Remarks at Meeting With Staff of Embassy Cairo

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Cairo, Egypt
March 16, 2011

MODERATOR: (In progress) give us all they’ve got, and I can tell you for the last several weeks have been operating on energy that I don’t think anybody knew they possessed, and that energy is obviously coming from the people of Egypt. So without further ado, Secretary Clinton, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ambassador. And let me begin by expressing how proud I am to be here and to have this opportunity to thank all of you, Egyptian and American alike, for your extraordinary service during this historic time here in Egypt. It is for me a great honor to be here. And let me begin by thanking the Ambassador who spent a lot of late nights (inaudible) to the White House and the State Department to give us up-to-the-date reports and the DCM Matt Tueller. Thank you, Matt, for your leadership, and to all of you – Egyptian, American, civilian, military – I thank you for the strong relationship that you have with the Egyptian people and the strong work that you have done on behalf of that relationship.

I know that it’s been a challenging time here in Cairo over the last weeks. During the evacuations, you worked night and day to make sure that over 2,300 American citizens were safely evacuated. And I will speak loudly – (laughter) – and I know that our security and our law enforcement employees did an amazing job in securing the vehicles and the passengers and even helping to treat people as they were coming out of the challenging environment they were in.

Now, I also know that we only have 50 percent of our staff here. I was just talking with the Ambassador. We are hoping to be able to begin to return more of our staff back here to Cairo to give you a little relief and to continue building support for the work that the government here in Egypt is doing. I also appreciate the extra help that you’ve given for my trip. I know it’s not easy any time someone like me shows up and you have to work even harder to be able to fulfill the extra requirements.

I also want to thank our military for the help in rescuing and evacuating Egyptians from Libya. We have brought home more than a thousand Egyptians who were stranded on the border with Tunisia, and I’m very proud of that effort.

There is, however, I know, a very sad note as well, because I want to say a word of appreciation and condolence for Khairy Ramadan Aly. As you know so well, he worked for the embassy here for 18 years. He was killed on January 28th during the demonstrations while searching for his son. His family is here with us. I want to express our sympathy and our appreciation for his service and extend our condolence and support to the family in their time of loss. No words can ever replace the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather, a colleague, but we are standing with his family and we will continue to do so.

I think that the (inaudible) that you have done is in the real tradition of its expeditionary diplomacy. This was an extraordinary moment, and I was touched by an Embassy Cairo officer who said that the circumstances we’ve been forced to endure have moved us beyond ties and suits and uniforms, and we have forged a camaraderie across all the agencies of the United States Government.

I am very proud of you. And I had the opportunity in my meetings last night and today to express our admiration to the people of Egypt and our support for those civilian and military who are working with the Supreme Council of the armed forces, with the prime minister and the government to translate into reality the dreams and aspirations of the Egyptian people. That is our hope for Egypt, and we stand ready to assist in every way possible, because this is Egypt’s moment, this is Egypt’s story. But the United States has been a partner and will remain a partner and a friend as this great transformation to democracy continues.

Now, what I’d like to do is shake as many hands as possible to personally thank you and to greet you. Before I lose my voice trying to -- (laughter) – reach way back there and way back there. But I went to Tahrir Square. I don’t know where Ahmed (ph) and Ike (ph) are, the two young men right there, who were my guides and who described for me their own experiences and what was happening during those tumultuous breathtaking days in Tahrir Square well named for liberation of the human spirit, of a country whose future is, in my view, even greater than the already extraordinary past.

I said to the foreign minister and other ministers that I had dinner with last night that compared to Egypt, the United States is a very, very young country – 225 years (inaudible) 7,000 years. There’s not much of a comparison. But we are the oldest democracy, so we do know a thing or two about translating into reality the democratic principles and values. And we know that it is the most important work that any people can do. It is not easy work. It has taken us a long time. And frankly, we’ve had a lot of struggles along the way. We’ve had our own problems in overcoming divisions, fighting a civil war, reaching out to include women, people of different religions and backgrounds and races – all in the American democracy.

And I have great confidence that Egypt is going to break the mold, that you are going to show how democracy works in a way that, for generations to come, not only future Egyptians but people everywhere, are going to point and say, “That was one of the most important historic turning points.” The pyramids are magnificent, but nowhere near as magnificent as what you have already done.

And now to make sure – (applause) – that all that work and all that sacrifice, including the loss of an employee here at the Embassy, is not in vain, that no one is permitted to hijack this revolution, no one is permitted to turn the clock back on this revolution, no one is permitted to claim it for only one group of Egyptians and try to exclude other Egyptians. That will be the challenge.

And we will help in every way possible to support those who are making the decisions now to support the process that will allow Egyptians to elect the leaders who will lead the first part of this new democracy, and to remind everyone that elections is not all that democracy’s about. People can have an election and then never want to have another election. And what has to happen is to really embed all of the values of democracy into the hearts and minds of the Egyptian citizens.

So I come to thank you, but also to pledge support and to tell you that the United States of America will be with Egypt on this next chapter in the extraordinary history of this civilization.

Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/T42-06