Remarks at Tour of the Foreign Service Institute

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Foreign Service Institute
Arlington, VA
September 18, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ruth. Thank you so much, and I want to thank Dr. Whiteside for that warm introduction. I think it’s only fair since I have just witnessed an Arabic language lesson and walked down the hall and heard greetings in a number of different languages that nearly on the first day that I was Secretary of State I was holding a meeting of our senior leadership team, and people were going around and introducing themselves, and Ruth introduced herself and I thought, “She’s from Arkansas.” (Laughter and applause.) That’s a language I know. (Laughter.)

It is such a pleasure to be here, finally. Some of you may remember that the last time I was planning to come, I ended up breaking my elbow. So I’ve been walking around extra carefully for the last few days – (laughter) – so I would be sure to arrive in one piece. And I certainly can say that it was worth the wait. I am so excited to see all of this in action and to have a chance to look out at all of you who are part of the great staff of this world-class facility and part of the future of the Foreign Service and USAID.

I’m delighted that Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy could be here with me. He is, as Ruth said, a very strong supporter of the work that is done here. Rose Likins, the Deputy Director, thank you so much. Deans and directors of FSI’s schools and center, locally engaged staff members from posts abroad who are here at FSI for additional training – to all of you, let me begin by expressing my appreciation for what you do every single day. I was able to see a couple of different classes and modeling experiences. I was very impressed by the hard work, the attention to detail, and the creativity that is evident here. I watched a mock interview at a consular window and told them not to let the person in. (Laughter.)

Now, I know that FSI aims to give students realistic training that prepares you for the sometimes challenging and occasionally difficult situations that you will face overseas. But I did not expect to come face-to-face with that very lifelike rat in the jail cell over in the Republic of Z. (Laughter.) I’ve asked to become an honorary citizen of the Republic of Z and to get a map so that I can think of all of you when I am looking at the world and thinking, “Who’s in the Republic of Z today?”

It’s this kind of creativity and very intense professional training that make FSI so successful. You are at the cutting edge of our efforts to build a State Department and USAID workforce for the 21st century. Earlier, I met students who are twittering in Arabic. I know that FSI provides more than 600 courses in more than 70 languages to staff from dozens of federal agencies. You’re teaching the skills that our diplomats and officers need in today’s world to represent our country effectively and well, to reach outside embassy walls, engage directly with foreign publics as well as leaders, and form the partnerships that will allow us to meet today’s global challenges. And I really applaud FSI’s commitment to offer training for locally engaged staff and family members as well.

As Ruth said, today I had the privilege of swearing in Ambassador Nancy Powell, a Foreign Service officer with 32 years of experience, as the State Department’s Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of the Bureau of Human Resources. I know she shares my esteem for the important work you do here and my conviction that effective training is absolutely essential for every part of our mission.

Now, this is my first visit to FSI, but I know that generations of Foreign and consular service officers have benefited from the training that you are receiving. And in addition to learning the language or learning the technology necessary to make those decisions on visas, you are launching friendships and forging relationships that will stand you in good stead as you learn the art of statecraft.

The FSI has been around for more than 60 years, and I think it’s only gotten better over time. The sophistication that you now bring to what you are doing is really impressive.

I want to assure you that I will continue to do everything I can to make sure you have the resources and support necessary to continue that tradition of excellence. I know that your new expansion will provide badly needed classroom spaces, a larger cafeteria, a childcare center. The President and I have requested funding that will allow us to create the positions we need for training and career development for all of our employees – Foreign Service, Civil Service, and locally hired staff overseas. (Applause.)

Both the President and I recognize that maintaining a diverse, well-trained, highly skilled workforce is absolutely critical to pursuing our nation’s foreign policy. I said on the first day that I walked into the Department that smart power requires smart people, and FSI is training the smartest people around. And every day, I am reminded what an honor I have to serve with the dedicated professionals that not only do the work that is so necessary around the world, but who really represent America and our values, and who communicate that in a million different ways every single day.

I want to thank you for all of your hard work in support of our country. This is a particularly important time. We have so many challenges, but we also have so many opportunities. I don’t know that there’s ever been a moment that is as rich with possibility and as rife with peril as this one. We are working very hard, as we will again next week at the United Nations General Assembly, to promote the objectives and goals that we have articulated on nonproliferation, on climate change, on food security and development.

We’ll be working on behalf of our common efforts with friends and allies in the Middle East, with respect to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan; deepening and broadening relationships with key countries like China and Russia; meeting with leaders from the Americas and Africa and Asia; and in every setting, trying to make sure that we are keeping faith with what this country really stands for.

It is an exciting time to be part of this grand enterprise that we represent. But a lot is expected from each of us. There is no room for anyone stepping off the hard path forward and expecting that we can get to where we’re trying to go. It is going to be a very exciting, difficult time to serve America. But I am absolutely convinced that we can produce results that will make our world safer and more peaceful; give people the prosperity and progress they deserve to have; secure and protect the United States of America, our citizens, our friends and allies; and at the same time, make clear that we really do have a story that is rooted in not only the American experience, but the universal yearning for a better life.

I am motivated every day by my belief that every single child, boy and girl, should have a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. We certainly have work to do here at home, as our healthcare debate evidences. When I took the Secretary of State job, some people said, oh my gosh, you won’t be able to work on healthcare. I said, hmm, the Middle East, Iran – (laughter) – Afghanistan, Pakistan. I think I’ll stick with those. (Laughter.)

But it is an honor to serve with you, and I look forward to seeing you out and around the world. One of the great joys that I’ve had in this job is meeting people whom I met when they were control officers or political officers or even ambassadors over the last 17 years. And today, I was reminded that Nancy Powell and I first met in 1995 in New Delhi. So this is a family, and it represents the very best of what we can do together. So thank you for serving, and let’s go out and do everything we possibly can to deliver on the promise of America.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/940