Meet and Greet with Embassy Staff and Their Families in Bridgetown

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bridgetown, Barbados
June 10, 2010

CHARGÉ HARDT: (Inaudible) Caribbean, and we are truly fortunate to have the Secretary of State, someone who is totally committed to working with the Caribbean. I know your friends and colleagues greatly value your interest and your friendship.

As we all know, Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to public service, from working to raise educational standards in Arkansas to promoting adequate healthcare for all Americans, and promoting microfinance to create opportunity for women and empower female entrepreneurs worldwide. She is a passionate advocate, especially for those in need of a helping hand.

Together with President Obama, she especially has articulated a new vision for our international engagement, rooted in the very best of American values that seeks to build relationships of mutual respect and responsibility and to seize opportunities to build a safer, more prosperous, and more just world, which is what the Secretary has accomplished today.

So Madam Secretary, thank you again for your visit with us. I’m pleased to introduce to you the wonderful women and men and boys and girls of U.S. Embassy Bridgetown; and to our Embassy, I’m pleased to introduce you, our Secretary of State. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you so much, Brent, for that kind introduction, and thank you, Sasha, and thanks to each and every one of you. Brent was here, as he said, when I visited as First Lady in 1997. He was running around then too trying to organize everything on short notice, and I appreciate all that he and all of you did on the lead-up to this visit. I am so grateful, Brent, for your services as chargé the last 17 months. And I’m grateful to all of you for serving America’s interests in so many countries here in the Caribbean.

When I was last here, this beautiful new Embassy compound was not, and the restoration of the George Washington House was just beginning, so it’s really gratifying to come back and see so much progress in the last 13 years. And clearly, there has been a lot of work that has come out of this Embassy staff here in Bridgetown. You help to lay the groundwork for closer cooperation with CARICOM and especially for the ministerials we held today, the work you’re doing on HIV/AIDS, on addressing the transnational threat of drug trafficking, gang activity – the new Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will, I hope, help you on that – combating climate change, promoting energy security and renewable energy with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, and producing real results.

Security is one of our most important efforts and we have a very good collaboration between U.S. and local law enforcement. Over 250 officials from countries in the region have benefited from your training on issues ranging from terrorism financing to fraudulent document identification to cyber crime to military readiness. And that really matters to us and it matters to the people of this part of our region.

We also appreciate what you’re doing beyond traditional law enforcement engagement to address the lack of opportunity that contributes to crime. Under Jim Goggin’s leadership, our USAID Mission is nurturing a local entrepreneurial spirit and stepping up support for youth job training. That is what our colleagues from the Government of Barbados wanted to talk about with us today. When the chargé and I met with them, it was all about youth employment, education, greater opportunities to build the economy and create greater social inclusion here in Barbados.

You’re covering a far bigger area than some embassies with larger staff, and so that means what you’ve accomplished is even more impressive.

And I do want to thank the locally engaged staff, some of whom were here, as Brent said, when he first came as a junior officer. And a special congratulations to Neil Hinds from the Regional Security Office, who was nominated for Foreign Service National of the year. (Applause.) His network of contacts throughout the Eastern Caribbean and his expertise have made him an invaluable resource for every service and agency in the Embassy.

I also want to recognize Malika White from the Consular Section for her courage and service in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. (Applause.) Even before we issued a call for additional staff, she had volunteered for duty and did critical translation work, assisting Haitians to complete evacuation forms requesting medical and financial help. So I am grateful to her.

And thanks also to Management Counselor Marcia Norman for her 31 years of service to the State Department and – where are you, Marcia? (Applause.) I’m told that Marcia delayed her retirement by a week in order to help prepare for this visit, so I’d better hurry up and finish so she can start – (laughter) – enjoying some overdue R&R.

I hope that you all know how much President Obama and I appreciate your long hours, your commitment. Although frankly, serving in Barbados, I mean – (laughter) – I don’t know. I’m not going to hear too many complaints from anybody here. But I do think that it’s important to underscore how everything we’re trying to do to reengage with and deepen and broaden our relationships with our friends in the Caribbean depends on you.

I can come and pay a visit. Obviously, you had Bob Gates here, you had Eric Holder here. But then we go, and the work is left to each and every one of you, and I want to thank you for doing an exemplary job. And I thank the family members who are here, especially the children, because they serve as well. It’s a great pleasure for me to be your Secretary of State and to have this opportunity to come and thank you after a visit like this. But I really came to thank you for every day, because I know that what goes on here makes a difference. And so I’m afraid we agreed to do a lot more work. That means you’ll have a lot more work in furthering our common efforts with our friends here in Barbados and throughout the Caribbean, but it’s worth it because this is essential to America’s security and well-being.

And so for every American who comes through on a visit, for every interdiction that you make preventing a narco-trafficker and their evil wares from making its way north, to every program you implement to help a young person in poverty see a better future – for all that and so much more, we are immensely grateful. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2010/T30-10