Remarks at Mumbai Consulate Meet and Greet
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. It is my great honor to introduce to you our new ambassador, Timothy Roemer. And, actually, this group needs very little introduction, because it's an X Generation consulate staff, and one of the best in the world. And you guys have already Googled everything there is to know about Ambassador Roemer.
MODERATOR: But I would mention a couple of things. We are getting a true foreign affairs professional. Ambassador Roemer has a Ph.D. from Notre Dame in foreign affairs, I believe, and he is also a six-term congressman. So I give you Ambassador Tim Roemer.
AMBASSADOR ROEMER: Thank you very much. I am honored to be here. And I will try to do two things. I want to say something about the excellent work from our consulate here, in Mumbai, over the past several months. I am so proud of that. And I have the honor of introducing a very special guest.
Paul, thank you again. A great introduction. My eight-year-old, Grace, my daughter, is always saying to me before I get up to speak to a crowd, "Daddy, please be quick, and please don't bore everybody."
AMBASSADOR ROEMER: I will try to do both. Right after 9/11, as I served in Congress, I had the opportunity to visit. And I went up there and was struck so much by the look of the place, 2 towers coming down, 2 towers of 110 stories; the smell; the devastation and the loss of life. But my best memory is the courage, the heroes, the people that helped one another. As people were coming down the stairs, they met people running up the stairs from the police and the fire department to help other people. Those are the stories that I will remember.
And when I think about what you all did when Mumbai was attacked, you helped the Indian government, you helped the Indian people, you helped make us so proud of what you do on a daily basis, helping Americans who live here, helping the visa policy, being such great workers of the United States government. We are so proud of that work, and what you do. I look forward to working with you. Thank you for everything.
AMBASSADOR ROEMER: When the President of the United States asked me to do this job, I thought back about my time in Congress, where I had the honor of being elected by the people of Indiana, and representing about a million people to go work in the people's house.
And then I started thinking about this big job, where the President was asking me to go and represent the face of 300 million people in America to a country of a billion people. You stop and you think about it. What an honor. What a privilege to do that.
But then you start thinking about who the President picked to not only represent the great United States to the great people of the Republic of India, but to its neighbors: Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
But who did the President pick to represent the United States, to be the Secretary and represent us to China, a billion people? Who did the President have confidence in? Who could be the messenger around the world about smart power and democracy and development? Who did the President have such confidence in, that we know that she can work with technology in this new world, that that technology can reach out and communicate with rural, poor women, and elevate them and give them hope and opportunity?
The President had such confidence in somebody who could work on issues where there is volatility in the leadership, North Korea, and where there is such stability and calm and intellect, like Prime Minister Singh.
When I go to the State Department and walk the halls and get to that seventh floor, I am struck, as I get ready to go in the Secretary's office, by three portraits: a portrait of former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; former Secretary of State James Madison; former Secretary of State James Monroe. Our very best tradition.
I give to you, ladies and gentlemen, the very best tradition, the great leadership and the great talent of America, as we enthusiastically welcome to Mumbai and I present to you our United States of America Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone. It's so great to be here with our new ambassador. You can just sense the energy and commitment that he is going to bring to this post. And I am thrilled that he was able to get through our Senate process in time to join me on this wonderful visit here.
Paul, thank you. And thanks to all of you who have helped to plan my trip. I am thrilled to be back in India. It's exciting, as always, to just sense the dynamism and the commitment to a better future.
I have been on the job for six months now, and I have to say that the greatest part of being Secretary of State are the people who work for the United States, both our own citizens, foreign service and civil service, those from other agencies who are part of Mission India, and certainly Mission Mumbai, and all of our wonderful local nationals who get up every day and work in our consol and work on behalf of our relationships between the United States and India.
So, it's a special pleasure to be here. This is my fourth trip to India in the last 15 years. And I hope that I will have a chance to come back and be a part of the exciting broadening and deepening of the relationship between our two countries.
I want to also introduce someone else, Bob Blake, who is our Assistant Secretary for South Central Asia. He was the DCM in Delhi between 2003 and 2006. Also, chargé Peter Burleigh, who is out working on our next stops, but I wanted to publicly thank him for the service he has done in preparation for our having our ambassador.
I just also wanted to make three quick points. I am committed to elevating diplomacy and development to be on an equal par with defense, as part of our foreign policy. And, to that end, the State Department will be doing the very first quadrennial diplomacy and development review with USAID so that we can present our own framework of what we stand for, and what we've worked to achieve. And I think it's important to solicit the ideas of those of you who are literally on the front lines.
We are going to have a real bottoms up process. People don't have to contribute, but if you have ideas, they are more than welcome, because what we want to do is not only analyze where we are and what we need to be, and therefore ask for the resources that will be required, but to do better. We want to keep improving and working harder on all of the parts of America's presence around the world. And here in India, what that means is that President Obama and I are very committed to taking our relationship with India to the next level. And it's not just government-to-government.
As you know, yesterday I started with a breakfast with the -- with some business leaders, talked very broadly about an agenda that we will be working on together. I met with my friends from SEWA, the absolutely extraordinary women's organization that has made such a difference in 1.2 million lives in India, and ended up at St. Xavier's, talking about education. We want to deepen our connections between the people of the United States and the people of India, between the business sector, between the education and health sector, all NGOs. We really want to make this as broad and positive a relationship as possible.
And that brings me to all of you. The U.S. consulate in Mumbai is one of the busiest consulates in the world. You probably know that. You probably wonder how you can possibly keep up with everything you are asked to do. Last year you processed more than half-a-million visa interviews, and 18,000 legal permanent resident interviews, with total work hours close to 60,000. There has been a 200 percent increase in total staffing here in the past 10 years.
With over 300 employees, you have outgrown the former Maharaja's Palace that has been the home for you for many years. And I am pleased that by 2010 you will be able to move into the new consulate complex. You are replacing history with modernity and new technology and a lot of the other needs that you have been telling us are required.
And finally, I want to echo what Ambassador Roemer said. I wanted to stay here at Taj to send a very strong message about our country's commitment to working with India in the fight against terrorism. And I had the opportunity to see the memorial plaque in the lobby and the tree of life which survived the fire on the sixth floor of the old part of the hotel. I met some of the hotel employees who put their lives on the line to try to save lives, some of whom not only lost friends but family members in the attack.
Yet they are coming to work every day. They are working to reopen the entire hotel by the end of the year. And they are very much a walking reminder of how important it is to stand against those who would bring death and havoc on people who are going about their daily lives.
Six Americans, as you know so well, were killed in the attacks, two severely, hospitalized. But this staff responded immediately. You operated a 24-hour call center. You identified and assisted victims. You set up receiving centers for hotel evacuations through those terrible four days. You worked with scores of traumatized American citizens, to ensure their safety and their onward travel. And your service and bravery in that moment of crisis are a real credit to the State Department and to the United States and to India.
So, I thank you. I thank you on behalf of all of those who needed you and you were there for them. And I thank you for the great work you have done on this trip.
Now, I know that there is a custom, which is to throw a wheels up party --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- when finally you see the plane carrying somebody like me --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- leave, knowing your responsibility is over and I am now somebody else's problem.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So you earned a great wheels up party, and I hope that you know how grateful we are in admiring the extraordinary service you have performed. Thank you all very, very much.