Secretary Kerry Hosts a Swearing-in Ceremony for Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Victoria Nuland
   Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
September 18, 2013

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. My name is Rosemarie Pauli, and it’s my pleasure as the Deputy Chief of Protocol to welcome you to the Department of State Benjamin Franklin Room and for the swearing-in of Victoria Nuland as the next Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. We are privileged to have the Secretary of State, the Honorable John F. Kerry, officiating the ceremony today. We also are so pleased to have the Assistant Secretary’s family here, including her husband Bob, her daughter Leni, her son David, her father and step-mom Shep and Sarah, her mom Rhona McKhann, her sister Molly, sister-in-law Kim Kagan, and brother-in-law Fred Kagan.

I would also like to recognize all of the ambassadors of the diplomatic corps who have joined us here today – thank you for coming – as well as Senator McCain, Representative Keating, and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and former Secretary General of the NATO Javier Solana.

Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to all our participants and guests. (Applause.)

Thank you. We will begin our ceremony this afternoon with remarks by the Secretary of State. This will be followed by the administration of the oath of office, the signing of the appointment papers, and the remarks by the Assistant Secretary. And now it is my great honor to present the Secretary of State. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Wow, what an amazing gathering. I can’t believe the extraordinary representation. I think we have a quorum and much more from Europe and our ambassadors. I’m absolutely confident if we tried, we could sign the TTIP in about an hour. (Laughter.) (Applause.) I have no doubt. All right?

This is really special. First of all, I want to welcome my good friend John McCain. Thanks for coming up. And Bill Keating from my home state of Massachusetts, thank you for being here. Strobe Talbott, former deputy and longtime associate and friend, and so many of you. If I start running around this group here, I am in deep, deep trouble, more than I am anyway.

But welcoming Toria Nuland as our Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs – just, you can tell by this gathering of people who have followed her career, who know her, who love her, and who feel her passion for this great enterprise and this journey we’re all on, this is special. It really is. And I’m very, very pleased that, thanks to President Obama’s choice, we are ratifying in this position one of the senior Foreign Service’s very, very best.

It’s a pleasure to welcome Toria’s family, all of you here. Thank you, Bob and Leni and David. It’s wonderful to have you here. And I think anybody who has spent time with Toria – which is why you’re all here – understands you become immediate fans. That is, almost everyone. My first trip after Toria left her post as spokesperson, Foreign Minister Lavrov looked at my staff, and he said to me, “John, I see you finally fired that Toria Nuland.” (Laughter.) And I took great pleasure in looking at him and saying, “No, I promoted her.” (Laughter.) So we have a thing, back-and-forth, as you’ve noticed. (Laughter.) Toria’s going to be a good part of it going forward.

So she has really been part of the State Department family for decades now. And I got to tell you, from everything I hear talking to all the folks I’ve come to know well here in the last months, Toria, we actually feel partly responsible here in the State Department, I’m told, for your family. Because she and her husband met in the halls of the State Department on the seventh floor before there were any rules against – no, I’m joking. (Laughter.) But obviously, that is where she has drawn this inspiration of setting up all the young staffers that she meets who need to meet somebody in life and go on. She’s our official yenta, I think.

As some of you may know, she worked on a Soviet fishing trawler in the Pacific, an incredible undertaking. She has also served in some of the most challenging and demanding foreign policy positions in the U.S. Government, some of which I am sure made her feel like she wished she would be back on that fishing trawler at times. She has served as political officer, defense attache, economic officer, cultural attache, and junior GSO, and that was just at Embassy Ulan Bator, alone. (Laughter.) She was, as many of you know, sent to Mongolia to open our Embassy there just six months after marrying Bob. And no, Bob, she was not sent there because she married you. (Laughter.)

Years later in Brussels, Toria helped guide NATO through a very critical and uncertain time when Article 5 was invoked in September of 2001, and later as the only female representative in the North Atlantic Council. Her presence was so strong and her intellect so forceful that the other permanent representatives took to calling it Snow White and the 27 Dwarves. (Laughter.)

This is a woman, as all of you know, of many extraordinary talents, and I have learned that at least on one occasion, she sang formally and officially. I heard about the time that somehow she convinced – I want you to picture this – Deputy Secretary Talbott and the rest of their delegation sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to the daughters of the President of Kazakhstan – (laughter) – improbable as it may sound.

She – when I saw her – when I first got to sort of have a sense of her, she was handling the podium here, as Spokesperson for the Department, which, as we all know, is one of the most demanding jobs that there is, toughest jobs in Washington, and it has prepared her enormously for this next round. Now, I think we all know, whatever magic it is, Shep and Sarah, that you inculcated in her, she takes success with her wherever she goes, in whatever she does. And that’s why President Obama and I know with absolute confidence that there is no one more qualified to lead this bureau than Toria.

