Meeting With Staff and Families of Embassy Vilnius
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR MCCARTHY: Okay. Let’s get all these kids to the front here. Look, they’re all waving, all waving, all waving.
Well, good day to everybody. So glad you were able to wait up for us. It’s been a busy day. And I’d like to introduce the Secretary of State John Kerry. And Mr. Secretary, I’d like to introduce you to this fabulous, fantastic group with many of the young ones that constitute the backbone of this mission and that are working very hard on our bilateral relationship and are extremely committed to advancing U.S. interests. So, thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Ambassador. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Hi, guys. How you all doing this morning?
AUDIENCE: Great, great.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you sound great, powerful, strong. I love it. You having fun here?
SECRETARY KERRY: What do you do? Come on up here. I want to get all the kids up here. You don’t have to stand behind this line. We’re going to make your parents stand behind the line. You guys come up here. Come on. Everybody up here. Get up here with me. There you go. Now I feel – oh, God, we got all the big kids too. (Laughter.) You guys aren’t little kids. This is – what are you doing? You’re in – this is amazing. You guys are not in diplomacy; you’re involved in family planning and building up here. (Laughter.) It’s amazing. All right. Now I feel better. I got a lot of friends up here.
First of all, I want to thank – the Ambassador’s hidden back here, but Deborah McCarthy is one of our consummate professionals. She’s absolutely spectacular. We’re lucky to have somebody as experienced as she is. And I want to say thank you, and I hope all of you will join me in just expressing great gratitude for her leadership here in the Embassy. Thank you very, very much for what you do, appreciate it. (Applause.) And as you’d say, Labas, right?
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m getting it. It’s less hard. I’m learning how to do it. Somebody was telling me – what is it now – there was a thing called Kita Svajoniu Komanda; is that correct? Do you know what I’m talking about? That’s the movie about the Dream Team. We’re going to rename you now. You’re going to be the Dream Team Embassy, if you’re willing, if you’re excited about what you’re doing. I hope you will be.
Who here is about 11 years old or 12 years old, anybody?
PARTICIPANT: I’m one.
SECRETARY KERRY: How old are you?
PARTICIPANT: Ten, almost --
SECRETARY KERRY: Ten, almost 11, okay. And you’re almost 11. Anybody 11 or 12 or something, somewhere in there? I want to tell you, I want to share with you, that I was exactly your age – I was your age when my dad went into the Foreign Service. And it was not too long – and I’m dating myself – after World War II when we went to Berlin and I – it was one of the greatest adventures in the world, and I look back on it today, as I think you will look back on it, as a spectacular experience. And I hope you’re having fun. Are you?
SECRETARY KERRY: You going to school here? Which school are you going to? The American school?
PARTICIPANT: AISV, AISV.
SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. (Laughter.) Well, I love that. I love that. I just want to thank everybody. We have about 160 folks here, 123 locally employed. Will all the locally employed – can you raise your hands? Thank you. We cannot do this without you. (Applause.) We are very, very grateful to you.
And the transformation – what has taken place here in 20 years plus one is really remarkable, and I am told that back in 1992 when we were first setting up shop here after the end of the Soviet Union, they had to bring truckloads of cash down from Finland in order to be able to just pay people because there weren’t even banks. It just wasn’t even functional. And so now, you all have this incredible burgeoning economy. We have – we, the United States, and Lithuania have a remarkable relationship which is built partly on security, partly on economics, partly on democracy, on hopes about the future.
And what really excites me is what’s happening with respect to the energy diversification, climate change efforts, the efforts to create the European Eastern Partnership. All of these things are going to guarantee that not only will this relationship stay strong and flourish, but as we go forward, the economy here is going to get stronger, the democracy here will become more entrenched, and this will become really one of the great models for transformation out of a period of just kind of crushing restraint and oppression, and I don’t even want to go back to some of the stories. In fact, as I drove up here, the Ambassador pointed out what is now a Holocaust museum that used to be a place where the KGB used to take people and terrible, terrible things went on.
So that’s the transformation. All of you are part of this amazing adventure we get to be part of. I get to be the Secretary and parachute in like this for a few hours, and I know that these visits aren’t simple and a lot of work goes into them. I also have learned that the minute I get out of here, there’s a pretty good wheels-up party – (laughter) – which I never get to share in. But I just want to say thank you to you on behalf of America, on behalf of the President, and all of us who are privileged to work for our fellow citizens. There honestly is no more rewarding kind of work.
For those of you in the consular division, you’re the face of America. Somebody walks in and they talk to you and you have an interview and they need to get a visa, and they want to either emigrate or they want to just visit or be a student and go over and study or have an opportunity to sort of touch our values and our dreams, that’s a big deal. For many of you, you may be the only American people we’ll ever see. And whether you’re a civil servant or a Foreign Service officer, you get to come to work every day and build a bridge, build a relationship, reach out to people with a set of values that we all believe in, which historically have made a huge difference to people all over the world.
That is good work. That’s a great, great job. I wish it was better paying for everybody. It’s not what we all get into this for. We’re in it because we love what we do, we love the opportunity to change people’s lives, we love the opportunity to bring America to other parts of the world, and we love to build the friendships and the relationships that go with it. And they last a lifetime and they’re worth every moment of it.
In tribute to that, the Ambassador, Deborah, was just in Afghanistan, and we’re pleased that we have a special working relationship here in Lithuania for a small country – I think it was the smallest country leadership of the PRT – and working with us and others – Georgians, I think, and some others in there – we had this tremendous PRT effort. And just the other day – we’ve now transferred that PRT, as we are now transferring and transitioning out of Afghanistan – the PRT commander honored us, all of us, and particularly the Ambassador by giving to her the flag that was flying there.
And it is now going to fly here or be on the wall, put up, it’s going to be posted up here, and I want to – I think we’re going to unveil this. Ambassador, will you join me over here and let’s go over here for a sec. Guys, we’re all going to get around this flag here, and if you’ll join me, Ambassador. You ready? You help take that off, there you are. Whoops, that’s the single ribbon – this is the flag, folks, that flew over that PRT, and it will be here on display in the Embassy from this day forward. It says “The USA National Flag was waving over Forward Operating Base Shield of the Lithuanian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghor Province of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The hard work, dedication, and actions of the USA representatives directly supported and assisted the PRT to reach the goals and objectives in support of the ISAF mission,” and that’s dated 25 August 2013. Folks, that belongs to all of you, to this Embassy, to our efforts jointly, and it’s a huge statement about this wonderful relationship and participation we have.
So, with that said, I want to thank all of you. I want to come around, have a chance to say hello, take some pictures. Thank you very, very much for all the work you do. God bless. Thank you. (Applause.)