Danny’s giving me a briefing!” And so I learned this is true, this is the way it works. I know a fair amount about that region, having spent a lifetime engaged in it myself, and I have been super impressed by Danny’s intuitive gut, visceral sense of the mission, and the choices and the importance of the region in the future.

I think it’s fair to say that Danny was absolutely critical in working with President Obama to develop one of the signature initiatives along with his overall approach. But the whole idea of strengthening our commitment to the Asia-Pacific and the strategic rebalance is a goal which I share and which obviously which could not be more important to the President. Needless to say, which Danny really help to put into place and which we will strengthen as we go forward in these next three and a half years.

Over his career, Danny has approached public service with the purest of passions for what it means to be a public servant, and he has worked tirelessly in preparing for presidential summits and for foreign trips. He’s helped to manage crisis and humanitarian disasters and everyone knows he’s a workhorse. You could find him at the White House all hours of the day and night. Keiko, we thank you and your family for the forbearance for that.

I’ll tell you, though, that one thing I learned is that Danny has a very special relationship with the people that he works with. While he has helped us to navigate North Korea and difficult issues -- everybody knows how many times Danny would get summoned to Tom Donilon’s office and work with him in the wee hours in shaping the policy – but one of the most important qualities that I think he brings to this is his humanity, his warmth, his humility and his heart. I have a good friend who works for the President who worked for me for a number of years. He was my body guy during the entire Presidential race - you all know Marvin Nicholson - and worked with me in the United States Senate. Marvin is as good a read on people as I ever met and Marvin weighed in on this guy and said to me, “Danny has a good heart.”

I will tell you that while he’s savvy, he knows the region and he knows the policies – that meant as much to me about this diplomat as anything anybody could have said. So, he has the enormous confidence, obviously of the President of the United States, for a region that is very important to the President. And he comes to this with a commitment to try to raise the level of our efforts in the region, which we think is very much a signature of this President’s approach to the region – but also critical because the future is going to be defined significantly by what happens in that part of the world as it develops and takes its full and rightful place as a partner on the global stage.

So, I’m happy to have the State Department team enhanced with Danny’s presence and I know that all of you share with me a sense of how great it is to actually welcome him back to the State Department out of the clutches of the White House, into the light of day, freedom of the future and we’re happy to have him here. So, Danny if you’ll step up I will make it official so you can begin to get going.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY DANIEL RUSSEL: Thank you very much, Secretary Kerry. Thank you for your very generous remarks. I’m truly grateful to you and to the President for placing your trust in me. I appreciate, Mr. Secretary, your energy, your vision, your leadership, your tireless pursuit of peace, and your determination to fight for what you believe in. Thank you also for giving me the honor of swearing me in today.

This underscores the importance that you place on the Asia-Pacific region - a part of the world you know extraordinarily well and that you yourself have helped to shape through your career in the U.S. Senate. My own career began working for a giant of the Senate like you, Mr. Secretary, a chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mike Mansfield. And for the past four years I’ve worked for two other former senators, the President and the Vice President. So now it’s a special honor for me to serve under your leadership.

I have loved my four and a half years at the White House. It’s truly been an extraordinary experience and an honor for which I’ll always be grateful. At the same time, I’m happy to be home now in the State Department and part of this team. In particular, I’m proud to rejoin the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. I’ve served in the bureau, I’ve served in the region, and I know that it’s made up of really wonderful and talented men and women here and overseas and I can’t thank them and their families enough for the wonderful work that they do. That includes the thousands of foreign nationals who support us overseas.

I particularly thank all of you in the diplomatic corps for attending this swearing-in. The world sends it’s very, very best diplomats to Washington, D.C. and it’s been my privilege to get to know you in my previous job. All those times in the White House when I told you, you needed to take those problematic issues over to the State Department…well, here I am. I promise my door is wide open to all of you.

Mr. Secretary, it’s really humbling for me to be here in this room and on this side of the podium. In 1985, I stood in this historic Ben Franklin room and first took the oath as a newly commissioned junior officer in the Foreign Service. So today is a dream come true for me. And I am happy to be able to celebrate it with so many people who mean so much to me. I am really touched that so many friends and distinguished mentors are here today along with a lot of very distinguished friends and colleagues from the interagency – I’m not going to do the naming game, but you know who you are. Thank you very, very much. I just really appreciate and benefited from all of your support and all of your guidance.

I am also very grateful to Senator Cardin and to the other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for confirming me, and of course I look forward to working closely very with both the members and staff in both the House and Senate. Strong bipartisan support, and close cooperation between the Executive and Legislative Branches, is key to the success of President Obama’s Asia Rebalancing strategy.

I particularly want to thank Amb. Capricia Marshall, who I believe is the greatest Chief of Protocol in living memory. It’s really a joy to me that she stayed long enough to swear me in, and a heartbreak that this is her last week.

Lastly, and most important to me, I’m proud to introduce my wife Keiko; my children Byron, Emily, and Kevin (who grew up in the Foreign Service), and my sister Marjorie, brother David, and my brother-in-law Peter. Thank you for your love and support. Like so many other Foreign Service families, Keiko and our three kids have built and rebuilt and then re-rebuilt their lives around my public service and I am forever grateful.

Mr. Secretary, now I’ll get to the point. The well-being and future of the United States is imminently connected to the peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific region, as you pointed out. Four and a half years ago, President Obama deliberately decided to make engagement in the region a strategic priority for the United States of America, and I’m proud to have a continuing role in developing the Asia rebalancing strategy. The strategy spans the range of diplomatic and economic, political, cultural, security, and strategic interests. It involves the sustained work we do with nations ranging from the world’s most populous countries to the small island states in the Pacific, from the world’s second and third largest economies, to those still in the earliest stages of development. And it’s founded on close cooperation with our treaty allies and our friends.

It entails transforming our relations with former adversaries and building new models of practical cooperation in our relations with emerging powers. It requires outreach through public diplomacy and that means visits, programs, social and traditional media, academic exchanges so that we’re communicating with and listening to the people, not just the governments. It builds on the work of business and the private sector in promoting balanced trade and increasing investment and fostering global economic growth. And in all cases it means upholding universal principles and rights, promoting the rule of law, and advocating for our core values.

Mr. Secretary, we have important work and an exciting agenda with Asia in the coming months and years. Now I know that beyond our borders there will always be people who wonder about America’s intentions and our staying power. They want to know if they can continue to rely on the United States to provide the security, the intellectual capital, the technology, the dynamism and the creativity that has underpinned the stability and has driven the extraordinary growth of East Asia over the past seven decades.

The answer is “yes.” And you can count on me, and you can count on your very talented team in the East Asia and Pacific bureau, to help you actively shape and strengthen our presence in Asia, to implement your vision, and to faithfully serve you, serve the President, and serve the nation to the very best of our ability. Thank you all very much.