Remarks at Final Town Hall Meeting With Department of State Personnel
Secretary of State
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: I have received my orders. Please sit. (Laughter.) Good morning ladies and gentlemen, Madam Secretary. Just one reminder, we are broadcasting this event on BNET, so when we get to the question period, please keep your questions diplomatic. (Laughter.)
Four years ago, I stood at this microphone and said that I was about to introduce someone who needs no introduction. Since I am a great believer in tradition, I intend to continue that. But it is even less of an introduction that the Secretary of State needs this time, for the miles she’s flown and the miles she’s driven to Capitol Hill and other places to support, get us the resources, defend the people and the policies of this institution.
So with that – you didn’t come to see me – (laughter) – the Honorable Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Madam Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Oh, boy. This is an incredible experience for me. I thank you for joining me and I know that other rooms are filled to capacity and there is a big crowd that is outside in the hallway. And hello to everyone watching on BNET or online. I have to begin by saying I’m here with a full heart. These last four years have been a remarkable honor and experience for me, and that is thanks to all of you, to the professionals, men and women who get up every day and work for the State Department and USAID on behalf of our common mission and values and the country that we love.
Every day during my tenure over the last four years, whether I was in Washington or in some remote corner of the world, I have been so proud of your dedication, your professionalism, your ingenuity, your integrity. You have big jobs to do here and you do them superbly. So I am proud to have been a colleague, to leave here as a very grateful member of the team.
I walked into the door of the State Department more than four years ago now determined to elevate diplomacy and development as pillars of our foreign policy alongside defense, because I was convinced they were critical for solving problems and seizing opportunities worldwide. And I will walk out the door this Friday even more convinced of that because of the work that we have done together during some challenging and even tumultuous times.
We have faced all manners of events from democratic revolutions in North Africa to earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, to the end of the war in Iraq, the beginning of the transition in Afghanistan, the rebuilding of the global economy, breakthroughs in places like Burma and Somalia, the signing of a new start treaty, and on and on. Diplomacy and development have been vital to these and so many other efforts that we have undertaken together. And as I’ve looked back over the past four years, I think through it all we have remained focused on our long term goals: advancing American interests, defending universal values, protecting our security, helping more people in more places live up to their God-given potential. And along the way we’ve lost friends and loved ones, some like Richard Holbrooke and Chris Stevens were giants of American diplomacy, others were men and women, many far too young, with long futures ahead of them, so much promise and passion. All of them were patriots and we honor their memories by carrying forward this important work.
Our current efforts to improve security and implement the recommendations of the recent Accountability Review Board are part of a broader push to strengthen both State and USAID. I’m also very proud to have overseen the first QDDR, which identifies ways in which our agencies could become more effective, more innovative for the future. Many of the QDDR recommendations are already in place such as our increased focus on economic statecraft and energy, the steps we’ve taken on global security and justice issues, new strategies to address climate change, and everything we’ve done to integrate women and girls into our policies.
And just a few days ago, we appointed a sanctions coordinator to focus on governments like Iran and Syria and North Korea. Now these steps are smart, sensible, and suited to today’s world. I believe they’ve already made State and USAID stronger. The same goes for the investments we’ve made in training and mentoring our workforce. The new job opportunities we’ve created, the improvements we’ve made in recruitment, all the other steps we’ve taken to ensure we are finding the most talented people out there for the Foreign Service and the civil service and giving them – giving you the professional support you need to thrive.
Now many other steps outlined in the QDDR are in the process of being implemented, and now we need to make sure that the QDDR itself continues, because I’ve always said that the Q is the most important in that recitation. Last year, we came close to having Congress pass legislation that would mandate future reviews, just as the Defense Department has done for many years. In fact, John Kerry himself introduced that legislation, so I’m confident that he will carry on this work. Congress would be wise to pass the QDDR because it does make State and USAID stronger and thereby making our nation stronger.
Four years ago when I sat across the table up in the Senate from my then Senate colleagues at my own confirmation hearing, I said I was thrilled to be considered for the role of Secretary but also sad about leaving a place that I had loved also and all the people that I care for so much there and in New York, the state that I was so privileged to represent. Now I find myself feeling the exact same way. I am looking forward to the next chapter. It’s like one of those books you buy that has blank pages, and I know I’m leaving the Department in excellent hands. John Kerry was a very accomplished Senator, and he will be the same as Secretary of State. He bring judgment, experience, vision, and a deep understanding, because of his own family with his father having been in the Foreign Service, to what diplomacy requires.
