Remarks to Embassy Staff and Families at U.S. Embassy Lilongwe

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Lilongwe, Malawi
August 5, 2012

AMBASSADOR JACKSON: Secretary Clinton, welcome to the warm heart of Africa and to the U.S. Mission in Malawi. (Applause.) This mission serves as a great example of the whole of government in action as we carry out President Obama’s priorities in Malawi. We know you as a can-do Secretary and one who cares passionately about those who represent the United States abroad – the American staff and their family members, the Peace Corps volunteers, and the locally-engaged and third-country staff. I’m very proud of every one of our employees. No matter what their job, they come to work every day with a can-do spirit to make Malawi a better place. We are honored that you have chosen to make Malawi the 106th country that have you have visited since becoming Secretary. (Applause.)

Colleagues, it is my privilege to introduce to you the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you so very much, Ambassador. And I have to say it is an extraordinary pleasure to be here in Malawi. This is, of course, my first visit, and I am thrilled that I have finally gotten here. My husband, as some of you know, has been here and called me early this morning to tell me I was in for such a treat when I got to Malawi, as Jeanine said, the warm heart of Africa on such a beautiful day. But this is also, as a matter of fact, the first ever visit by a Secretary of State to Malawi. (Applause.) So I am pleased that I had a chance to come here and see all of the changes that are happening for myself. President Banda has already made critical reforms that are spurring economic recovery and improving the lives of the people of Malawi. And the United States will be alongside this government every step of the way to support and encourage Malawi’s progress.

I want to especially thank Ambassador Jackson for all of her work energizing and taking care of Mission Malawi over the last year. And as I just heard firsthand from the President and her top officials, the ambassador played a very important role on behalf of the United States in supporting the constitution and the laws of the country of Malawi. And also to Lisa Vickers for her work as DCM and her many months serving as charge before Ambassador Jackson’s arrival.

This mission is really on the front lines of so many of the Obama Administration’s flagship programs – Feed the Future, our Global Health Initiative, PEPFAR, the 1,000 Days Initiative to fight childhood malnutrition. We talk about these programs in Washington constantly, but it’s really important that we get out and see them ourselves and also thank the people, all of you, for the work you’re doing, the responsibilities you have for implementing these programs and delivering results.

I know this year has been particularly challenging with fuel shortages and water and electricity outages and rising prices. I commend all of you for your commitment, your creativity, keeping the spirits up while figuring out ways to work around whatever difficulty stood in the way and assisting in the smooth transition. During the brief suspension of our MCC compact, you really kept the lines of communication open with the Government and people of Malawi by explaining clearly and honestly why it was suspended and the reforms that needed to be made before it could be reinstated. You helped the public keep pressure on the government to do the right thing for Malawi.

And I want to thank all the Americans who are serving here and all of your families. I know that sometimes it’s challenging being away from home, but this is a pretty good place to be if you have to be away from home, and we really appreciate not only the work of our Foreign Service and civil service, but also the families as well. And as the Ambassador said, we are very grateful that this mission has so much representation from across the government, because this truly is a whole-of-government, U.S. Government team that we are working with all for the same results.

And I want all of our locally-employed staff to please raise your hand. Will all the – yay, all of them. (Applause.) Malawians who work here, thank you. We are so grateful to you, and we especially appreciate the difficulties that you sometimes face. I’m proud we were able to boost local wages to help offset some of the cost-of-living burden that you’ve been facing, but I know something from my own experience, which is that ambassadors come and go, and secretaries come and go, everyone comes and goes, except the locally-engaged staff, and you’re the backbone, the nerve center, the memory bank for this mission, and I want personally to express my appreciation. We do a lot of – yes, let’s give our locally-engaged team a round of applause. (Applause.)

I especially want to recognize our excellent health team – CDC, USAID, PEPFAR, every office that is helping to save lives by fighting HIV/AIDS, TB, and other deadly diseases. And just as important, the medical staff who work so hard to keep everyone at the Embassy healthy and drive all over the country looking after our Peace Corps volunteers. (Applause.) And I know you’ve already heard them, but – (laughter) – we are always pleased to see such a vibrant, enthusiastic group of Peace Corps volunteers, and this afternoon, I’m visiting the Peace Corps Camp Glow. I can’t wait to see this program in action for myself. I’ve heard so much about it. Peace Corps volunteers are helping young African girls here in Malawi find their voices and improve their own lives.

After that, I will tour a Feed the Future program. So thanks to all the help from USAID helping the dairy farmers in Malawi produce more milk and raise their incomes. (Applause.) I will have the great opportunity to deliver a bull to – (laughter) – the Feed the Future site, and no jokes allowed. (Laughter.) These kinds of projects might not always get the kind of attention that they deserve, but they are making a difference in the lives of so many men and women and children here in Malawi.

And I know sometimes it gets a little bit frustrating for our teams around the world, because you’re working to save babies’ lives and mothers’ lives and improve farmers’ incomes and help people who have HIV not get any sicker, and you’re working on good governance, and it’s hard to see what it is you do every day. Some other countries can point to big buildings they build and say, look what we’ve done. Well, we can point to lives we have saved and changed, and in the long run, I am so proud of that, because that’s what matters. Government-to-government relations are, of course, very important, and historically, traditionally, that’s what we’ve worked on. But in the 21st century, it’s people-to-people relations. It’s how we reach out and get to know somebody and build relationships and learn and then perhaps help if possible.

So you are a victim of your own success, because we keep sending more work and more people to this mission, and I thank you for your patience and for making room for everyone to have a workspace. I’m told it’s quite tight quarters in some areas, but no matter what your position or portfolio, everyone has a valuable contribution to make, and we have a real commitment to this country and its future. So please, thank you for everything every day.

And thank you for this trip. It’s a fabulous trip already, and I’m looking forward to my next stops, and I think probably when I leave and become the responsibility of our teams in South Africa, you all should just take a deep breath and relax, if that’s okay, Ambassador. Maybe even have one of those wheels-up parties that I always hear about. But in the meantime, please know back in Washington President Obama and I and all of us appreciate what you’re doing. We know what you’re doing, and we are going to continue supporting you. Thank you all. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2012/T69-16