Remarks to the Staff and Families of Embassy London

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy London
London, United Kingdom
February 25, 2013

AMBASSADOR SUSMAN: I know all of you. I know all of you. You’re just glad to be here to meet our new boss. But on behalf of Marjorie and myself, we couldn’t be more thrilled, the fact that Secretary Kerry is here on the first visit of his trip overseas in London, and he’s here at the London Embassy.

I’ve known Senator Kerry for much long for me, but not too long for him. I will tell you he’s a man that I will be (inaudible) to be Secretary of State. He will be a great Secretary of State, and love all of you. To my friend, John Kerry, a London welcome. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks very much for taking a few minutes’ break. I don’t know what I’m doing for the productivity of the building. (Laughter.) But I am here for the moment, and I like that. Thank you.

This is a great privilege for me to come here and come through London on my first trip as Secretary of State, first trip out of the country, obviously. And now, I am officially a recovering politician. (Laughter.) So I am here in my mind as being able to totally liberate myself from anything partisan, which is wonderful. You have no idea. In today’s Washington, that’s a blessing, so I thank the President for that.

A moment ago, he said, “Your new boss.” Folks, we all work for the same boss. His name is Barack Obama. He’s President of the United States. I’m not the boss. But I get to be the conduit, and as the conduit, it’s my privilege to lead an extraordinary Department made up of people from so many other departments of our government. And I’ve always had enormous respect for this endeavor, the State Department, for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which was my dad spent a number of years as a Foreign Service officer, and I was stationed right after the war in the early 1950s in Berlin, and then subsequently, we had hard duty stations like Oslo and Paris and Washington.

But it really taught me a lot. I went to school during that time, formative years, teenager-dom, and sometimes away from home while my siblings went to – were in one of the cities with my parents, and I was older, so I was in a different school. And I learned a lot about the dislocations, the packing up, the moving, saying goodbye to friends, meeting new friends, being in a foreign country. And I have to tell you, there are those moments where I’m sure all of you have gone through that and said to yourselves, “Whoa, what am I doing? Is this really?” And then there are those wonderful moments when you do things and you see things and you’re part of things that nobody else can touch.

And that experience, I’ll tell you, truly, is one that just lasts with you forever. I think back on the – such sense of independence that I gained and the confidence about meeting people in another country, seeing another culture, learning another language, and seeing the rest of the world. And in the end, we are not just – though we are proudly citizens of the United States of America, we are also citizens of the world. And I think our policies, our values, that you bring every single day to implement are a reflection of the best universal set of values and hopes and aspirations assembled by humankind on the face of the earth. And the things we’ve done historically in the furtherance of those ideas, whether it was coming to the aid of Europe in World War I or coming to the aid of Europe in World War II or leading the effort to fight against totalitarianism through the Cold War and then trying to sort of chart this path forward in a much more complicated age now – much more complicated.

Foreign policy today is much tougher than foreign policy was in the Cold War, throughout the last 50 years of the last century, because all those forces that got tampered down by totalitarianism during the 20th century have all been unleashed. And now you see the sectarianism, the tribalism, and nationalism and these individual aspirations, and it’s tougher with a lot of young people all communicating to each other through the internet and social media, all having these big aspirations and leaders that are fighting against modernity. That’s what’s going on. Not that complicated an equation.

So you’re the frontlines. You really are. And whether you’re like this great group I met over here who had come to London out of Afghanistan or Iraq or Haiti or one of those other tough places, it’s no less complicated to deal with a lot of the issues we face in a huge embassy at the crossroads of the world here where so many different interests are at stake with our greatest ally, Great Britain.

So I’m really pleased to be able to come here and just say hello to everybody and thank you for your incredible service to our country. You serve in so many different ways. And when you think about what we do as a collective group, whether you’re a Civil Service employee or a Foreign Service employee or a locally employed employee or you’re military, or whatever you’re doing here, you are part of this mosaic that is taking our values out to the world and representing our country. And what better place to do it than right here in Grosvenor Square, diagonally across from where, 225 years ago, John Adams was housed. Son of Massachusetts, I’m proud to say. (Laughter.) And John Quincy Adams followed him, and Dwight Eisenhower was over here across the street at his headquarters and Averell Harriman around the other corner, Joe Kennedy over down there at the end of his street with his family at the beginning of the war. It’s an amazing place.

I will tell you, I just reminded myself, Joe Kennedy – I have this incredible photograph in my office that was given to me by Ted Kennedy of him when he was about yay high, he was about six years old, cutting the ribbon to open the London Zoo with his brother Joe and his father behind him standing there. And I joked with him about it because when I was about four years old, I came to London for the first time with my mother after the war and I promptly got lost in London City. (Laughter.) So I used to joke with Ted Kennedy, “You should have left me a few signs so I can find my way out.” (Laughter.)

But we’re really lucky to have so many people who are willing to put your lives into your country, and to come over here and help us do – show people the best of what possibilities are. Those of you who did serve in those difficult places know what it means to look at people in a hamlet somewhere who just are marveling at what we bring and can bring with our technology, our knowledge, our spirit. And I see that in so many different places, the difference we make. PEPFAR saving 5 million lives in Africa; the people who we provided help in Haiti, rebuilding after that devastating earthquake and trying to build a government that has the ability to be sustainable; people who work on antinarcotics or on visas; or just helping families to reunite.

All of these things touch people in a very, very special way. And I’ll tell you, I cannot emphasize enough to you how passionate I am about fighting for what we do here and for you over the course of these next few years. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next days with the Congress. I can’t predict to you where we’ll be when sequestered, except to say to you that we’re facing some internal domestic political difficulties that could have some impact on us.

One thing I know is you and we together will rise to the occasion and fight back and do the best we can to continue to do what we do, and two, I will do everything in my power to go to Capitol Hill and persuade my colleagues of the vitality and the criticality of everything that you’re doing and we’re doing here. I’m going to fight for you, you fight for us, and we’re in this together and we’ll make it happen.

Speaking of being in it together, we have been blessed. I’ve now served – I did serve on the Foreign Relations Committee for 29 years, in the 29th year. I’ve confirmed God knows how many ambassadors over 29 years. (Laughter.) And I’ve seen political appointees, professional, career service, and so forth in many different countries in many different ways. Lou Susman has been one of the most effective ambassadors that I’ve ever seen anywhere, and Marjorie, together with him, they’ve been an extraordinary team here. You’ll lose him in a matter of a month or so. I just want to say thank you to Lou and Marjorie for an extraordinary job. (Applause.)

On that note, I want to have a chance to say hello to a few of you individually, but I’m sure I’ll see you more as I come through here. I know you have a great tradition. You can’t wait to get rid of us for the wheels-up party to start. (Laughter.) Before you party, at any rate, just on behalf of your country, thank you all and God bless. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T01-04