But I am very sad to leave all of you and to leave behind the institution here where I have been so proud to serve on behalf of the American people. It will be hard over the next few days to say goodbye to the terrific men and women at State and USAID because I will truly miss you. I will miss the incredible sense of commitment that you bring to the work we do, the exacting standards you hold yourselves and others to, the fun that we’ve occasionally had in travelling and working together. But I will mostly be very proud and grateful that I had the chance to be the 67th Secretary of State. I will look forward to doing my part from the outside to try to stand up for and explain why this is such important work and to always feel that I am in some way connected to you and to that work’s continuity.
So with that, Under Secretary Kennedy, we should – I think I’ll stand here – we should open it up for questions.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Should there happen to be a question or two, there are microphones at the two locations here. Please come to the microphone. You could give your name and then a brief question. And we’ll start with the Sounding Board, which is collecting questions from our colleagues overseas and from those who may not be in this room or would be in other locations in the United States.
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary, Tatyana Pyak from Embassy Islamabad has a retrospective question for you: What is the most important thing you wish you knew when you first became Secretary of State?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Where do I start? (Laughter.) Two things I suppose come immediately to mind. One was that despite the interconnectivity that exists now in the world between us and everyone, it was even more important to show up. Woody Allen says, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” One would think that we could just SVTS or Skype or email around the world, but no. Especially the United States starting in January of 2009 where there were many questions about our leadership, about the economic crisis, about the future direction of our policies, and therefore it became imperative that I traveled.
And I was surprised at how much travel was required to be there 80 percent of the time and to collaborate with colleagues, to rebuild relationships and even alliances, to try to begin the process of knitting together our work with the work of other countries, particularly in the emerging powers. So I don’t think when I told President Obama yes that I could have predicted I’d go to 112 countries and nearly a million miles and 400 days on the road, which seems almost ridiculous as I say it. But I am convinced that it’s an absolutely essential part of the work we have to do together.
The second thing is how much time I would spend in the White House going to meetings. Some of you are part of the interagency and the DC and the PC and all of the other processes, but I had forgotten what it was like in the 1990s when the same kind of processes were in place. But the world today is even more globally challenging than it was back then. So the topics for meetings, the extraordinary efforts that the entire government, particularly the national security team put into getting lashed up and working together, was more than I had anticipated. But I am very proud of the teamwork and cooperation that we had across our government.
Unfortunately, sometimes in the past, cabinet secretaries, national security advisors, others within our government have been known to not work together in a cooperative way. And what we were determined to do, and it’s something President Obama said the other night in the joint interview we did, I was determined to make sure that with all the vigorous discussion and even disagreements that would happen behind closed doors, we would close ranks and we would present a unified front to the world. I think that’s absolutely essential, and so those are two kinds of experiences that I don’t know I would have been able to describe to you before spending the last four years doing both.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On my left, please.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Behar Godani. I’m from the Bureau of Administration. And I’ve got a two-part question. The first part is foreign policy-related: Due to the continued escalation of tensions in Iraq between the Government of Baghdad and the Kurdistan region, specifically with regards to Kirkuk, what do you think has to happen in order for those relations to improve and for those tensions to get better? And my second question is: It’s Monday morning; what are you going to do? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the second question is pretty easy. I’m probably going to do very little. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, this is a totally new experience for me. I don’t know how good I am at sleeping and relaxing. That’s what – all my friends and everybody says, “Wow, this is a great opportunity. Sleep in, sleep late, sleep a lot, relax.” I’m going, “Yeah, and how do you do those things?” (Laughter.) So I’m going to be in a learning mode so to speak, but looking forward to that next set of experiences.
On Iraq, I share your concern about the increasing discord within the government and among the population, particularly in different regions of Iraq, and we have followed very closely the difficult situation in the north around Kirkuk, around oil resources and revenues. We’ve also followed closely the protest in Anbar and elsewhere by people who believe they’re not being listened to, not being accepted as full and equal participants in society. We have worked very hard with our colleagues in the White House and the Defense Department and the intelligence community to try to shore up the fundamental tenets of the new Iraqi democracy by interacting on an ongoing basis with obviously government officials but leaders of various constituencies across the country.
And I think that the failure of the central government to make some fundamental decisions like passing and implementing a hydrocarbon law that would set the rules and make it clear to everybody from Basra to Irbil, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s how we’re collecting the revenues, here’s where they’re going to go, here’s your percentage of them, the fact that that – I first went to Iraq in, I think, ’03. They were talking about that then. Every time I went back they were talking about it, and it still hasn’t happened. And you cannot consolidate democratic institutions without the rule of law and decisions about legislations and regulations that will help to set the table for the ongoing cooperation. And there are a number of issues that have been left unresolved.
