Visit With Embassy Staff and Their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
San Jose, Costa Rica
March 5, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ambassador Andrew. And it is a great pleasure for me to be back here in Costa Rica and to see Embassy San Jose. This country is a great friend to the United States, and the work that you are doing every day is broadening and deepening and strengthening that partnership and friendship. So I am deeply grateful.

And I want to thank you for having the children come today because the work that we do is really about them. I had dinner last night with the ambassador and a few others with President Arias, a man who has committed himself to not only the development of his own country, but to furthering peace and stability in the region and around the world. And the work that you’re doing is helping us to advance those goals here in Costa Rica.

I am very pleased with the Pathways to Prosperity program that we held here. I thank everyone from the mission who helped to make it such a successful conference. The partnerships you’re building with civil society and the private sector make a lasting difference in people’s lives. In the months ahead, we look forward to working with the new president-elect of Costa Rica, who I met with yesterday and am very excited about her vision for the future as well.

I want to thank all of the Foreign Service and Civil Service officers here at post, everyone representing other departments of the United States Government, the Peace Corps volunteers who are working here. (Applause.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: Yay. (Laughter.) And of course, our wonderful locally employed nationals, the staff that tells all of us what to do. And I am reminded of that as I travel around the world. I try to speak to embassy employees in every country that I visit to thank you for your service. And I’m often introduced to our local staff members, some of whom have worked at posts for 30 or 40 or even 50 years. So we are very grateful to you.

And I also want to thank our American employee family members. I’ve heard about your volunteering at women’s shelters, helping to build homes, mentoring. So you’re also serving alongside the actual employee. I know a little bit about what it takes for a family to be committed to public service.

Before closing, I want to recognize one special person whose service has inspired generations of American diplomats in Costa Rica. Angie Vargas, would you please come up for a minute? (Applause.) As many of you know, Angie is retiring after more than 25 years at this mission. She has served as protocol advisor to eight ambassadors here, starting with Ambassador Deane Hinton back in 1988. Angie is someone I knew in my previous life when my husband and I visited Costa Rica 13 years ago. And my husband happened to be on crutches at that time, so you can imagine some of the protocol challenges of maneuvering the President of the United States around from event to event.

I know that Angie has led the way and shown the ropes to many an ambassador and Foreign Service officer and other American Government employees over the years. And she has kept us out of trouble more times than we can probably count. She’s done this with grace, passion, dedication, and affection for her country and her adopted country.

So Angie, we have a certificate for you somewhere. Let’s see, where is the certificate? Got it – right here, excellent. Your service to this Embassy has been invaluable. You will be missed dearly by so many, including myself, who admire your work, your character, and your commitment. And I wish you the best of luck. So let’s stand over here and we’ll get a picture. (Applause.)

Well, I know that most of you haven’t been here as long as Angie, but I thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to working with you in this partnership. President Obama and I appreciate everything you’re doing. We’re grateful for your talent, your dedication, and the results you’re delivering for our country.

Now, I know the ambassador just arrived thanks to our very slow, cumbersome, dysfunctional confirmation process. (Laughter.) That’s an editorial comment. (Laughter.) So she may not know about this tradition that when people like me come and impose on you, causing you extra work on top of everything else you’re doing every day, you deserve a wheels-up party.

And Ambassador, when my plane finally lifts up and heads to Guatemala, I’m now somebody else’s responsibility. And Mission San Jose and all of our team here in Costa Rica will have fulfilled their responsibility. They will have gotten me off safely to go somewhere else. So I think that this crew probably deserves a wheels-up party. And I thank you for everything you’re doing on behalf of the relationship between our two countries.

And what I’d like to do now is to go sit right there and take a picture with the children, so if there are any young people who want to get into this picture, I hope you’ll come join me over here, and then I’ll shake as many hands as I can on my way out. Thank you again for your service. (Applause.)

PRN: 2010/T23-14