Meeting With Embassy Staff and Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Radisson Blu Hotel
Dakar, Senegal
August 1, 2012


AMBASSADOR LUKENS: We got our current diplomats and our future diplomats here. I will keep this very short. It is a pleasure to be somewhere with the Secretary of State that I’m not worried about tomorrow’s bag drag. (Laughter.)


AMBASSADOR LUKENS: She’s had a great program, which she’ll tell you a little bit about.

Madam Secretary, this is a big Embassy. It depends how we count the numbers, but we consider ourselves the third-largest Embassy in the African Bureau. We have 160 Americans and their families here. We have over 350 Senegalese employees representing 17 government agencies. And some of them provide regional support just for two or three countries, and we have one person here who covers 40 countries in Africa. So we are here and engaged in the relationship with the Senegalese Government and the Government of Guinea-Bissau, such as it is. And we are also very engaged in supporting our colleagues across the region and across the continent.

We are happy – I think this the 103rd country that you’ve been to as Secretary of State. Where’s Philippe? Is that right?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t remember. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR LUKENS: Yeah, 103rd country. (Laughter.) And we are happy and proud to be the 103rd country. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is wonderful to be back in Senegal. This is my third trip in the last 15 years, and I am absolutely thrilled to have a chance to see all of you and to thank you for what you do every day and to issue a very special word of appreciation for what you’ve done in preparing for this visit.

I think that it is fair to say that Lew is right, that this is a large Embassy, because of all that we ask you to do. Certainly with respect to the partnership and the friendship of our two countries, there is just an enormous agenda that you are working on. And I am grateful that Lew Lukens is here leading this mission. For my first two years in office, he literally went everywhere with me because he was responsible for every trip I took. So we’ve been in airplanes, helicopters, cars, boats. You just think of a form of transportation – donkeys. (Laughter.) I mean, it’s been an amazing experience. But I’m glad to see Lew in one place, putting to work his extraordinary diplomatic skills.

I also want to thank your DCM, Robert, I just saw outside. There you are. Thank you so much. We really appreciate all that you do to make this mission a success.

I want to introduce Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson. For those of you who don’t known him, Johnnie does – (applause) – an enormous amount of work every single day, and I’m so pleased to have him as someone I can rely on and count on. And I am very much dependent upon his good judgment about how we navigate through both the opportunities and the challenges that we face.

It’s great to see what Senegal is doing and the extraordinary example it sets with its successful presidential elections and the smooth, peaceful transfer of power. I know this is principally a credit to the people of Senegal, but many of you played an important role. In the months leading up to the election, you traveled around the country educating Senegalese citizens about the electoral process, encouraging women and young people to vote, helping civil society groups ensure that the election would be free and fair. And when the day came, all that hard work really paid off as we saw democracy in action at 11,000 polling stations around the country.

We were especially pleased – and I’ll be honest, relieved – because we’ve invested a lot in our relationship in the last several years – a $540 million Millennium Challenge Compact, the USAID projects that are essential. We are really committed to doing everything we can, and I have been very impressed with the beginning of President Sall’s administration, in his goals, and we’re looking for even more ways that we can help him.

This is an exciting time to be working here in Senegal, and I want to thank everyone at this mission – obviously, our State Department and USAID, Foreign Service and Civil Service, CDC, DOD, everybody who’s part of this whole-of-government team. And I’m particularly pleased that you will soon be working in your new LEED Gold Certified Embassy compound, the first such building in Africa. (Applause.)

But it’s not only what you do during your so-called workday, which is often a very long day indeed, but you’re still looking for ways to help after you’re finished. Your 5K Fun Run and Walk raised critical money for insecticide-treated bed nets. I passed out some of those today at the health center. Your green team is literally cleaning the streets of Dakar. By helping Senegal restart the Dakar Half Marathon, you raised $10,000 for girls’ education.

And I want to say a special word of thanks to the locally employed staff. Will all the locally employed staff please raise your hands? (Applause.) I know you are the heart and soul of this mission, because, after all, ambassadors and DCMs and Secretaries of State come and go, but you’re the memory bank, you’re the nerve center, you are the people who are always there providing continuity. I appreciate so much what you do.

And so on behalf of President Obama and myself and everyone in this Administration, I know this is a quick trip, I have to cover a lot of ground, and I’m not as worried about Senegal as I am about other places now. (Laughter.) So we have to go to South Sudan, just to name one, and see what’s happening there and try to see what the United States can do to help. But I know that this mission and your work is truly important. And I hope you do get to take a deep breath after you finally send me off to my next stop and you don’t have to worry about me and my delegation. But even as we go, I hope you know that our thoughts and best wishes remain with you and your families, and we’re just very proud of the work you do every single day.

Thank you all. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/T69-03