The issue of Kirkuk in and of itself is one that needs to be mediated. There are strong feelings among the Kurdish and the Arab population that was basically sent there by Saddam Hussein and other minority groups in the north as to how Kirkuk should be governed and whether everyone will be listened to. You have all kinds of serious problems that, left untended and unresolved, could unravel this fledgling exercise in democracy. So it is certainly something that we are all focused on doing our best to help to shape, but I think it’s going to require, as it always does, leadership, statesmanship on the part of not only the central government but others as well. And that’s the only potential for a lasting resolution at this point in Iraq’s history.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On the Secretary’s right.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Doris McBryde. I’m in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, and it has certainly been a pleasure working with you –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- through your tenure here. My question is: If you had to prioritize for Senator Kerry one opportunity and one challenge that the Department faces in promoting U.S. interests, what would those be? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my goodness. Well, that – it’s going to be hard to pick just one. So let me take the prerogative of my last days and having the microphone to just perhaps briefly describe some of the continuing business which is never-ending in diplomacy and development. It’s not like you close a chapter and everything stays the same. We don’t live in a static world. But there are the crises that we know we have to deal with that are wicked problems, meaning that there are so many competing considerations that it’s hard to have a clear line to an outcome. But certainly, I predict that we will be struggling with Iran and Syria, and the democratic transitions in North Africa, and the Middle East peace process, and North Korea, and Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those are not going anywhere, and those will demand, as they have, a lot of attention from not only the Secretary of State and the team here, but the entire government.
Then there are the kind of emerging challenges – terrorism in Africa, the situation in Mali, the spread of al-Qaida affiliates and wannabes – that may not directly threaten us today but left unchecked could in the months ahead. We need a better strategy. We need more partners. We have to help more countries develop their capacity to defend themselves, secure their borders, and deal with this ongoing set of threats. We also have the challenges that we see in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, the rhetoric between Japan and China, Japan and South Korea, China and a number of countries in the South China Sea over freedom of navigation, over territorial claims. That will stay a very important issue for our attention as well.
So we have the hot crises that are on the front pages, we have the simmering crises that pop into view and cause problems, and then we have long-term opportunities that we ignore at our peril. I mean, we have to work on dealing with cyber intrusions and cyber attacks wherever they’re coming from, state and non-state actors. We have to have a policy on climate change, and we have tried to deal with that despite the difficulty of getting an overall national approach, as many had hoped. But we can’t take our attention away from that.
We have to look at the parts of the world that may not get as much attention on a regular basis but for which there’s both tremendous peril as well as promise. The Arctic – I was very keen that we’d get more deeply involved in the Arctic Council, and we’re now seeing why, because look at the melting ice and everything that will be happening in the Arctic in the years to come.
Enhancing connectivity in energy, particularly electricity, with Latin America, something that will further underscore the development of our closest neighbors; looking at how we’re going to use technology more effectively both to get messages out but also to interrupt and disrupt those who would be aiming to attack us or undermine us or our partners and friends; the continuing integration of women and girls into every aspect of our foreign policy, because I think the debate should be over that politically, economically, culturally, strategically, not having women be given their rights for education and participation leaves societies and countries less stable and therefore more of a threat to our security.
You can go down the list on development issues; that we have to keep reforming and learning how better to deliver effective development, economic statecraft. We have to do a really good job of conveying American interests, creating American jobs by helping to create that level playing field. So when I look at the landscape that I see for the next Secretary and for all of you, crises will always be what we have to cope with. There’s no escaping them. The problems that are coming up to attention that nobody had maybe seen before or which now could become a crisis without adequate efforts, and the longer-term opportunities and challenges.
So I think it’s an exciting time to be doing diplomacy and development, but it’s also one of the most complex times. And that’s why we need your ingenuity and your creativity. We have to think outside whatever box we’re in to try to make new partnerships, new networks, new coalitions. Some of the old institutions that served us well since World War II are no longer really up to the task of dealing with the world as it is today. So I’m thrilled that we’ve made progress on all these fronts the last four years, but I am extremely aware that there is no end to any of these. And that’s why we need to keep refreshing and renewing our attention and our ideas and our energy to deal with them.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: From the Sounding Board.
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary, this question is from Zine El Abidine Mosbahi from Embassy Algiers. He writes in with a question that’s likely the number one question on the minds of many locally employed staff around the world, how the pay freeze impacts them given their local economic conditions.
The question is: Thank you for your consistent support of our locally employed staff. As you have acknowledged on many occasions, they are indeed the backbone of our diplomatic missions overseas and we cannot do our work without them. As the wage freeze enters its third year, however, many of them are struggling to provide for themselves and their families. Although the President recently ordered an end to the freeze in March, there is talk in Congress of extending it for the rest of this year. If that were to happen, would you consider encouraging your successor to press for an exception to the wage freeze for our local staff?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very well aware of the hardship that this wage freeze has imposed, particularly on our locally employed staff, but also on Americans who often find themselves in difficult economic conditions as well. And I want to thank all of our people for their sacrifice and their commitment to service.