She – I had the privilege of enjoying her talents as the Spokesperson when I first came in. She traveled with me on my first trip as Secretary of State, and we went to five of the countries that she will now be dealing with directly. And I learned frontally that she had absolutely no problem speaking truth to power. (Laughter.) I also saw how much she cares and how deeply she understands the importance of our relationship with our longtime friends in Europe and Eurasia, and how important that relationship is to this extraordinary transformation that is taking place in the world today.

The nations in that region are our indispensable partners on so many critical issues. And going forward, we are looking to Toria to manage one of the most difficult management jobs in the State Department, a staff of more than 10,000 people around the world, and we’re very, very fortunate to have somebody who, just evidenced by your presence here today, has such respect and admiration from her colleagues.

Toria has served our country her entire adult life. And as the most prominent member of the unique – some might even say improbable – member of the Dick Cheney–Hillary Clinton Alumni Association – (laughter) – she has earned the trust and confidence of Democrats and Republicans alike, without party affiliation. She is quite simply a passionate patriot, a believer in the values that all of us hold dear, and which we know define our nation as indispensable as well as exceptional.

So it’s my great pleasure to make this official. And Toria, if you will come up here, and somewhere I think I have an oath. Yes, I do.

MS. NULAND: My dad’s (inaudible). Just give --

SECRETARY KERRY: Are you going to hold the Bible?

MR. NULAND: Oh yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: Come over here. You stand over here.

MR. NULAND: Yes, sir.

(The Oath of Office was administered.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Congratulations.


SECRETARY KERRY: Ladies and gentlemen, Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland. (Applause and cheers.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Thank you, Secretary Kerry. What an incredible honor to be standing here and what an incredible crowd of everybody that I love. But there is one thing that you guys need to know that the Secretary was a little too polite to say. As one of the conditions of my employment, my unclassified email has been disabled. (Laughter.) So later today when you hear a lot of noise coming out of EUR and weird screeching, that’ll be us restoring the pneumatic tube system for messaging, training up the fleet of carrier pigeons so we can communicate with the field. You get the point. (Laughter.)

Secretary Kerry, thank you for the confidence that you and President Obama have shown in asking me to take on EUR. Senator McCain, Congressman Keating, Deputy Secretary Talbott, Secretary General Solana, ambassadors, colleagues, friends: thank you all for being here.

The day after the Senate confirmed me, one of our DASs, Brent Hartley, turned to me and said, “Welcome home.” And that’s how it feels. It is the honor of a lifetime to be asked to lead the bureau where I grew up as a diplomat and to have responsibility for America’s relationships with the most democratic, prosperous, generous, and globally committed region on Earth.

The ups and downs of the transatlantic community have shaped my professional life – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bloody Bosnia and Kosovo wars, the birth of the euro, the enlargement of NATO and the EU, the invocation of Article 5 on September 12th, 2001, our transatlantic challenges together on Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, and the financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic. Every step of this journey has underscored my conviction that America needs a strong Europe and Europe needs a strong America.

But no experience was more formative for me than August 1991 when, as a young political officer in Moscow, I stood in the rain in a crowd of 250,000 Russians from all walks of life who had assembled around the Russian White House to say no to coup plotters who wanted to take them back to the dark days and to say yes to leaders who promised more freedom, more choice, and more say in how they lived and were governed. The memory of those days is a regular reminder to me that the universal values that bind the transatlantic community and undergird all that we do together are a beacon to people everywhere always, and we are safer, stronger, and richer as nations and as individuals when we stand with those who fight for those values across Europe and Eurasia and globally.

Today, as a transatlantic community, we’re standing at another vital inflection point. Recovery should not be enough for us. What’s required is a transatlantic renaissance, a new burst of energy, confidence, innovation, and generosity rooted in our democratic values and ideals. When so much of the world around us is turbulent and unmoored, we have to be that beacon. Together, we must lead, or we will see the things that we value and our global influence recede.

At home, that means we have to work together to revitalize the foundations of our democratic free market way of life. That means working for an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that sets the global gold standard for openness and growth. It means investing more in our young people, in entrepreneurship, in energy diversification and independence. It means pushing back hard against the dangerous erosion of universal rights and freedoms in many parts of Europe and Eurasia and standing together with all those fighting for democratic progress and their individual liberties. It means funding, equipping, and training our militaries to be ready to defend our freedom and advance our security interests wherever they are needed. And it means finishing the work of a Europe whole, free, and at peace, taking down the remaining walls, unfreezing the remaining conflicts.

