Meeting With Staff and Families of Consulate General Istanbul

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Consulate General Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey
April 7, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Hey, folks. Good morning to you.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.


AUDIENCE: Good morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good to see you all.

AMBASSADOR RICCIARDONE: Mr. Secretary, just a little over a month ago, I had the pleasure of introducing you to a part of the best American mission in the world. This is not the other part; this is an equal part, and Turkey’s a sort of (inaudible) world capital. And this is a place where we specialize in showing our hospitality to our visitors. We have a lot of practice at it here in this town. And I have great pleasure and pride in introducing to you the part of the team here that is just specializing in greeting a few visitors and helping them understand what an important (inaudible) is.

You’ve met Scott Kilner, one of my oldest friends in the Foreign Service. He’s had even more tours in Turkey than I have, and I know Scott mentioned on the way in we served together in Afghanistan. He had the pleasure of taking you all around Afghanistan a few years ago. So thanks so much for coming, again, so soon in your tenure. We wish you many, many happy returns.

SECRETARY KERRY: Frank, thank you. Thank you very much. Good morning. I know this is a somber morning for a lot of us, for everybody, and I appreciate everybody coming out and taking a moment to say hello today, especially the future over here. Frank, thank you for your stewardship. Really, you’re very, very lucky to have an extraordinary array of professionals, and I have seen Frank at work in a number of different countries, most recently before here in Afghanistan. And Scott, thank you for your leadership here at a very important crossroads, and I want to thank every single one of you for being part of this extraordinary mission. And Marie – where’s Marie gone? She’s here somewhere.

AMBASSADOR RICCIARDONE: Went off to join the missus.

SECRETARY KERRY: She went off to join my wife.

But we are grateful to all of you. I was thinking, just a little while ago when I was here, the first thing I did was walk into a memorial service at the Embassy for Mustafa Akarsu. And I learned then that his name stands for sort of flowing waters, or waters flowing over, and there’s that beautiful memorial now out in front of the Embassy. And he bravely gave his life, stepping up to prevent others from being harmed.

Yesterday in Afghanistan, we had a different stealing of a young life. And I think there are no words for anybody to describe the extraordinary harsh contradiction of a young 25-year-old woman with all of the future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy, of changing people’s lives, of making a difference, having an impact, who was taking knowledge in books to deliver them to a school. And someone somehow persuaded that taking her – his life was a wiser course and somehow constructive, drives into their vehicle and we lose five lives – two Foreign Service[1], three military, large number wounded, one Foreign Service officer still in critical condition in the Kandahar hospital because they’re trying to provide people with a future and with opportunity.

The folks who want to kill people, and that’s all they want to do, are scared of knowledge. And they want to shut the doors and they don’t want people to make their choices about the future. For them, it’s “You do things my way and if you don’t, we’ll throw acid in your face. We’ll put a bullet in your face,” to a young girl trying to learn. So this is a huge challenge for us. It is a confrontation with modernity, with possibilities, and everything that our country stands for, everything we stand for, is embodied in what Anne Smedinghoff stood for, a 25-year-old young woman, second tour of duty, been a vice consul in Caracas, Venezuela and then off to an exciting, challenging, unbelievable undertaking in one of the toughest places on earth.

I met her about two weeks ago. She was part of my team that was my control team when I was there, and I remember her – vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the Ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capacity. So it’s a grim reminder to all of us, though we didn’t need any reminders, of how important and also how risky carrying the future is with people who want to resist, and just trying to provide opportunity to those young boys and girls and men and women in Afghanistan, so many of whom I’ve met, who believe in education and believe in the possibilities of opening a business and believe in the rights of women and the rights of everybody to be able to make choices.

So I think every single one of us can stand very, very proud of Anne and her cohorts as America stands very, very proud of each and every one of you. This is not easy work. It’s not easy being away from home. It’s not easy packing up, breaking ties to family and friends and coming over to represent your country. But the whole world is in a state of transition right now. It is important for us to be able to help to bring stability and rule of law and alternatives to this kind of nihilistic violence that simply destroys and steals lives without offering any other constructive purpose whatsoever.

So I think we can walk with pride. I think the extended Foreign Service family feels a lot of pain today. But we also feel pride. And it’s my honor to be here with all of you to shake your hands, say hello to you, give everybody a hug, and let’s share together the feelings of the Smedinghoff family, who I talked to yesterday in Pennsylvania. There is no more painful conversation in the world. And they were extraordinary and are strong, and I ask you all to pray for them and their friends and their family, and just keep your heads high and keep doing what you do, because we’re so proud of you. Thank you very, very much.


[1] Anne Smedinghoff was the only Foreign Service officer killed the attack in Zabul Province on April 6, 2013.  The other American civilian killed was employed by the Department of Defense.

PRN: 2013/T03-01