Now, I hope that the Congress will support the President’s decision to end the freeze, that all employees will be compensated for their hard work. We are heading into some difficult budgetary times. You all are aware of the potential for what’s called sequestration coming into effect on March 1st. There’s no ability right now to predict what the outcome of those negotiations will be. That will impose even greater hardships on the Department, on AID, on individuals, including our locally employed staff.
So I will certainly, and have, not only encourage the new administration here at the State Department with Secretary Kerry, but also the White House and former colleagues in Congress, but there’s no way I can, standing here today, predict to you or anyone what the outcome of these congressional negotiations will be. But as I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve tried to reassure our locally employed staff that we value their work, and certainly from the State Department, we are doing all that we can do to make the case for them to receive the compensation they deserve.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On the Secretary’s left.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Elizabeth Schuelke. I’m in the Office of the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs. It’s been an honor to serve under you. And I was wondering, what’s the best advice you can give to young women pursuing a career in public service?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Ah, well, both young women and young men, I would say, have such a tremendous opportunity now to do public service in government service as well as in philanthropy, nongovernmental organizations, multilateral organizations. There’s a wealth of opportunities. I would personally encourage even more people, although we get about 20,000 people who apply to take the Foreign Service test, I’d encourage even more people to think of a career in the Foreign Service. And I would hope that we would continue to recruit a very diverse, talented pool of people.
I think that I have learned through my own experience that it’s often hard to predict when opportunities will arise. And therefore, all that you can do to prepare yourself to take advantage of those opportunities, to further your own experience, your own expertise, education, you should just seize, because one never knows. I have to say I never thought I’d be Secretary of State. I never thought I’d be a senator from New York. I never thought I’d be married to a president. I had no idea – (laughter) – what was going to happen to my life. And so all I can tell you is I always knew that enhancing my education, my experience, my skills, would perhaps open doors somewhere some time that I would find interesting to walk through.
In particular for young women, I think that there are some lessons that still need to be incorporated in your own internal thinking. Because I’ve seen a wealth of extraordinary, talented women here at State and AID and out at posts around the world learning how to speak up for yourself, learning how to present yourself, learning how to defend yourself, learning how to laugh off the irrelevant comments that still come your way, but to stand your ground on things that are important to speak out about.
There is a growing I think understanding that many of the legal barriers in our country have been broken down, thankfully, because I well remember the days when they were quite prominent and made it difficult for many women to pursue opportunities that they were interested in. So those barriers are by and large gone, and with the recent announcement about opening up combat roles for qualified women by Secretary Panetta, even those barriers are falling. So it really does come down to what you want to do and how you prepare for what you want to do and how you present yourself for what you want to do.
And there’s a double standard; you just have to accept that. There is a continuing unfortunate level of harassment that goes along with it. But I think you have to be prepared to seize those opportunities that come your way, and to do it as gracefully and graciously but as strongly as you possibly can. And so I wish you and other young men and women here in the Department the very best as you try to chart your own futures and take advantage of those opportunities that you can possibly seize and be prepared for.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On the Secretary’s right.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Anjoly Ibrahim, and I work in Recruitment and Outreach. First off, thank you for being a role model my entire life. I actually wrote part of my thesis about you. (Laughter.) And I hope this isn’t your last time at the mike, because there’s already a 2016 PAC for –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope you got a good grade. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I did. My question is actually part of her question. I do Hispanic outreach, but I was interested and wonder in how you think we could bring more diverse candidates to the State Department.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And this has been a major emphasis for me and for my team because we do want the State Department, as they say, to look like America. And we’ve made progress. I’m very proud of the progress that we have made. But we need to do more. I’m not satisfied, and I’m particularly not satisfied with Hispanic recruitment. I think we have to do more. We have a growing outreach program, which you’re a part of, going to places where people might be interested in the Foreign Service or the civil service, making our pitches, explaining the rewards of participating in diplomacy and development. But I think we have to redouble our efforts, to make sure that we are going everywhere we possibly can to make the case about why we want a workforce that brings all of the experience and the history that we can gain from and do better because of.
So I want to thank you for being involved in recruitment and outreach. But I think it should be a task that everybody takes on. I think at one of our earlier town halls, I said, I really would ask you to raise working at State or USAID wherever you are with whoever you’re talking to, particularly for candidates that would add to the diversity of our workforce. But we’ve made progress, but I’m not satisfied. We can do more, and it’s another area that I will certainly impress upon my successor.
