Meets With Embassy Personnel and Their Families
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR GFOELLER: Dear friends, dear Embassy Bishkek community, it’s an extraordinary honor and pleasure to introduce to you a person who really needs no introduction, which is our boss, Secretary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton, I’m incredibly pleased to introduce my team to you. This is a fantastic team that’s been through a lot during the past year. They’ve pulled together and achieved amazing things, not a single American injury in all of the violence that took place. And I think we can honestly take credit, a little credit, for helping to make sure (inaudible) on the road to democracy. Very personally, you have been an inspiration to me for many years. Your statement that women's rights are human rights has always reverberated with me. I think it reverberates with many, many in our community. When I was Consul General in Jeddah before coming here, I had several of your statements on women’s rights printed up and translated into Arabic and put on little cards and I would give them out to my Saudi women friends. A lot of them are still floating around Saudi Arabia. I wanted to give you your own. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ambassador. I am so delighted. This is great. Well, I will put this in my pocket and carry it around, myself. But it's nice to know that we have a common message that you carried forward when you were in Jeddah, and I appreciate very much your hard work over many years, serving our country with such distinction. We are very grateful to you.
I also want to thank Larry Memmott for lending his talents to this important mission. And it is exciting for me to be back in Bishkek after having visited here the first time, back in 1997. Reminders of Kyrgyzstan's past are everywhere. I remember the 50-foot statue of Lenin towering over downtown. Somebody told me it's still there.
There was a lot of optimism about the future. I did a ribbon cutting at the American University in Kyrgyzstan, which is now the American University of Central Asia which the United States has continued to support. I was made an honorary professor at that time, and that was 13 years ago. So that's probably the longest sabbatical ever. (Laughter.)
I just met with the president, and I am pleased to see the developments of the past year. Because, as the Ambassador said, one could not have predicted that it would have gone as well as it has. There is still a long way to go, but the fact that the government will be formed today, or shortly, and that there is an agenda for democracy that is taking hold is very reassuring.
I’m finally delighted to visit the Silver Diner Embassy of Central Asia. (Laughter.) I know that this is a warehouse as opposed to the chancery – (laughter) – but it's probably bigger than the chancery, and it certainly is bigger than your largest conference room, which I am told holds, like, 10 people. I guess you know that we’ll be breaking ground on a new chancery next year, and that will give those of you who will still be here when it's finished, and those who will follow after you, a safer, more comfortable work environment.
But I want to thank all of you for what you do day in and day out. I know that this has been a difficult post during this past year. There were very real security concerns for you and your families. I know many of you slept here at the embassy. We followed what was happening on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Assistant Secretary Bob Blake is here and he came out right in the midst of the worst of the violence to demonstrate American support and solidarity. But through it all you have kept up your morale, you have stayed focused on your work, and you have made a real difference. So your commitment to this mission is inspiring.
In just the past year, you helped monitor elections, you organized debates among the candidates, you gave shelter to families whose homes had been destroyed. And your work is producing real results for the people of Kyrgyzstan.
It's really quite remarkable that, in less than six months, the government organized a constitutional referendum and held parliamentary elections. At the press conference that I just had with the president I praised the government for that accomplishment. There are many countries that have been holding elections for a lot longer and still don't get it right. These elections were universally accepted, which no one could have predicted, and I know that the United States contributed to that.
I am proud of what we've accomplished, but there is so much more we have to do. We have to help the government and people of Kyrgyzstan expand the circle of freedom and broaden civil society, develop economically and democratically to fulfill the potential that we know resides here.
And I particularly want to thank our locally engaged staff for everything you’ve done. I know some of you had real serious concerns about your own families and your own personal security. And I am grateful because we, literally, could not run any embassy anywhere in the world without those of you who know so much more than our rotating U.S. Government officials ever can know. And we rely on you, and we need you, and we’re grateful to you. We appreciate your sacrifice. We appreciate your understanding.
I pledged our support from the Government of the United States to Kyrgyzstan. We are going to try to be even more helpful in working with the government and the people as they tackle a lot of these very difficult issues. We know that stability and security in Central Asia is particularly important to Kyrgyzstan, which is vulnerable from so many different directions, and we will do all that we can to be a good partner and a good friend.
So, thank you for being part of this exciting mission at this an important moment in the history of relations between our two countries. I look forward to coming back, seeing the new chancery some day, or at least the ground breaking, because it takes forever in the government to build these chanceries. (Laughter.) But we’re going to get started on it. For that, I hope you are going to be pushing to make sure it's accomplished.
But thank you all very much, and thanks especially for the extra work that went in to my visit, because I know how hard you work every day, and then along comes the Secretary of State, and you have to work even more. I’ll be out of your hair shortly. I think I have one more stop. And then my plane will take off, and I become somebody else's responsibility in Uzbekistan. And you have deserved, I think it's fair to say, Ambassador, a great wheels up party. (Laughter.)
So, thank you all very much. (Applause.)