Remarks at Embassy Meet and Greet

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Pretoria, South Africa
August 7, 2009

Thanks to all of you, and let me begin with an apology. I know that you have been here much longer than you should have been. But in some ways, it is our collective responsibility, since you have such a program planned, that we got behind and have not caught up yet. But I did not want to miss this opportunity to come and thank you personally for what you’re doing every single day. And I am delighted to have with me someone you will get to know very shortly, because he will be the new ambassador, and that’s Don Gips. (Applause.)

Don will be here full-time very soon. And it took a while to go through our process, as all of our (inaudible) process of finally having confirmed (inaudible) honor of leading this mission. And I want to say hello to everyone in the other consulates. I think (inaudible) Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. So thank you for joining us by technology.

And I particularly wanted to thank the children who have been so patient, and I am grateful indeed that you are here. I have been honored to be the 67th Secretary of State for about six and a half months, and everything that I have learned and known about the professionalism and the extraordinary dedication over many years of traveling around the world has become even more apparent to me. I know how demanding your jobs are. I know how (inaudible) sacrifices made by you and your families. I want to thank you. I want to thank all of you.

You have the largest U.S. mission in Africa, because you are involved not only with our bilateral efforts with South Africa, but you serve as a hub for most of Sub-Saharan Africa. And as President Obama and I have both made clear, both in his historic speech in Ghana and on this trip so early in our Administration, Africa is a high priority in the Obama Administration. And we are going to work and build (inaudible) – (applause).

I am also very grateful not only to our Foreign Service and Civil Service and representatives from other federal agencies, and especially to our locally engaged staff, who have often been here for many years. I know there’s a saying that ambassadors come and go, but there locally engaged staff are here and often the only ones who know what the history of a particular mission might be.

So I thank all of you for your commitment to this work. I also want to thank you for being on the front lines in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We just came from a clinic that is supported by PEPFAR, USAID, and the South African Government. We know how important it is to look forward, but not regret the past. And as the minister of health told me, many of the difficulties and challenges of the past are ones that now have to be made up for.

But I am committed to doing what we can to find innovative methods of prevention. We are losing the battle because we are not preventing the acquisition of HIV. We see it every day with 5,000 new cases around the world. So we want to continue our first-rate treatment that is made possible by your hard work and the commitment of the American people and our government. But we want to make sure we can do it better and smarter in terms of prevention.

I also hope that as we deepen and broaden our engagement with South Africa that Embassy Pretoria, along with all of our consulates, will let us know what your thinking will be on positive and effective means to further our relationship. I had a very productive meeting with the minister of international relations, and she put forward a proposal that the United States would reengage at a high-level, bilateral, strategic dialogue. And of course, I accepted because I want us to be working hand in hand with the new government. When I see President Zuma tomorrow, I will express our appreciation for his government’s commitment to really putting the U.S.-South Africa relationship front and center.

Last month, I announced a new effort called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, modeled after the Quadrennial Defense Review, because we have made a commitment to having diplomacy and development be in equal standing with defense. Our foreign policy, our national security, the advancement of our values depends upon that. And I hope you will give us your thoughts about that. We have websites available on the State Department website for suggestions. I started a Secretary’s site where people are giving us good ideas which we’re implementing. And when it comes to policy on the global diplomatic and development fronts, we are soliciting and very interested to hear your thoughts.

And we’re working hard with Congress. We have two members of Congress with us: Congressman Donald Payne, very active in African affairs for many years; and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who chairs our House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which includes the budgets for the State Department, USAID, PEPFAR, Millennium Challenge Account, and so much else.

We are making a strong case for additional funding. We have taken a first step with the Congress addressing the disparity in pay between officers who serve overseas and officers who serve in Washington. We’re going to keep accountability in pay a top priority (inaudible) finally resolve that disparity once and for all.

It’s a real personal pleasure for me to be back in South Africa. I had the opportunity to pay a personal visit on President Mandela. He is as inspiring and as vital as ever. He may have slowed down a little, but he has not lost his quickness or his concern about what’s happening not only in South Africa, but in the world. I briefed him on my trip. He made suggestions and asked questions about all of the stops that I will make along the way.

We are very excited, and of course, the President has a personal level of deep, deep feeling about Africa and Africa’s future. So with your help, with your continuing leadership and guidance and the hard work that you put in every day, I am convinced we will take our relationship not only with South Africa but with this continent to an entirely new level of involvement, and produce results for our people.

Let me just conclude by saying I have had the privilege of coming to embassies and thanking people who have worked on trips that I’ve taken alone, with other members of Congress, with my husband when he was president, and now with President Obama. And I know how much goes into a trip like this. It is an extra burden with everything else you’re doing. So I’m hoping that when we finally take off tomorrow, heading on to someone else’s responsibility in Angola, that you will have a wheels up party – (laughter) – to celebrate a successful trip and the end of it. But I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done and will do to make sure we realize the promise of our relationship here in this great country. Thank you all very much.

PRN: 2009/T11-17