QUESTION: Well, I hope after you rest a little bit, you’ll come back and help us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: From the sounding board.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, there are a number of questions on the sounding board related to how do we cope, given resource constraints and obstacles in our jobs. This one comes from David Arizmendi from Embassy Honduras about the war on drugs, his portfolio. After decades of warring against drug cartels, Latin America still faces endemic levels of violence and corruption. Here in Honduras, the United States has committed to intensifying the fight, although regional leaders are increasingly skeptical and residents increasingly angry. At home, limited resources and other crises are shifting attention from Central America’s war on drugs and relegating it to the margins of our priorities. What are your thoughts on how to win this struggle in light of these obstacles?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s a very fair question. And it’s a fair question because certainly it’s one that I receive throughout my travels. And I respect those who are raising it with me. As I have moved throughout Latin America, indeed the entire Western Hemisphere, I’ve heard it from government officials, from business leaders, from civil society groups, from people of all walks of life who have a somewhat complex view. On the one hand, they decry the violence, the drug gangs, the cartels, the corruption that is undermining governments, resulting in the murders and maiming of too many people, undermining our efforts for social inclusion and strengthening democracy and creating more economic opportunities.
So we have to do a better job of linking our partnerships with our friends to the south in ways that go beyond counternarcotics and drugs. We have to help them strengthen their legal institutions, law enforcement, independent judiciaries, and their very communities, and think of ways to partner to create more economic opportunity, particularly jobs.
Now, what we’ve tried to do through our programs is emphasize the rule of law and human rights, effective accountable governments, fighting corruption, all of the things that you know so well. And we’ve seen successes and failures. For all of the controversy, Plan Colombia, which combined a lot of those features, has really helped to diminish the violence tremendously, isolate and eliminate a lot of the drug cartels and leaders, help to lead to a stable situation where now President Santos is seeing whether the FARC insurgency can come to the negotiating table in good faith. And the last time I was in Bogota near the switch-over between President Uribe and President Santos, I was reminded that there I was in the presidential palace, and when Uribe came into office, the outdoor inauguration couldn’t be held. It was being shelled by drug cartels in concert with rebels. The palace was under attack. I mean, it was a terrible, lawless crisis that we helped successive governments work their way out of.
Now, how do you do that? Well, for one thing, it takes building strong partnerships of trust and confidence so that people don’t think we’re just worried about our own security, which is why we want to come down heavy on drugs, but we’re worried about the security of the people in the countries with whom we are partnering, including Honduras. It also takes money. We are working on Central American security, Caribbean security, but we’re not putting anything like the monetary investment that we put into Plan Colombia or the Merida Initiative.
Proportionately, we need more resources to help our partners in Central America deal with their own threats. Because I think strongly the United States has a shared responsibility for addressing security and crime. We have the means to do so. We are the end market for a lot of the drugs that are causing such terrible situations in the countries to our south. We have to reduce drug consumption. We have to stop the flow of weapons. We have to combat gangs that operate across borders, including in the United States.
So I think we have to constantly be honest with ourselves. What works, and what doesn’t work? Can we do more of what works? What will it take to fund it? What kind of partners do we need? We’ve got some good experiments going in El Salvador and elsewhere to try to see, if we concentrate on high-crime areas by injecting more opportunities in there for young people, particularly young men, does that make a difference?
So we’re in a learning process. But in the meantime, I think democracy, particularly in some of our Central American neighbors, is really under attack. It’s under attack because of corruption, some of it drug-fueled, some of it just old fashioned taking advantage of the government and resources the government has. We’ve got direct assaults in some of those countries from the drug cartels who are now using homemade submarines and other tools to really destabilize countries and move their product north. So I think we have to continue to partner on drug strategy, but we have to expand it, and we have to get the whole government involved.
And one of the recommendations that I recently made to the White House, and will certainly pass on to Secretary Kerry and all of you, we need to streamline and improve our security assistance. We have too many silos, too much bureaucracy. I personally have gone and told governments, “We’re going to be there with you. We’re going to give you helicopters. We’re going to help you train your police, and we’re going to help vet them. We’re going to do all of this.” A year later, it still hasn’t been delivered.
We have got to improve how we deliver security assistance. We’re seeing that now in North Africa. We go to these countries, say we want to help you with border with border security, we want to help you with standing up a rule of law interior ministry and all the rest of it. And then even if we get it through our bureaucracy, sometimes it gets held on the Hill. And so we look like we’re not really sincere.
So one of my hopes is that in this first year of this second term – and I know that the Department of Defense shares my view, because they do some of it, we do some of it, DOJ does some of it, USDA does some of it, DEA does some of it – I mean, we all of these cooks in the kitchen, and we’ve got to be smarter about how we deliver security aid, and that will help enormously in a country like Honduras.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On the Secretary’s left.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Paul Shrem. I’m a construction engineer with Overseas Building Operations. I first wanted to thank you for your leadership and the resources you make available. I really appreciate that.
