Embassy Meet and Greet

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Nairobi, Kenya
August 6, 2009

Date: 08/06/2009 Description: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses U.S. Embassy employees in Nairobi, Kenya August 6, 2009. - State Dept Image

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: Well, please everyone, please. Thank you. Well, thank you. Thank you very much, everyone, for coming. I am extremely honored today to have with us the Secretary of State. It’s really a great pleasure and a privilege to welcome you, Madame Secretary, to the U.S. mission, and really to our mission community. That you’ve come to Africa and to Kenya first so early in your tenure is most encouraging to us all, and it does send, I think, a really impressive message of the Administration’s determination to engage with the African continent in a major way.

In your recent address to the Council on Foreign Relations, you emphasized, quote, “a new era of American engagement,” in part through the exercise of, quote “smart power,” unquote. Clearly, Madame Secretary, we have that opportunity and challenge in Kenya to support full implementation of the reform agenda. And your visit has been instrumental, I think, in advancing that substantially.

Madame Secretary, while engaging across the foreign policy spectrum you have also found the time to encourage greater openness and dialogue within the State Department, thus fostering a true team spirit. In that spirit, I am honored to invite you to address our superb team.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.

AMBASSADOR RANNEBERGER: And let me just note that we also have two congresspeople with us, Congressman Payne, Congressman Lowey. We’re delighted to have you with us. And of course, the famous – infamous – whatever – Johnnie Carson, who – I don’t know where he is -- former ambassador here who’s well-loved. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will certainly tell Johnnie that he was applauded in absentia. (Laughter.) But part of the reason he’s not here is that the trip that this team put together was absolutely first-rate, and it was not only well thought through and well executed, but it was demanding and very much on point in terms of the issues that you’re addressing every day here at this mission.

I want to begin by thanking the ambassador. I appreciate the terrific job he’s doing here in Kenya, and he’s made a point of telling me what a pleasure it is to have a first-rate team like all of you. We know that there is an incredible amount of pride that the ambassador feels in the work you do. Well, I do as well, and so does your country. And I thank you for working here to further and deepen our relationship with an important friend and partner.

I am constantly reminded as I travel around the world and get a chance to work with our great teams of the professionalism and the dedication that you evidence. And of course, this team is one of the biggest we have. It’s the biggest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it competes with Cairo for being the biggest on the entire continent. And I know that it is a team filled with not only dedicated Foreign Service officers and civil servants from the State Department and USAID, but from many agencies across our government as well as our locally engaged staff who are keys to our success here, as they are to our success and our efforts around the world. (Applause.)

Oh, here comes the famous Johnnie Carson, so you can applaud him in person. (Applause.)

Those of you who’ve had the pleasure of working with Johnnie – and I first met him when he was ambassador to Zimbabwe, when Zimbabwe was Zimbabwe all of those years ago -- (laughter) – you know that he is tireless and extremely dedicated. I did tell him just a few hours ago that I honestly thought he was trying to kill me. This is our first stop and we’ve already jammed so many important events and meetings into it that it’s hard to even think that we’ve got six more countries to go. But I’m thrilled to have persuaded Ambassador Carson to become Assistant Secretary Carson, and I think that when I say and when President Obama said in his important speech in Ghana that we intend to make Africa a priority, you can count on Johnnie Carson to make sure that happens. (Applause.)

I’m also delighted to have with us two members of Congress. Congressman Donald Payne is well known to many of you who have served in Africa. He is probably the most dedicated member of Congress to our relationship with the continent. He knows many of the leaders and has traveled extensively, so I’m so pleased he could be here. I told President Sheikh Sharif when I had a very long and productive meeting with him just a little while ago that I appreciated the fact that when Donald was in Somalia, he actually got out safely. This mission doesn’t deserve any more crises than* you’ll have to deal with.

And of course, that brings to mind, tragically, my visit to the memorial this morning honoring the victims of the attack 11 years ago. I met a number of the embassy personnel who were in that attack who suffered injuries who have bravely carried on, but the courage of our embassy personnel and the continued commitment of those who both lost loved ones, who were injured as well, is an incredible inspiration. And the resilience of Mission Kenya is a testament to the deep values that the United States and Kenya share. And I really was touched by the memorial and what it stands for and its efforts to try to renew a spirit of peace and commitment to a better future.

I know how instrumental you all were as well in the aftermath of the last election, the violence that resulted from it. You played a key role in helping to bring the Kenyan Government and the country back from the brink of disaster to forge a coalition agreement, and now we’ve got to realize the reforms that were supposed to be part of the agreement: a new constitution, reforming the electoral system, reforming the judiciary, reforming the police, and bringing to justice those who committed crimes and violence in the aftermath of the election. And to end the impunity for corruption is critical to the future of Kenya. And I’m proud that our embassy team has stood for those fundamental values, certainly before, but especially in the aftermath of the election. Yesterday, at the AGOA forum, I brought a message from President Obama.

I have relayed messages in every meeting and interview that I have done since I’ve been here, and I can’t imagine any embassy that the President would be prouder of than this embassy here in Kenya. He cares deeply about this country and its future. He asked me to deliver a very tough message, which I did word-for-word to the leaders that I met with yesterday. But it is a message that is accompanied by the love he feels and the connection he feels to this country. And I can only hope that his dreams for Kenya and Kenyans’ dreams for themselves will be realized with our help, with our support, with our encouragement, and with exercising, perhaps, some tough-minded efforts and actions that can send the right message to those who are working so hard to realize the reforms that are needed.

I am grateful to each and every one of you for your sacrifice, and I know the sacrifice of your families. It is not easy, serving abroad in today’s climate. It is not easy, sometimes, being a locally engaged staff member for our mission. But what you’re doing is very important, and especially now with our new President’s commitment to making Africa a centerpiece – not an afterthought, but a centerpiece – of American foreign policy, your role and responsibility becomes even more important.

This has been a very important trip. It’s been an extremely demanding one, and I am grateful for the contributions that each and every one of you has made. But I have been to many embassies over the course now of about 16 years serving in the White House and the Senate and now in my new position, and I know that there is a custom that is looked forward to, to be followed called a wheels-up party. (Laughter.) And I can’t think of a group that has earned a wheels-up party more than this one, Ambassador. So I can only hope that when you finally see the tail of my plane get up and off the tarmac, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief at a job well done, take a few minutes to celebrate this wonderful evidence of the close relationship that we have and the work ahead of us, and then, as you always do, get back to work to make the dreams that we hold for a better world see reality right here in Kenya.

Thank you all and God bless you.


PRN: 2009/T11-9