Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken At the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) Reception

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 15, 2015


DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, thank you all very, very much. And Roberta, thank you for your very kind words of introduction. It’s wonderful to welcome all of you here to the Department of State.

We have an outstanding Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Roberta Jacobson has helped to carry our work across the region to new levels and new heights, and we are grateful to have her leading our efforts. And I also want to recognize our Interim Representative to the OAS, Michael Fitzpatrick. Thank you, Michael, for your wonderful leadership.

Mr. Secretary General, distinguished ministers, it is a great pleasure to have you here this evening. Secretary Kerry very much wished that he could be here himself to celebrate the Organization of American States on the occasion of the 45th Regular General Assembly and to toast to our continued partnership.

We expect to have the Secretary back in office on these floors very, very soon – but until then, we’ve been watching our phone bills grow higher and higher and higher. (Laughter.) I have to tell you that no time zone is safe. That’s just a warning. But we’re looking forward to having him back very soon.

Since its founding, the OAS has been a vibrant and enduring forum for multilateral debate and dialogue. But as we know, it is also much more than that. It’s a tangible representation of the shared pan-American values that unite our hemisphere in peace and in prosperity.

Over a century ago, the deep roots of our common history and heritage were symbolized by President Howard Taft’s[1] planting a fig and rubber tree on the patio of the newly dedicated House of the Americas.

One hundred years later, the city of Denver planted a seedling of that very tree – the “Peace Tree” – in their own botanic gardens with a shovel that had been fashioned from the metal of melted guns.

Like the tree itself, it was an expression of our commitment, as a community of the Americas, to realize fully our highest ideals – a hemisphere where democracy advances opportunity and protects the liberty of all of our citizens.

The vitality and integrity of the OAS is essential to this task.

The United States stands with the Secretary General and all of you in your work to revitalize the OAS and uphold our collective commitment to the principles of democracy and human rights enshrined in the OAS Charter, the Democratic Charter, and the American Declaration.

With that great hope and purpose in mind, I’d like to propose a toast in honor of the Secretary General, and I do so with apologies in advance to the Spanish language. (Laughter.)

(In Spanish) Mr. Secretary General, I congratulate you on your election and salute your vision of a re-empowered OAS. You have the full support of the United States and our very best wishes on the success of your tenure. May our hemisphere of nations forever prosper in unity, freedom, and peace.

Salud. (Applause.)

Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY GENERAL ALMAGRO: For short speeches are very good because all of you look very fresh, and I really appreciate it. Really appreciate your presence here, and allow me to thank the U.S. Government and the State Department for hosting this reception honoring the 45th General Assembly of the Organization of American States. I know Secretary of State Kerry would happier like to be with us today, and we hope for a fast recovery.

Let me also thank Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, and obviously Roberta and (inaudible) and all members of team working at the Organization of American States for their cooperation and support. We like to make general assemblies here, and we really have to look very well, the nice city appropriately sitting in the Dominican Republic for the next one.

Today we started the 45th General Assembly, and according to old Organization of American States standards, we did well. (Inaudible) resolutions were passed in a very efficient way. These represent a big step towards charting a new course for the Organization of American States, a more efficient and resource-oriented one.

I would also like to thank all the ministers and delegates attending the assembly for their commitment and cooperation during this period of transition and transformation. Thanks, and let me offer a toast for the future of our hemisphere and the Organization of America. (Applause.)

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[1] President William Howard Taft