Remarks at U.S. Embassy Tunis

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Tunis, Tunisia
March 17, 2011

AMBASSADOR:  I would like to thank all of you for coming here. Secretary Clinton was last here in 1999, as many of you remember. She returned last night to a dramatically different and much improved Tunisia, and she is here to demonstrate her support for the (inaudible). Secretary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. It is wonderful to be here and to see all of you. I am deeply moved and honored to have come at this particular moment in Tunisian history. I want to thank the ambassador and all of you who have been representing the United States during these extraordinary times here in Tunisia.

And it is exciting for me because, as I was talking with the President just a few minutes ago, it seems -- every day in the State Department, on the eighth floor, which are the formal diplomatic reception rooms, there is a beautiful, large portrait of the Bey of Tunis. And it goes back to the very beginning of our country, when we had a warm relationship between the Americans and the Tunisian people. And it was exciting for us to remember all of that history, the support that the United States gave for Tunisian independence. And now, once again, we are supporting the Tunisian revolution for democracy. And thank you. (Applause.)

There are so many reasons to say a special word of gratitude to this embassy team, both to the Americans and to the local staff, to the security, the language school students, everyone who is represented here. And I am also grateful to all of you who helped us obtain the ambulance that we have just donated to the Red Crescent. And it was wonderful to visit the center that we helped to build through United States contributions, and the ambulance, and to thank the Red Crescent for the unbelievable job they are doing in dealing with the humanitarian crisis on the Libyan border. There has been a lot of compliments that have been coming from the international aid organizations, from the team that I sent out last week -- some of you met Eric Schwartz and Nancy Lindborg. They came back just really impressed and admiring of what the Tunisians are doing to help those who have had to flee from Libya.

I also want to express a special word of appreciation to all of you for everything you did during the height of the demonstrations. There were many of you who were here at the compound, sleeping here, making sure that everything was going well here, dealing with some of the problems that you encountered, the curfew and other kinds of issues, forming neighborhood watch groups to be in solidarity, but also to provide self protection. And I want to, on behalf of myself and President Obama, thank you.

And I was able to tell my colleagues when I was coming here that Tunisia started the democracy revolution. And Tunisia we want to help to be the model of what a democracy is. (Applause.)

I am so pleased to be back after 12 years, especially to be back under these circumstances, and representing the United States. We are going to be meeting, as you know, with the president, with the foreign minister and the prime minister, in order to hear directly from them what they need from the United States, what kind of help we can provide, and how we can also work together to coordinate everyone who wishes to assist Tunisia, because there are many organizations and countries that stand ready to help with the political and economic reforms that you are undertaking.

I was very impressed to learn that the election for the constituent assembly is already scheduled for July 24, and I know that this embassy will be available to assist those who wish to participate. Then there will be the writing of the constitution. Again, we offer assistance, as appropriate, to those who will be responsible for writing the new constitution for the new Tunisia.

I also want to emphasize more educational and scientific and cultural exchange programs, and to work on the needs of the Tunisian people, particularly for health care and employment. We want to see what kind of private investment can be attracted to Tunisia, which is so strategically located.

And it is also exciting for me to know how much Americans want to be involved. When I was at the Red Crescent I met an impressive young Tunisian doctor who said that he wanted to work with the Red Crescent and our embassy and all of you to see what could be done through the Red Crescent medical professionals and volunteers to help Tunisians who are in need of health care and all kinds of services.

Now, I am also pleased that many of the women and the entrepreneurs and the civil society leaders that I met 12 years ago here in Tunisia are in the forefront of the changes that we are watching unfold here in Tunisia, not only joining the protest, but taking a leadership responsibility. Because it is going to take every Tunisian. This is a moment when everyone must contribute your respective skills and talents.

And I want you to know that, as you may have seen, when President Obama mentioned Tunisia in the State of the Union, Tunisia received a standing ovation. And we want to tell you that we will stand with you. We know that this will be a challenging journey. There is no blueprint. You cannot go and take a book off the shelf and say, "Here is how you do this." But there are many who are ready to share their experiences and what they have learned in the transition to democracy.

And so, thank you. Thank you to all who have strengthened and deepened and maintained the relationship between the United States and Tunisia, and thank you to all of you who will be part of helping to support the new democratic Tunisia. Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/T-42-15