Remarks With Staff and Families of Embassy Abu Dhabi

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
March 5, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Michael. Thank you very much. Is this working? Testing. One, two, three. Hello? Not working. Do we have one? Testing. That’s all right. I’ll use the other one. We’re good. Good to go. Does this work? Hello. Test, one. (Laughter.) Beg your pardon?

STAFF: No, it’s not working.

SECRETARY KERRY: Do you have volume on that?

STAFF: Yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: Testing. That’s all right. That’s all right. I hate being behind a podium, but I’ll be behind the podium. (Laughter.) It’s all right. And forgive me for that. I love to just kind of walk around and talk to you all, but thank you.

Kids, thank you for being here. How are you? Everybody good?

AUDIENCE: Good. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Everybody’s having fun?


SECRETARY KERRY: That’s great. You look terrific, and I’m very, very happy that you’re here. Thank you very much. Thank you all, everybody involved with Mission United Arab Emirates. I gather we’ve got folks from the Embassy here and we also have Consulate Dubai here. Is that correct? Anybody? A few people? Thank you very, very much. Appreciate it. Thanks for coming up. This is – listen folks, the sun is shining – (laughter) – I’m out here. Do I have to go home? (Laughter.) I was sitting outside last night with His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed right by the water eating, and gosh, it was just such a great, relaxed, wonderful way to do diplomacy. And I figured we’ve got to work on other cold places to figure out how to do similar kinds of things. (Laughter.)

But thank you very, very much for what you do here. I am now what we call a recovering politician and a budding diplomat, and I hope – I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to take on this task, to follow, and, as I said when I walked into the State Department, I’ve big heels to fill. (Laughter.) The big test, obviously, as I mentioned, is can a man do this job now? (Laughter.)

It’s a real pleasure for me to be back out here. Michael is a terrific ambassador. I’ve known him when we were in Egypt together. He showed me around a lot of Egypt a number of years ago, and he’s been in a lot of difficult posts, and we’re really thrilled to have him here leading this Embassy and all of you, every single person here, the mixture of Foreign Service officers, civil servants, political appointees, people from various agencies who come together in order to create this team that is the face of America.

And last night, His Highness reminded me that they were celebrating the 250th anniversary of the capital. And he said that by way of reminding me that this place has been here a long time, and it’s going to be here a long time in the future, and that he is thinking about that future, trying to figure out how to capture the imagination of young people, of the diversity of the population here, and provide the kind of future that keeps people from making alternative bad choices. And there’s a tension throughout this region in that. Some governments have not figured out how to provide that kind of alternative. And some don’t quite yet know as effectively how to work to create diversity in the marketplace and to create jobs.

But here, you all have the blessing of representing a remarkable place in transition. I hear about the extraordinary events that they convene, whether it’s this huge energy conference and the focus on new energy and alternative energy, or whether it’s a convention about technology or some major meeting of the leaders in the region. This place has got a huge energy of its own, and it’s humming, and we need you to be interacting with all of those people who come here.

As we know, there are only 1.2 million people who are of Abu Dhabi descent and Abu Dhabi citizenship. But there are about 8 million people here. And you’ve got huge numbers of Iraqis, Iranians, people from Pakistan, various other countries, all working here in this great cross-section. So you’re lucky to be working in a place that really represents the future. And then of course, you’ve got all those folks who come here and spend a few hours in the sun and enjoy the waterslides and the water parks and all the other diversions that are here.

I think it’s a very, very exciting confluence of modernity and culture and transition, and it represents all of the challenges that we face. We are busy thinking about our strategy for all of this. You look to Egypt, and you have another country in transition. You look to Syria, and you see what happens when a leader doesn’t embrace the future and doesn’t recognize the possibilities of meeting the needs of a nation. And you look at the challenge we have with Iran with respect to nuclear weapons. The last thing we need are more nuclear weapons in the world at a time when Russia and the United States are working to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and make the world safer.

So I think you’re lucky. I have to tell you that. The job you’re engaged in is one of the greatest jobs in the world, and I’m now privileged to share that journey with you. I can’t think of anything better, more exciting, than waking up every day and knowing that we get to go out and represent our country. Every single one of you is an ambassador every day. Every contact you have leaves an impression about our nation, about our values, about our hopes, our aspirations, what we share with people. And every time you get that visa moved rapidly, you’ve made an impression on somebody. Every time we’re able to open the doors of opportunity to our country for visits or for reunions or for even a new future, that’s what we’re all about.

So I just wanted to say thank you to all of you. I know something of this journey, because I was a young kid, 11 years old, when I first went to then the Europe rebuilding after a war, after World War II. I spent a number of years moving around from school to school, friend to friend, house to house, packing, unpacking, and learning what the life of being in the Foreign Service is all about. So there’s some sacrifice. But on the upside, who gets to meet as much diversity, as many cultures, share the vision of our country with other people in other parts of the world and do the kind of things that you do representing your nation? It’s a pretty darn exciting thing, and I think all of us are very lucky to be involved in it.

So I thank you for my welcome here. I want to have a chance to say hello to a few of you, and particularly catch up the kids. I like the shades, man. Those are looking pretty good. (Laughter.) Looking – I don’t know where mine are – (laughter) – but I need them today. At any rate, thank you all very much for representing your nation. President Obama is so proud of everybody who is out here, and he sends his greetings. I know at some point he would love to come through here. We’ll have to see what’s possible in terms of the schedule. But we are grateful, and I bring you a huge, huge thank you from the United States of America, your home country.

And by the way, I like this ship with its – (laughter) – I think everybody ought to just – (applause). And I don’t know if it’s you get in the slanting part of it, the ceilings get lower, you have to walk crimped down – (laughter) – but it looks pretty good to me. And by the way, it’s not – it’s floating. It looks great. And I so think we can celebrate it. We’re happy that our Navy comes through here and everybody has a great time.

Thank you all very, very much. God bless. Good to be with you. Thank you.

PRN: 2013/T01-32