Meeting With the Staff and Families of Embassy Monrovia

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Embassy Monrovia
Monrovia, Liberia
January 16, 2012

Date: 01/16/2012 Description: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, attends a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy with U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas-Greenfield in Monrovia Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. Clinton attended the second presidential inauguration of Africa's first woman president, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, earlier in the day. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool) © AP Image

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good afternoon. It’s great to see all of you here in this building. I have one simple task: to introduce the person who needs no introduction, our boss, your boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you so much. Well, I have to say, this is a doubly blessed occasion, to be able to attend the inauguration and then come for the official ribbon cutting on the new embassy chancery. And I’ve had just a quick look around. I think this is going to make lives a little easier, workspaces a little more expansive, and enable you to do the important work you are doing on behalf of this very significant relationship between the United States and the people of our country and the government and people of Liberia.

This new compound is a testament to the work you do, and it is a symbol of America’s lasting commitment to our partners today. We are committed to standing with the people of Liberia as you, as they, continue their important journey, reconciling political and ethnic differences, strengthening democracy, bringing prosperity and opportunity to people, particularly young people.

So Ambassador, let me thank you for your leadership here, and I know that you and your husband, Lafayette, who is there, have served with great commitment and enthusiasm on behalf of this relationship. I also want to thank the DCM Karl Albrecht and the Political/Economic Counselor Bill McCulla and everyone else who worked so hard to make this visit possible. I know that the local staff has been particularly helpful. You’ve been cutting through red tape, and I appreciate that, and now I’ll be cutting through (inaudible). (Laughter.)

I was also pleased to be here for the second inauguration of President Sirleaf, because I’ve known Ellen for a long time. I have a great deal of admiration and appreciation for the work she is doing, along with her other colleagues in government. And as she did at the end of the ceremony today, in recognizing in her speech and in the invitation to the opposition leaders to come forward, there has to be a recognition that in elections sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I happen to know that for a fact. (Laughter.) I have done both of them, and I think it’s important that the lessons that we have learned over more than 235 years of trying to perfect our union be understood by other democracies and countries that are really making such strides.

I often am struck by how unusual people think it is that after I ran so hard against President Obama and he won he then asked me to serve with him. And people all over the world say, “Well, how did that happen? Why did he ask you? Why did you say yes?” And I said, “Well, because we both love our country.” And I think what you saw in President Sirleaf’s speech today – (applause) – is that same set of values. What does it mean to be a patriot? Well, it doesn’t mean that you always win. It means that you put the common good in front of your own personal and political interests. And yes, it is important to continue to express opposing opinions. We do that quite vigorously back home. But at the end of the day you have to agree upon certain values and then work together to fulfill them.

Now, many of you here today did so much on behalf of this election. Some volunteered as observers. I know that many of you were standing right alongside ECOWAS and African Union observers in a show of support for the elections and democracy. You were talking to poll workers, you were helping people get their ballots and find out where they were on the voter registration roles.

But our work with Liberia goes far beyond support for the elections. We are working so hard on security issues, and I’m delighted that General Ham, the commander of AFRICOM, is with us today. General, thank you so much for being here. (Applause.) And our USAID and Peace Corps colleagues are working so hard on healthcare and education and so much else. (Applause.)

And let’s face it, some of you have to drive roads that have been a little impassable. I was looking at the picture in the newspaper that was passed out about President Sirleaf and plowing through roads that were flooded and walking over logs, along with our ambassador, to get to places that were not so easily accessible. And you do that all the time, and I am grateful and appreciative.

I also want to say a special word of gratitude to our local staff. Now, I’m well aware that Secretaries comes and go, ambassadors come and go, DCMs come and go, political officers come and go, the counselors – everyone comes and goes, except the local staff. They stay year, after year, after year. And boy, do we need you. We cannot do this work without you and your body of knowledge and experience.

I’d especially like to recognize Isaac Jefferson. Isaac? Is Isaac here today? Isaac Jefferson as a financial assistant. (Applause.) Mr. Jefferson has been working with us for 21 years. And Adama Konate. Adama has been a driver for 36 years. (Applause.) Thank you very much, and all of you.

And I also want to embarrass Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield by acknowledging, in front of all of you, the enormous contribution that she has made during her time here to Embassy Monrovia. Not only did she spearhead our efforts to support the National Election Commission, but she’s been a real champion for the rights of women and children, and that’s an issue very close to my heart as well. (Applause.) And she has spoken out against corruption, which is an issue I spoke with the president about earlier, that it’s one of the roadblocks to greater prosperity here in Liberia. And I thank you for your work on that, Ambassador. Of course, it’s something we deal with all over the world, so we need good ideas. We want Liberia to help lead the way in how you can eliminate the cancer of corruption, which just zaps people’s energies and undermines their initiative.

Well, now I think it’s time to inaugurate, so to speak, this new compound. This space is fabulous. I love the hanging sculptures. I know you’ll have time and now space for many more public events here. I’m told that the DCM can now get rid of the two plastic buckets that he’s been keeping in his office for those time when rainwater drips through the ceiling. (Laughter.) And under this new roof, you’re going to be able to come together with a single mission, no matter where you are coming to us from, that’s not (inaudible), because this is not just about the State Department, USAID.

It’s a whole-of-government effort, because that’s what it takes to support this extraordinary journey that Liberia is on, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure they get to the destination of democracy, prosperity, peace and security safely. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/T58-02