Remarks With Staff and Families of Embassy Riyadh

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Riyadh
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
March 4, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for letting me totally screw up your process here. (Laughter.) Anyway, I’m glad to have the kids here and some of the parents out there. But I thought it was terrific to have the kids up here because only a few years ago, as everybody knows, this was an unaccompanied post. And now I’m told there are about a hundred kids here and ten on the way. We’re even counting kids on the way. (Laughter.) So the population is growing. And Dhahran – I understand in Dhahran they’ve got a playground that used to be unused. It was a playground with (inaudible) things in it, and nobody used it. Now it’s filled with kids all the time. So that shows things change. And a lot of you have been part of that positive change, and I just want to say thank you for that.

It’s wonderful to be here. I particularly want to thank the Ambassador, Jim Smith, who himself knows what it means to stand watch. He flew jets, combat missions out of Dhahran Airbase. He knows this region. He spent some 28 years flying jets in the United States Air Force and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. And it’s my honor and the President’s honor that he is here doing a terrific job as the Ambassador. And Janet, his wife, thank you for all you do for America, both of you; we really appreciate your work and your (inaudible). (Applause.)

And for all of you here working here, just a profound thank you from the President, the Vice President, the entire Administration, and everybody in America. You don’t hear it enough. This is a post that presents lots of challenges, but it also is exciting because it’s on the cutting edge of transformation. It is so important to us. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I said to, as well Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal today and to the Crown Prince, that almost on every issue of importance to us right now, on the question of the sanctions with Iran and being able to provide oil to Americans at a reasonable price and to the rest of the world, and not having a skyrocketing dislocation in the marketplace, Saudi Arabia has stepped up and helped to be able to make those sanctions work. And that’s had a profound impact on our ability to effect foreign policy.

On counterterrorism, on Yemen, it’s hard to see where we might be and whether we’d be having the kind of transformation taking place there that is taking place without the Saudi influence and the Saudi assistance and help. Look at Syria today, in a huge moment of transformation with really critical stakes to all of the region, to Israel, to us, to the longer-term prospects of the stability and peace of this region, and Egypt and its transformation. So you just look anywhere and you will find a reason for you to be doing the hard work in a place that’s going through its own evolutionary process, and we will. And that’s the nature of the life we’re all leading and of this interconnected global society that we live in.

So I just want to thank you for being here, and every single one of you is an ambassador. Every day, no matter who you interact with, and particularly those of you here in the visa section, the consulate, who are affecting so many people who go over to our country. We have 70,000 students, Saudi Arabian students, in our country studying. That’s extraordinary.

There’s another thing I want to thank you for, especially these kids here and to the older kids. I was how old you guys are – how old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: Wow, you’re older than I was when I was the son of a Foreign Service officer and went to another country, and changed schools, didn’t really know where I was, and wasn’t too sure why. And I’ll tell you, folks, you put up with a lot in that respect. I think I went to – I counted it the other day. I went to about six schools by the time I got to the eighth grade. So I know what it means to be in this great endeavor.

And yet, I’m so thrilled to be able to serve as Secretary of State because of that, because I understand the difference that we can all make in the lives of people we meet, the difference we make in terms of foreign policy and relationships, the difference we make to our country’s long-term hopes and values and security. All of that is what is effected on a daily basis here, and we do it for a miniscule amount of money, a miniscule amount of the American budget.

So I’m going to fight like crazy to convey to my colleagues the benefits of what you do and the work you do here. And when I thank you, I’m not just thanking people who fit under the category of Foreign Service officer. I want to thank all the civil servants, I want to thank all political appointees, I want to thank all the people who come from other departments, because as everybody knows, an embassy is a complex mosaic of all of the various parts of our Administration, whether it’s Commerce Department or Justice Department or trade and whatever it is.

And finally and not least importantly at all, I want to thank all of you who are local employed people who work for us who are Saudi, and this is your home and we thank you for helping us to be able to reach out to the people of your country. So thank you, everybody, for being part of this mission. I wanted to have a chance to say hello to all of you. And wow, are you a well-behaved and quiet group of people. I am impressed. (Cheers and applause.) Thank you very, very much.

PRN: 2013/ T01-25