Secretary Clinton Meets with Embassy Staff and their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ambassador's Residence
Paris, France
January 29, 2010

It is such a treat for me to be here and to have this opportunity to say thank you, first and foremost to our ambassador, who is doing such a wonderful job. It’s a real pleasure to serve with you, Charles, and with you, Susan, and with your children, because it’s a family commitment which we appreciate greatly, and to know that our mission here in Paris and throughout France is in such good hands.

Also to Ambassador Kornbluh and her son, we are delighted you are here, and I thank Karen so much for the work that she is doing at OECD, which is an international instrument that needs to be used even more. And I look forward to working with you. And to David Killion and to Kristen and everybody at UNESCO, thank you for helping us reenter UNESCO, set the right tone, and work on many of the important issues that matter to our country.

As Ambassador Rivkin said, it is a great honor to serve the United States anywhere in the word, and I see that wherever I travel. But it is special to come to France and to thank everyone here for the work you do every single day. This is our oldest mission, our oldest ally, and as I said at a speech earlier this afternoon, a partner in so much, including our own independence, and the liberation of Paris. There is a great, rich history, but relations are not about the past; they’re about the future. And I think that we will see even closer cooperation between the United States and France in the years ahead.

I bring you warm greetings from President Obama, who is also very grateful for your service. I want to thank your deputy chief of mission, Mark Pekala, who I know from previous incarnations, and to all of you who are in the Foreign Service and the Civil Service.

You have helped us really turn the page on the past in our relations with France. We’re creating a level of trust and confidence, which I certainly saw exhibited in my meetings earlier with the National Security Advisor Levitte, and, of course, with President Sarkozy. And I’m on my way to be with the foreign minister for a meeting and a dinner.

But to me, what is most important is that you’re not just doing what is expected. You’re really creating new expectations and going beyond boundaries. I wanted to acknowledge Ambassador Rivkin’s greening initiative here at post, which highlights the importance of individual efforts to address climate change, and his ideas to launch a green trade mission conference that would draw international business leaders together to share greener business practices or to build a carbon-neutral Marine house. This will trigger the kind of conversations and cooperation that we are seeking with our host country. And it’s a shared interest, it’s a common concern, and we want to take concerted action.

I also want to acknowledge Ambassador Killion’s work with the new UNESCO Director-General Bokova, whom I met with last week. I was proud to offer our support for the organization’s comprehensive agenda, not only encouraging freedom of expression and promoting advances in science and engineering, but concentrating on women and girls around the world, particularly their education, something which is key to America’s efforts to stabilize countries, to resolve conflicts, to raise the aspirations and incomes of societies. And I look forward to working with David.

And I want to acknowledge Ambassador Kornbluh’s leadership and Mission OECD’s role in helping to advance progress on the global economic recovery, something that is not only of the moment but must be sustained. We have to continue to work with our European friends to promote common interest in bank reform and efficient energy policies, free markets, stronger mechanisms to counter corruption, an issue that is very timely.

But I mostly came today to thank those of you who serve. It is a great honor to be the 67th Secretary of State, to work with professionals not just from the Foreign Service and the Civil Service but people from many federal agencies, our locally employed staff who really serve as the foundation of our diplomatic efforts. We’re grateful for the long hours and the late nights that you spend representing our nation, although you’ll never convince me that it’s not enjoyable here. (Laughter.)

I know that a number of you have gone above and beyond the call of duty. I want to thank the four Embassy personnel who volunteered to assist with Haitian earthquake relief. I want to thank the five Embassy employees who are currently deployed to hardship posts, and they’re not with their families, and so I want to thank them through you. So please pass my gratitude on. And I want to acknowledge and thank the 19 Embassy employees who recently returned from hardship posts.

We know that we have responsibilities in every corner of the world and we know we’ve got the best people to carry out those responsibilities, but we also recognize the stress that comes with many of the jobs we expect you to perform. So it’s nice to see that you are enjoying some time in one of our most important posts in the world.

I am also very conscious of what a visit like mine means. Everything I just said about the work you do every day is certainly not even close to describing what you then have to do on top of that to prepare for a visit like this. But it’s very important that we constantly nurture our relationship not only with the French Government but with the French people. And I’m deputizing you all to be sure that you do that, so that we not only have good ties that are even stronger now but we constantly lay the groundwork for whatever happens and however we have to work together.

But there is a tradition of the “wheels up” party, which is well-deserved, when people have labored and tried to figure out how to manage all the moving parts of a visit by a Secretary of State. And you might want to wait for better weather, but I highly urge the ambassador to consider that.

The challenges that we are confronting are so cross-cutting; they really don’t respect boundaries. So we couldn’t address them without our partner nation states, and particularly here in Europe, who have common values and common interests, want to work toward a common future. And it is exciting to see the progress in our relationship on a range of matters that we are now deeply involved in discussing with the French Government.

But it’s not just about the crisis du jour and what’s on the front page of the paper or at the head of the news. It’s also about – let’s take a step back, look over the horizon. What do we need to do to be ready for the future? It was American and European leaders who really created the architecture for the world that we inhabit today. That architecture stood the test of the time, but it’s no longer adequate to the challenges we face. So how do we prepare ourselves? What do we need to do differently? How do we image that future that we want to help create? And it’s especially important for that baby back there – (laughter) – because everything we do is about his or her future; I have no idea which.

And I want to end with a story. It’s not about France. It’s about our dialogue with China, because we have many issues, some of them (inaudible) when it comes to dealing with the Chinese leadership. But we started a comprehensive Strategic and Economic Dialogue that Secretary Geithner and I chair. And at the first meeting, there was – we had a dinner the night before, and the top Chinese officials were there and the person who is my counterpart in the dialogue is State Councilor Dai Bingguo. And he was sitting at the table, and we started talking about what we were doing. And he told me he had just had his first grandchild. I said, you know, I think that we ought to ask people when they come to international meetings to bring pictures of children and grandchildren or nieces or nephews or other children who are precious and important to them, and put those pictures out on the table and think through, is the decision that you’re about to make going to make their lives better? And the next time we had a meeting in Beijing during the President’s trip to Beijing, the first thing he did when he sat down was take out a picture of his grandchild.

I have been involved in child advocacy my entire adult life, and I do try to think about what’s in the best interests of children, how do we best serve them? I got to meet two of the ambassadors’ children today, of Ambassador Rivkin and Ambassador Kornbluh, and it just brought home once more this work is very important. And we really applaud and thank you for being willing to be in public service and to do what you can to make a difference for that future.

And besides, you know, this is probably the best public housing any of us will ever be able to enjoy. (Laughter.)

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2010/T21-6