Remarks at Swearing-In Ceremony for Dr. Eric Goosby Global AIDS Coordinator and Ambassador-at-Large

Hillary Rodham Clinton
   Secretary of State
Eric Goosby, M.D.
   Global AIDS Coordinator 
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
September 17, 2009

[Transcript of Ambassador Goosby’s remarks provided by the Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Global AIDS]

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, this is such a wonderful occasion, and I am especially grateful that you were all so understanding to change the time for this event. I learned at the last minute yesterday that I had to be at the White House for a meeting with the President. And I actually did say, well, I’m sorry I have to swear-in. (Laughter.) And the answer came back saying, well, yes. So we began to look for a solution to this conflict. And thank you all for your understanding because I did not want to miss being here. This is such a wonderful moment for our country as well as for Eric and his family.

And as you can tell, there wasn’t any doubt that we’d have a full house in the Benjamin Franklin Room, because the Goosby clan along would have been – (laughter) – a sufficient audience. And we’re delighted that his family is here. And I particularly want to underscore our welcome to Nancy and to Zoe and Eric and to Jackie and all the rest of the family.

Public service of the kind that Eric performs every day is never a solo act. It is made possible by a strong support network of family and friends, of colleagues across our country, and indeed, for Eric, across the world. So on behalf of the State Department and the people worldwide whose lives will be saved and touched by Eric’s work and leadership, I really want to thank your family. Because it was no easy decision to uproot yourself and come here to, once again, answer the call of duty. So let’s give a round of applause of gratitude to Eric’s family. (Applause.)

I look across this audience of so many distinguished people, of course, a former ambassador and leader in this effort for our country, and so many of you know because you’ve been on the frontlines of treatment, prevention, and care ever since the AIDS epidemic began. You know that so much progress has been made. I see Dr. Fauci out there, who I remember seeing on television, for it seemed like years and years, talking about the epidemic. So yes, progress has been made, but this disease continues to cause devastation beyond measure in countries on every continent and in communities in every country.

AIDS targets the young and strong. It leaves children without parents, schools without teachers, hospitals without nurses and doctors, fields without farmers. It undermines economies, it widens poverty, it sows the seeds of instability. And for families, its damage is measured in loved ones lost; in nations, it’s measured in potential lost.

And six years ago, President Bush launched a path-breaking response to the AIDS epidemic, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR. It’s the largest attempt in history to address a single disease, and the consequences and implications of that disease. Through PEPFAR the United States provides treatment to more than 2 million people, counseling and testing for nearly 57 million, and care to more than 4 million orphans and vulnerable children since the beginning of the program. President Obama and I are deeply committed to PEPFAR’s continued success. We will work through PEPFAR and with our global partners, to expand access to prevention, care, and treatment. And we see PEPFAR’s potential to serve as a platform upon which to build other essential health services for individuals and families through the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative and our commitments to partner with governments to help them develop their own capacity to fight the disease and the epidemics that they themselves are confronting.

Now, the next few years will be an exciting opportunity to continue and expand our nation’s work. And I can’t think of a better person to lead that effort than Eric Goosby. I don’t really need to tell his family and friends very much about Eric, but I will anyway. Because I am so pleased that he has agreed to join the Obama Administration and to work with me and so many others in this effort.

You know he’s been a pioneer in the fight against AIDS since the earliest days of the epidemic’s recognition. As a young doctor in San Francisco, he was among the very first physicians to treat people with HIV at San Francisco General Hospital, where he helped to integrate HIV treatment programs with methadone clinics. In 1991, he moved to Washington to become the first director of the Ryan White program, our domestic HIV care and support initiative. Next, he became the director of the HIV/AIDS Policy for the Department of Health and Human Services and served in various capacities in the White House’s National AIDS Policy Office, where he helped to establish the Minority AIDS Initiative – a program that continues to help communities across our own country. Since leaving government, Eric has been the CEO of the Pangea Global AIDS Foundation, which works with governments around the world to establish their own sustainable HIV treatment programs.

On a personal note, I watched Eric at work during the Clinton Administration and I admired his extraordinary energy, his formidable understanding of this epidemic, and his innovative ideas about how to fight it. He has thought about AIDS from every angle and knows better than so many what needs to be done to really create a committed, comprehensive approach. And now after years of following and admiring his work, I am so delighted to be working with him here at State.

Eric and I were recently in South Africa, and one of the objectives of my trip and of Eric’s mission was to really build on what the new South African Government had said about its ability and willingness now to really take on the scourge of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. It is a formidable challenge. And understandably the people in the government who are now looking, as the health minister said to Eric and me, at the lost years of the spread of the epidemic are really overwhelmed. And we went to a clinic about an hour and a half outside of Johannesburg to meet with the doctors and to visit with the patients there.