As a relatively new construction engineer, sworn in in this room by Under Secretary Kennedy this fall, what’s the advice you’d give to myself and my colleagues as we move around the world and improve facilities and create new facilities? What’s the most effective use of our resources?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great question, and it was really at the heart of the recommendations by the ARB. It’s – this is a bipartisan problem. During the Bush Administration, now the Obama Administration, we have consistently not gotten the security requests that we believe we need for building construction, building upgrades, security enhancements, and it puts us in a very difficult position. And it creates a mindset, which the ARB pointed out, where we operate in a culture or a mentality of scarcity and austerity. And it means you have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes, they are practically impossible to make, given the resources that we have, but we have to do it. Most of the time, I would argue, we get it right, even though we don’t have the kind of resources we need to keep up with what was previous recommendations from ARBs that we build 10 new Inman facilities a year. We’re down to, like, three. Right, Pat?
So I think part of the opportunity that you as a structural engineer has is to just continue to put the facts out there, what it takes to really secure our facilities, given what some people call the new normal. The unprecedented attack against us in Benghazi, it wasn’t a car bomb. It wasn’t a truck bomb like the terrible attacks we experienced in Kenya and Tanzania. And we have to be ready for whatever our adversaries, the terrorists and those allied with them, will throw at us.
We also have to recognize that for many countries today, the obligations to secure diplomatic facilities under the Vienna Convention are quite challenging. We have countries that are very willing, but don’t have any capacity. So they’ll say, “We’re going to try to help you,” but they’re punching buttons and nobody’s answering. They don’t yet have the kind of security forces that existed under prior regimes.
We have countries that are less willing but much more capable. So we have to both increase the understanding of why defending our facilities, or any diplomatic facilities, is an obligation of every country. And we have help those who would be prepared to do it build up their capacity.
We also have seen in the recent example in Algeria, in the attack on our school – the American school in Tunis – and other kinds of vandalism and attacks, at the hotel just in Cairo that many of our people have used in the past. What’s it called, Sumaria?
QUESTION: Semiramis, yes. We’re now seeing nongovernmental facilities targeted. And we’re going to try to do what we can to reach out to American businesses, American educational institutions, cultural institutions, other so-called soft targets, to give them advice. We can’t do it for them, but we can help them have a better sense of what their risks are.
So I think you have a tough job, because we want you to make our facilities as safe as possible without looking like they’re bunkers. We want you to be totally factual about what it’s going to take to do that. And then we have to make the case to the Congress about the resources that are required to fulfill the specs that you have put forth. And we need a good team to stand behind that and articulate it and help us make the case for it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: On the Secretary’s right.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Rajiv Shah. I’m from the Bureau of Public Affairs. Firstly, I want to thank you for the wonderful job that you’ve done over the last four years. I’ve only been here for about a year and a half of those, but one of the reasons I came is because of your influence here, certainly a positive – you’ve created such a warm atmosphere for everyone to work in.
The question I want to ask you, for your successor, is: What parting words do you have for someone – as a person who has worked in Public Affairs and someone who loves foreign policy, one of the challenges I see is we can talk about what’s up ahead and some of the challenges we have internationally, but how do we sell those challenges so we can get the resources that we need to a domestic public so that we can get the support to perform our jobs successfully?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent question, and thank you for your work in Public Affairs. When I came in, and I said to a number of you, and I think I said it in one of our early town halls, we do have a responsibility to make the case for what we do to the American taxpayers who pay the bills, as well as to the Congress that votes on our appropriations. And we’ve tried to increase our domestic outreach, not just by me but by a lot of officials in the Department and at USAID, to make that case, to go around the country and explain what we do, explain that we’re, with just State and AID, 1 percent of the budget, not 20 percent like so many people in research surveys say, and what we do with that 1 percent. And the services that we provide that have a direct impact on the people of our country and the work that we do to try to ameliorate, mediate, eliminate threats as well.
So I think that while we are very focused on making the case for American values and interests and security around the world to international audiences, we still have to keep in mind that many people in our country are still either uncertain or resistant to our missions.
And Pat was telling me – I guess he’s – you’ve been in the Foreign Service for a long time, I won’t out you on how many decades. But he was telling me that he still was telling people who have known him for all those years what he does. And I think we all have to assume that people that you socialize with or you go anywhere around in whatever capacity could learn something from you talking about what it is we try to do here every day here in Washington and around the world.
