Remarks to Embassy Staff and Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy
Tripoli, Libya
October 18, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: As Gene and Assistant Secretary Feltman and I were walking through here, they were talking about how the last time Jeff was here was when we were very worried that Qadhafi and Sanussi were going to kill you.

AMBASSADOR CRETZ: Yeah. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we were debating and just pulling our hair out about what to do and how to respond to it, and then the threats got worse and the intimidation got worse, and so we had to bring Gene home for consultations, as they say. But here you are, you’re back and Qadhafi’s gone. (Laughter.) So it somehow seems to be all’s right with the world. (Applause.)

I am very pleased to have this chance to thank each and every one of you, and to return as Secretary of State to a free Libya. And what an amazing experience. And I’ve had the opportunity today to meet with a number of the officials of the Transitional National Council, students and faculty at Tripoli University, and then I just came from the medical center, where I met with doctors and patients and heard about the very serious needs of a lot of the wounded fighters who made the liberation of Libya possible.

I want to thank Gene, of course, and Joan, because I remember also those – where’s Joan? There you are. Hi, Joan. (Applause.) Come on up here. Come on up here a minute. Ah, come on.

I remember when Joan was evacuating and we got her on the ferry from Malta, and then the ferry from Malta didn’t leave, and then once it left, it was a very rough passage. So indeed, you’re back as well. And those of you who have worked with Gene and Joan to basically turn what had been the ambassador’s residence into our temporary Embassy, I am very, very grateful to each and every one of you. I know that you’re working in very difficult, cramped conditions, three and four of you to a room. I just saw some of that. You had no OpenNet and almost no basic office resources, and we all know that Libya is the land where Blackberrys come to die. (Laughter.) They don’t seem able to get their current going. But I think it’s remarkable, particularly for those of you who stayed throughout the last seven months, to be here back as part of our team on behalf of Embassy Tripoli.

I also want to really express – I know how many of you are feeling. The loss of our Embassy was a very personal one to many of you. You had worked so hard to get it built up and get it going. And the damages, the looting, were just appalling. But I am personally relieved that no damage was done to any of our staff members, because I know many of you were checking on it and trying to keep us informed. And I know, too, that the memories of the last very stressful eight months will be with you always. But at the same time, I hope you’re thinking about the future and what a new Libya will mean to you.

Thank you to all of the American staff who went through so much to evacuate all those homes and cars and family photos, even pets that you had to leave behind. I know how wrenching that was for our American team. The goodbyes you had to say, not only to friends but in some cases family members. Yes, indeed, the 18-foot waves you endured, and finally making it to safety.

But I know that the time was especially difficult for our Libyan colleagues. You endured great suspicion and harassment from the regime’s security forces. Yet in spite of that, many of you, with great personal risk, kept working, and I will always be grateful to you. You helped to safeguard our property. You helped to keep basic Embassy functions running. I know that almost everyone is back. There are a few who are still out there fighting, and we hope they return safely as well. And we look forward to working with you for many years ahead.

A lot has happened in the past, and I am very, very confident that the future will be worthy of the sacrifices that were made. I am also very confident that the relationship between the United States and Libya will only get stronger and deeper as we look for new ways to partner with one another. And I can only imagine the emotions of just less than a month ago when you raised the flags over our new Embassy territory. That is the very same flag that you rolled up and brought back to the United States, Joan. So I think you so much for that. And I heard that you not only played the American national anthem but the new anthem of a free Libya, which was especially welcome.

So I am grateful to you. I had an excellent pair of meetings with Chairman Jalil and Prime Minister Jibril. We went over a lot of the issues that we are working on together with our Libyan friends. This is the end, perhaps, of one phase, but it’s going to be the beginning of a very challenging period for all of us. I know the times are uncertain, and I know fighting continues as we speak. When we hear gunshots, we don’t know whether it’s fighting or celebratory. (Laughter.) I wish we could get the word out: Don’t waste your ammunition on – (laughter) – when you’re shooting in the air. That’s really not useful, and actually could come down and hit somebody, which would be dreadful. But I want you to know we’re really in this together with you, and we’re in it for the long run. We’re going to be a good partner to Libya, and of course, we remain grateful to all of you for everything you have done.

I want to shake as many hands as I can to thank you all personally, but it was very heartwarming and inspiring to hear the stories we heard from what you were doing, and how you were really continuing to represent America’s hope in the kind of Libya that you are now being given the privilege to help create. I am very, very excited, and I can only look forward to returning here in the not too distant future to see even more progress that is being made in Libya.

So thank you all so very much, and give yourselves a round of applause for everything you’ve done to make this happen so well. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/T54-05