Meet and Greet with Embassy Staff and Their Families in Quito

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Quito, Ecuador
June 8, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: (In progress) remarkable team of hardworking people, and I’d like to thank each and every one of you for all that you’re doing to strengthen bilateral ties between Ecuador and the United States and our partners and partnerships throughout the region. This was a tremendously important visit for us to make because it gives me a real first-hand look at what is happening in our government-to-government relationship and gives me a glimpse about our people-to-people relationship. There were so many people out on the streets and who were waving and seemed happy and telling me they had relatives who lived in the United States – (laughter) – that I felt very much at home. And I was, at one time, a senator from New York, and I think New York is the third largest city in Ecuador. (Laughter.)

We have a very ambitious foreign policy agenda here. We’re working to conserve the beauty and resources of the environment, to counter the evils of the drug traffickers, to facilitate development strategies that help spread economic benefits to more and more people. And I especially appreciate what you all are doing to reach out to new audiences in Ecuador, especially young people and others who may not have been as involved before. We believe very strongly in person-to-person contact. And programs like youth ambassadors create cultural exchanges that do foster greater understanding over the long term. In fact, I think one of the government ministers had a greater experience in a U.S. visitors program some years back – like, 20 or 25 years back. But still the memory lives on.

I want to thank Kevin Skillin and Tania Páez, who’ve done a great job coordinating this program for students in Ecuador to learn more about the United States and share their stories with American students. Getting involved in the work of this mission seems to be a family affair, because in addition to the Quito Cares charity organization set up and run by some of the embassy families, two embassy teenagers have won State Department awards for their commitment to volunteerism and service. Cristin Middaugh and Mark Flores are a testament to the power of young people, and I want to thank them because they’re among some of our best youth ambassadors.

I also want to thank Jennifer Savage, Chris Gage, Carol Fajardo for their contributions to the response team in Haiti, and Patty Hoffman, who happened to be in Santiago at the time of the earthquake there. So to each of the 269 of you who work here in Quito and the 95 who work in Guayaquil, and to your family members, I am really here to express appreciation from not only the State Department, USAID, but all the government agencies that are represented here at the mission in Ecuador. And I want to thank not only our Foreign Service officers and our civil service officers and all of the Americans who are posted here from across the government, but the locally-engaged staff members who help keep the embassy running – four of whom have given over 30 years of service to the United States.

Can I see the hands of the four locally-engaged staff? I have their names here – Renata Barragan, Miguel Bautista, Maria Ormaza, and Monica Ramirez. Thank you. Let’s give them a round of applause for that kind of dedication. (Applause.)

I learned a long time ago that when someone like me shows up, your workload practically doubles. And you have earned what we call a “wheels up” party, when we finally see my tail wheels of my plane leave for my next destination. But it is so important at a time when we are working to define a positive relationship with the government and people of Ecuador, for each and every one of you to know how valued your work is. I know the ambassador knows it, but I want you to know it from me.

And I’m also very excited about what I see as the potential here. Not that it is easy, and I’ve certainly expressed the difficulties that we know exist, and we’re not going to agree on everything. But the fact is that the affinity between the Ecuadorian people and the American people is great, and we ought to build on that and we ought to recognize that it is the real core of our relationship going forward.

So, Ambassador, thank you again. I’m going to shake some hands and thank people, and the young people who are here, and just take another look at that view, which is magnificent, and wish you all well as we go forward together.

Thank you. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2010/T30-8