Meeting With Embassy Staff and Their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
March 31, 2012

AMBASSADOR SMITH: Secretary Clinton, this is our family, Mission Saudi Arabia. We’ve got 34 countries represented. And I will tell you that they’ve done things that, three years ago, none of us would have thought possible. Ladies and gentlemen, your Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)


AUDIENCE: Good morning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is absolutely wonderful to see all of you here this morning and giving me the opportunity to say thank you. Thanks first to Ambassador Smith and to Mrs. Smith. Thanks both to Jim and Janet for their energy and enthusiasm and leadership of this really important mission. It’s exciting to find so many more ways of bringing about the kinds of connections between our countries and the people of our countries that are really at the core of this strong, enduring relationship. And I am so pleased to see families in the audience. I know that that hasn’t been the case for a long time. After years of the one-tour unaccompanied assignments, it’s really progress to see families here, and I’m thrilled that I get to take a look at the children as well as everyone else who is part of this Embassy family.

With your help, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are working together to promote peace, prosperity, and stability in the region and around the world. We’re building new bridges of understanding and cooperation between Americans and Saudis at all levels. You, because of your work, have reduced visa wait times for over – from over three months to less than two weeks, even as the number of applications continues to grow. That makes it easier for businesses to do business with each other, to expand trade between our countries. It’s easier for students to travel. It’s easier in the promotion of the kind of mutual respect that we value highly between our two peoples. And I’m delighted that the number of Saudi students studying in the United States is at an all-time high. So thank you for all the work that you did to make that possible.

I also see the difference that you are making in the trade delegations that you arrange that are traveling to the United States, looking to invest in power companies, electronics, and other industries. And they’re also bringing new investments back to Saudi Arabia, expanding our bilateral investments now by nearly 30 percent since 2009. And I know that the Ambassador is particularly proud that he personally has led 15 trade delegations to the United States, helping the Obama Administration meet the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

But probably most importantly are those relationships that you’re forming with activists, with women, with human rights campaigners, youth leaders, students, scholars, so much more. I had a wonderful meeting at the Ambassador’s Residence with some very active women who are involved in all aspects of the kingdom’s social and economic activity. Now I know between sandstorms and social norms, it may be difficult to get around from time to time, but when you do, you talk with students on a one-on-one basis, and it’s really important because that’s what lasts. It’s those personal connections, and I thank you for everything you’re doing. And I know it’s only possible through hard work and sacrifice. Many of you work long days. I know that the heat in the summer and the security challenges year-round often make this challenging, but thank you, because you are making a difference, and I’ve just highlighted a few of the ways that that is happening.

And now, let me say a special word of thanks to our locally employed staff. I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of this incredibly important relationship, working with our Embassy staff. I want to thank those of you who come from other countries to be part of this team. Many of you are away from your families and your homes, and what you’re doing is invaluable. So thank you again. I don’t get to come as often as I would like. There are a lot of countries in the world and I try to get around as much as I can, but I’m always pleased when I do, because I know that this is one of the relationships that is really going to determine the quality of life and the future potential for people not only in our two countries, but people everywhere.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/T61-02