I did a – what we call townterviews. It’s a combination of town hall with an interview – and I did my 59th town hall-townterview yesterday on satellite feed setup. We literally were on every continent because we got a question from Antarctica. It was so exciting. And we had journalists with young people across the world asking questions. And once again I was really reminded and heartened that people around the world want to know what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, whether we care about them, whether we invest in their futures, whether America is going to continue our leadership. So much of the narrative that we’re telling to the rest of the world we should share with our own people about why this is important.
When I first came into the Department I got some really fascinating polling data from around the world. And what it said was so commonsensical. It said what most people – whether they live in Latin America, Africa, Asia wherever – what most people want is a good job where they can make a good living and support their families and hope that their children will have a better future.
They’re not telling the pollsters they want their particular point of view, their religious belief, their nationalistic approach to dominate. They’re not saying that. They’re saying, “Where can we get good jobs?” And if you really look at much of the rest of the world right now, the connection between unrest, instability, even extremism and lack of employment, lack of opportunity, is so clear.
So what do people in our country want? They want the same thing. They’re lucky – we’re lucky because we live in a country with freedom and guarantees that are not even imagined in so many places. But at the end of the day, people want to live up to their own God-given potential and have the tools and opportunities to do so. And we have to do a better job of making common cause between our people and the rest of the world. We can’t take it for granted anymore because that polling data also told me that the world is getting younger. We have some huge percentage of people around the world who are less than 35, and in some countries less than 20. They have no memory of the Iron Curtain falling, of the triumph over fascism in World War Two, the economic largess that came from America patrolling the oceans and keeping them safe for commerce. They don’t know about that. They know about our culture; they know about our technology. But we’ve got to make clear that our values, who we are, is really connected to what can happen elsewhere. And I think that’s a powerful story to tell ourselves. And we can never lose sight of those values and what really distinguishes us, and how we want a world – a rules-based world – where everybody has those chances. So I think that we’ve got to get back to telling our story not only more effectively abroad but here at home.
And this is something that I’ve talked to the President about because clearly he’s a fabulous messenger of American aspiration and idealism and results, but it can’t be just put on the shoulders of our President. We need everybody to understand what’s at stake in this new world that is coming into reality and the role that the United States not only can but must play.
MODERATOR: This will have to be the final question from the sounding board.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Donna DiPaolo from the Bureau of Administration has a two-part question about your thoughts on the role of the Department and the position of Secretary. First she writes: Based on your experience, what should State Department employees do differently in order to make our agency more effective vis-a-vis other key Executive Branch entities with respect to promoting U.S. foreign policy goals? Second, what would you say are the most common misconceptions about what any Secretary of State can accomplish within four years?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on the first question, I just think we’re living in a time of great change, and we have to be as transformational as we can to help manage, influence, direct that change. Change is inevitable. There’s not going to be a time when we stop the world and get off of it. It’s going to keep changing and at a pace that seems to be accelerating today for all the reasons you know so well. Therefore, we have to be honest with ourselves. What are we doing now? Do we need to keep doing exactly what we’re doing now? Do we need to change what we’re doing? How can we hold ourselves more accountable to get even better results? How can we form teams and partners here in the Department, at AID? How can we be unafraid of recognizing that we’re in the 21st century and some of what we still do is mired in the 20th century? How do we bring along the best of the past, keep it as part of our toolkit but add new tools, so that we are constantly updating how we do diplomacy and development? That’s really what I hoped the QDDR would help us do to begin that conversation.
And when I first came up with the idea, I know that there were a lot of people who were wondering, “Well, what does that have to do with us?” But it gave the entire Department and AID a chance to take a hard look at ourselves. It also gave us a chance to organize ourselves so that we can make a more convincing argument on the Hill and to our public.
So I think we have to keep that spirit of innovation alive and seek our creativity, don’t squash it. Not every idea’s a good idea. In fact, probably, more than half of them aren’t? But what about the ones that are? And how do we grab hold of those and think about implementing them? And just wipe from our vocabularies, “That’s not the way we do it,” or, “We’ve never done that before.” Because we never had Twitter before. We never had Facebooks before. When my husband became President, there were 50 sites on the worldwide web. (Laughter.) Right?
I mean, so we’re not living in a world where we have the luxury of saying, “We’ve never done it before. We can’t do that. That’s not the way we do things.” We have to say, “Well, look, let’s look at it, let’s vet it, let’s explore it and see whether it or some variation of it makes sense.” We never had showers in the basement before for the bicyclists and the runners, right?
We also tried to improve the cafeteria. (Laughter and applause.) That’s a lot of challenges that we face that we have to keep working on.
So I think that my hope for you, my confidence, really, in you, is that what you’re going to do. You’re going to keep doing that. Everybody in the Acheson Auditorium, everybody in the other rooms and on BNET and on the internet, you’re going to be part of making sure we remain the best and that we can answer any question, rebut any criticism, stand up for what we do, but be honest and humble enough to learn from our mistakes.
