Remarks at Bureau of Public Affairs Town Hall Meeting

Bruce Wharton
Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Harry S. Truman Bldg., Marshall Center, Burns Auditorium
Washington, DC
January 9, 2017

As prepared for delivery

Thanks, John, for having me join you today.

I want to start by thanking John for his tireless work – or perhaps “ceaselessly tiring work” – serving as both Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary for nearly two years now. I know I speak for everyone here today when I say you’ve done an incredible job, both at the podium and as the leader of this bureau.

For the entire PA team, I have not had a chance to meet with many of you yet, but I have several in-depth briefings scheduled with PA offices over the next several weeks. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you in the days ahead.

In the meantime, I want to assure you that I understand the pivotal role you play in managing strategic communications for the Secretary and the entire Department.

For our officers in the field overseas, your work ensures that they have the press guidance, quotes, and in-language talking points they need to manage the local press cycle; that they have the links to official videos and social media accounts needed to amplify policy; and that they have ways to connect high-level U.S. officials with local media outlets.

Domestically, I well know – and admire – your outreach to the American public through the Hometown Diplomats program, and I am looking forward to learning more about other important programs like Engage America, the Office of Public Engagement’s outreach to diaspora groups, and Foreign Policy Classrooms.

The completion of the U.S. Diplomacy Center Pavilion is an important milestone in the Department’s quest to develop a museum and educational center that tells the story of American diplomacy – a milestone I am looking forward to celebrating at the Secretary’s reception tomorrow.

I recognize the importance of both the outreach programs and the U.S. Diplomacy Center in building American understanding of and support for the State Department’s mission. Thank you for doing this vital work.

And I will encourage both the field and staff in DC to take greater advantage of the Historian’s Office and all the knowledge and insight they have to offer.

Finally, with the upcoming transition very much on everyone’s mind, I’d like to express my appreciation for PA’s efforts to ensure posts overseas had the guidance they needed during the election campaign and the work you are doing with IIP to get background information and official texts for the inauguration out to the field in a timely manner.

In short, PA’s work with the rest of the R family is crucial to our mission of gaining understanding and support for – or sometimes just acknowledgement of – U.S. foreign policy priorities.

For as long as I serve as Acting Under Secretary – whether it is six weeks, six months, or longer – I will continue to focus our outreach efforts, both domestically and overseas, on ways that promote U.S. interests and strategic goals by bolstering American security and prosperity and explaining and promoting American values and policies.

In many places around the world, we will continue to face serious challenges in maintaining credibility with the audiences we need to reach and to influence – but this has been the case throughout my more than 30 years as a PD officer, and it will continue to be so.

PA shoulders a tremendous portion of the day-to-day burden of meeting this challenge, and the outstanding work that you do, every day, is respected and appreciated not only within this building, but by your colleagues around the world.

Thanks again for all you do. Now, I’ll hand the microphone back to John.