Remarks at Holiday Reception for the Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions to the United States

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
December 13, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good evening, everyone and a very happy holiday season to you. It is wonderful to welcome so many distinguished guests here to the State Department, where we have some festive cheer, holiday traditions that are made special by the people who gather together. And I’m delighted that so many of you could come and be with us.

But one very dear friend in particular is not with us, and our thoughts are with him tonight. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has been a giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years. He is practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period. He’s taken on the hardest assignments, from Vietnam to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this week, his doctors are learning what diplomats and dictators around the world have long known: There’s nobody tougher than Richard Holbrooke. He’s a fierce negotiator. I’m sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting.

But he is a fiercer friend and a beloved mentor and an invaluable counselor. He has been a friend of mine for many years and I am deeply grateful for his presence and support. When I came to the State Department, I was delighted to be able to bring Richard in and give him one of the most difficult challenges that any diplomat can face. And he immediately put together an absolutely world class staff. It represents what we believe should be the organizational model for the future – people not only from throughout our own government, but even representatives from other governments all working together. And we know that with Richard, loyalty runs deep and it runs both ways. So tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Ambassador Holbrooke, his wife Kati, their family, who are here with us as well.

We’re going to have a couple of surprises tonight, and one I will save, but I’m going to thank some of the Cabinet members who are here – Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Transportation LaHood, Ambassador Rice, as well as, I’m told, the outgoing mayor, Mayor Fenty, who has interacted with so many of you over his time in service here. We, of course, welcome all of our diplomats who are with us, and the dean of the diplomatic corps, His Excellency Roble Olhaye and his wife, Amina. Where are they? There you are. Thank you very much once again. (Applause.)

Now, in a moment, you will be treated to another holiday delight, a musical performance from the incomparable Marvin Hamlisch and J. Mark McVey. You’ve already heard the World Children’s Choir and the Air Force, Army, and Navy musicians from the Military District of Washington. But I want to also thank you. Thank you for the great cooperation that we’ve had, the partnerships we’ve built, the commitments that we have undertaken together. And I look forward to extending and deepening those relationships as we move into 2011.

Now, many of you have had a chance to travel this year and see the opportunities for cooperation that exist beyond Washington. The Experience America trips, including one to Chicago and one to Atlanta, have helped connect you, ambassadors from around the world, with entrepreneurs, educators, artists, and others who are outside the beltway. And I know the “State of the Administration” briefings have also been of particular interest. And USAID Administrator Raj Shah will be participating in our next briefing for you later this week.

So there will be a lot of activity and many more events in the new year. But what I’d like to do now is ask to come to the stage someone who, if you don’t know his face, you know his work. He has provided the soundtrack to so much of our modern era. He’s one of the few artists ever to win the grand slam of entertainment honors in the United States – an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. And his groundbreaking Broadway show, A Chorus Line, also received the Pulitzer Prize. So we are in the presence of one amazing musical genius tonight, someone who captures and conveys universal human emotions with his irresistible melodies. He’s described his own job as helping widen communication through the international language of music.

So please join me in welcoming Marvin Hamlisch and Broadway vocalist J. Mark McVey. (Applause.)

(Performance was given.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a special treat for us this year to have the President join all of us for the diplomatic reception. He is, as you know, deeply committed to extending our engagement around the world, supporting the efforts that we’ve undertaken over the last two years to find ways that we can reach out and communicate not just with governments, but with people, and to convey the importance of all of us working toward common ends that reflect our common aspirations.

So it is a particular honor and delight for me to introduce to you the President of the United States. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2010/1810