When I said we’re going to make the ARB public, there were people who said, “It’s probably going to say some bad things.” I said, “Yeah, it is.” Because we had a terrible tragedy, and we lost four brave Americans, and we still have an injured agent at Walter Reed. But we’ve got to live in a transparent age, and we’ve got to be willing to get out there and own what we do and constantly work to improve it. So I think that there is a tremendous opportunity here at State and AID as long as we shed our defensiveness and really embrace the opportunity to be part of ongoing transformational change.
So as Secretary, it’s been an incredible honor to be a small part, a four year passing participant in the new State Department and USAID and to try to help you think through what more can be done as you continue the extraordinary service that you are giving to our nation. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished the last four years. I think it is fair to say that in these tumultuous times, it’s hard to put a period on nearly anything, to go to the second question.
Diplomacy has always been challenging, hard work, mostly incremental. You keep inching forward, you keep building relationships. What you’re looking to achieve becomes clearer, and you alter strategies to keep making progress toward those goals. But I think at the end of the day if you have had the experience that I’ve had, where I know that we have helped to set the table for much of what will come not only in this second term but beyond, that we have dealt with the unexpected and the difficult in ways that were consonant with our values and in furtherance of our interests and security, that we have also introduced some new ideas, some new challenges into the thinking of diplomacy and development, then I leave very satisfied about what we have accomplished together.
The other night, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom hosted a wonderful dinner for me at the British Embassy, and he gave this very generous toast. But he ended with this long quote, which I wish I had with me, about the travails and frustration and incrementalism of foreign policy and of diplomacy and how this has not worked for the impatient, for the faint of heart, for the cynic. This is work that is of critical importance. Some of it you will actually see accomplished in your time, tenure, and position. Some of it you will lay the groundwork for others to continue, because it’s a relay race.
Every time I go up to the diplomatic rooms and I look at Ben Franklin, I think about him going over to Paris, spending countless hours, which I’m sure he did enjoy – (laughter) – in the court flirting and dancing and carrying on. Those were the days for American diplomacy. (Laughter.) And all to get those few minutes after he had developed relationships, after he was seen as a credible representative, to get those few minutes to get those commitments from the French that helped us win the War of Independence. You could have a million examples. Many of you are historians of diplomacy. You could be shouting them at me, millions of examples where you make front-end investments.
I think today with technology, social media, and everybody in the world having a cell phone, it’s a little harder. I’ve kidded my predecessor and friend Henry Kissinger. I’ve said, “You know, Henry, it would have been really hard for you to sneak to China today.” (Laughter.) “There would be somebody with that cell phone, and you’d be on Twitter or Facebook in a minute.” Well, you live in the time you live in. You deal with the challenges you’re given, but you keep your North Star clearly in view. We are privileged to represent and work for the greatest force for good, for progress, for human rights and freedom the world has ever or will ever know. So every day it should be a privilege to come to work, and every day we should keep moving our great mission forward. I am confident each and every one of you will do just that. Thank you, God bless you, and I am so grateful to you. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Ladies and gentlemen, before the Secretary leaves, I’m going to cede 30 seconds to Susan Johnson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
MS. JOHNSON: Thank you, Pat. Madam Secretary, Under Secretary Kennedy, colleagues here in the room and around the world and elsewhere in the building, and members of AFSA in other buildings who are just as interested and, I hope, able to watch, it’s a great pleasure and honor for me to have this opportunity to present to you this plaque of thank you and appreciation on behalf of the members of the American Foreign Service Association, and I’m sure everyone else that’s – very evident. I’m going to read it in a minute, but it’s not supposed to be a farewell. We do expect you back here, and I think you’ve heard that from many. The Foreign Service Journal would love to interview at some point. (Laughter.) So I hope you’ll find time for that.
And in addition, it didn’t come up today, but the American Foreign Service Association is tremendously excited about the United States Diplomacy Center project, and we have reached out to all of our members trying to explain what this is about and why it’s important for us and to invite them to show their support by voting yes with a small whatever donation of their choice. But mainly the – for us, the importance is the number of us who stand up to say yes for this important project, not the amount of money we raise because you and your fundraisers are raising the big bucks from the corporations and others to really support this public-private partnership. So I want to thank you so much for that.
I want to just read out the text here to everybody. It says, “Presented to the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton on behalf of the members of the American Foreign Service Association of all our six member agencies throughout the foreign affairs community in recognition of her distinguished and dedicated leadership as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and for her untiring efforts to advance U.S. diplomacy and development.” You have done so much in this area. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you, Susan. Really so kind of you. Thank you. That means a lot to me. Thanks, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)