Now, it would be easy to show up and begin directing the South African Government and those who are working under it and with it about what they needed to do based on our experience and based on what works elsewhere and all the other pent-up desire to get things moving, all of which has to be done. But what I so much admired about Eric’s interaction with everyone he saw was that gentleness of spirit, that humility, that willingness to really reach out and create a partnership that will be a much stronger bond than any other way of trying to change the government’s direction, provide them with the support they need, give them the encouragement that they are desperately in search of. His humanity, his humility, his kindness, are really important in the work that he does. And it makes my task now of officially swearing him in, all the more gratifying, because we not only have a great doctor and an accomplished experienced leader, we have a really good human being who’s going to demonstrate to the world our concern. (Applause.)

So please come forward. (Applause.) So, if you will raise your right hand and place your left hand on the bible and repeat after me.

(The Oath was administered.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I, Eric P. Goosby, do solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter so help me God.


[Ambassador Goosby signs oath papers.]

AMBASSADOR ERIC GOOSBY: Well, thank you very much. It’s really an extraordinary honor to be the recipient of such kind words and to have the people that mean the most to me assembled here tonight.

I want to thank Madame Secretary for the honor that you have bestowed on choosing me for this position and this role, and I hope that we can come up to your hopes and expectations.

I also want to thank my family and friends for being here tonight. Colleagues that have really gone back for years here in the audience – colleagues who have become comrades and friends – and over the years that have given me inspiration, hope, direction, mentorship, all of it.

I especially want to thank my family. My wife, Nancy, who has held me in stead, in times when it has been difficult. My children Eric and Zöe, who have both understood and supported me when others may not have. And I also want to thank the extended family – my brothers, my nieces, nephews, my brother’s wife, their children – who have always been there to pick up when I needed support, without question, not once, not twice, but every time. I am truly grateful for that.

I especially want to thank my mother, who has started it all, and has always taught all of us to be gracious and careful in how we deal with others, respectful, and I will always be grateful for that early lesson.

I regret that my father could not be here today – he has passed on – but I know that he is always with me in spirit. I feel his presence always and truly do wish that he could have seen this evening.

One of the reasons that I was willing to change my life dramatically, and move from a situation that was good in every respect, to this extraordinary opportunity is because I believe that both Secretary Clinton and President Obama have a strong commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS – I know they do – and the work of the U.S. Government through PEPFAR.

The Secretary and the President want to maintain and improve our successful global AIDS efforts and they have given me every indication that we will move with PEPFAR, working in conjunction with our global partners, expanding access to prevention, care, and treatment, and that they want to use PEPFAR as the platform from which we will expand critically needed healthcare systems for people on the planet.

I have been working on HIV for over 25 years and I have seen extraordinary advances, many of which are from people in this room who have labored in laboratory and in clinical settings to respond, and develop, and hone that response, so it continued to be effective for the populations that are infected and affected by HIV over the course of this disease, both domestically and globally.
At the global level, a great deal of that progress was due to President Bush’s efforts in putting forth PEPFAR in the previous Administration, and who managed to help get more than two million people on treatment.

Ambassador Dybul is here with us tonight, who led the way for this effort for the last few years – in its early years, up to the present.

But the crisis for AIDS is by far not over. It’s not even close to being over. There is still a massive unmet need for prevention. A huge, massive, unmet need for care, and a growing unmet need for treatment.

We need to come together at the global level now to collectively converge our resources to respond to this expanding epidemic.
HIV is still marked by extraordinary stigma and discrimination, really everywhere. It is time for us to increase our efforts to engage in the hard but honest discussions about the realities of prevention and not shy away from efforts to reach the most-at-risk populations, like men who have sex with men and injection drug users.

Women and girls continue to be disproportionally impacted by this disease. They continue to be made vulnerable by social and economic inequities that are pervasive throughout all of societies. We must focus and do more to address their needs. We must understand them better in the context of their social and cultural mileus and especially at the intersection of HIV risk and gender-based violence.

Too many countries are impacted by the epidemic and lack the capacity to respond to their need. We must work to build health systems to allow countries to take ownership of their response and gain ground on this expanding epidemic.

These tasks are enormous, and I am truly humbled and honored to be chosen to undertake this role and to play a part in orchestrating that response that so many others have engaged with.

The history of PEPFAR has demonstrated what can happen when we dare to think big. And I hope to continue the relationships I have with each of you in this room – continue the wonderful exchanges; but the criticism and willingness to engage me in honest discourse around what you feel are the expanding, evolving needs and how we should, indeed, position ourselves to respond to them.

I really humbly thank the Secretary for her trust in me, and I look forward to moving forward with this fight and continue this fight for this epidemic.

Thank you very much.

PRN: 2009/935