And abroad, there is no place where our generosity and our experience and our ideals are more needed today than on Europe’s own periphery, an area that’s also of vital national interest to the United States just across the Med in the struggling nations of North Africa and the Middle East. It matters to all of us how the Arab Spring turns out. Will the preponderance of people there eventually live in freedom and peace, or will tyrants and terrorists prevail? The investment that the transatlantic community and other nations make now will have an impact on the outcome, but this too is going to require leadership, including making the case to our own people that our fates and those of our neighbors are intertwined.

In today’s interconnected world, strength at home and strength abroad are a package deal. And I firmly believe that when we find common purpose with Russia, the whole world benefits. When we take nukes and chems out of service together, we’re all better off. We can’t stop working to find areas where we can bring Russia to the table, but nor can we sugarcoat it when we disagree or fall victim, as my former boss used to say, to a false choice between our interests and our values. For us, those are also a package deal.

So let me go back to where I began. We are at an inflection point. Those who want to live in peace and freedom around the world are looking to us for that transatlantic renaissance, and I believe it’s within our grasp. For almost 70 years, the transatlantic community has been the rock on which the world order rests, and our challenge now on both sides of the Atlantic is to ensure that that remains the case. And I am so proud to lead the incredibly talented men and women of EUR at this vital time as we work with our colleagues across Europe and Eurasia towards that end.

Now I’ve got about a few hundred people to thank here, I think. First, the EUR team for getting me ready, our superstar Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Paul Jones, his predecessor Masha Yovanovitch, the incredible band of DASs that we have, and the entire EUR team. Special thanks to Joe Kowalski, to Anissa Hanson, to Michael Lee, and to the organizer of today’s event, Tony Jones. And also special thanks to my white knights from the Legislative Affairs Bureau during the fabulous confirmation process – (laughter) – Rob Fallon and Tom Sullivan. And thanks to Jen Wicks and Alan Fitts in White House Liaison and Rosemarie Pauli, your first-class Protocol team.

There are mentors and friends in this room from every chapter of my career from both sides of the aisle and from both sides of the Atlantic. If I tried to mention all of you right now, I would bore the other 10 people in the room, so I’m not going to do that. (Laughter.) Let me just single out the two amigos over there with whom I’ve shared many crazy diplomatic adventures, Strobe and Javier: Thank you for being here. The transatlantic relationship owes you both a great debt, and so do I.

And Senator McCain, Congressman Keating, thank you for being here. Senator McCain, your staunch commitment to the American alliance and your support for me personally over the years is one of the reasons I’m standing here today. Thank you.

I also have to thank the extraordinary EUR alumni club: Marc Grossman, Beth Jones, Dan Fried, and Phil Gordon. They’ve all been amazingly generous in helping me get ready, and I am proud to call all of them mentors and friends. Karen Donfried and Derek Chollet are here. I couldn’t have handpicked a better set of interagency dance partners or people that I respect more. I can’t wait to get started with you guys.

And sprinkled throughout this crowd and around this town is a group to whom I owe special recognition and thanks today. They are a hearty band of people – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people in government, formers, members of Congress and staff, folks in the think-tanks and in the Fourth Estate who, when I found myself in choppy waters, put their own integrity on the line to defend mine. Bob and I remain overwhelmed by the support and love that so many of you gave us when we needed it, and I hope to be worthy of your confidence as I take on this job.

And finally, my family – where are they all? There they are. My brother and sister-in-law, Fred and Kim Kagan; my sister-in-law Leila; my incredible sister Molly. My brothers Drew and Will are not here today, but they’re with us in spirit. My British mum, who was the first European in my life. (Laughter.) My parents, Sal and Shep – they taught me very early that you only need two things in life to be happy – good work and good love – and I am blessed to have both. My dad was, of course, my first mentor and my very, very best one to this day. My incredible kids, Leni and David. Everybody says their kids are incredible. Mine truly are. (Laughter.) They spent six years of their childhood in Europe. Leni was a cheese snob at age seven – (laughter) – and a lover of Renaissance art by the time she was 12. David, by age 10, could tell a vintage Bordeaux from a Barolo in a blind taste test. (Laughter.) That was not my fault. Blame their father, please. (Laughter.) I am so proud of you and I am grateful to be your mom.

And finally, my Kagan. As most of you know – (laughter) – my Kagan. He is my Mars, he is my Venus, he is my Planet Earth. Thank you, K, for an incredible life together. (Applause.) See, I almost got through it without losing it. Almost.

Secretary Kerry, you inspire us with your energy, with your commitment. I just bought a new pair of roller skates so I can keep up with you and get a little height. (Laughter.) I thank you very much for the chance to try.

And to all of you who are here today, spasibo, merci, danke, gracias, dyakuyu, efharisto, tesekkurler. And to the EUR bureau, andiamo. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you again for being here. This concludes our ceremony. Please join Assistant Secretary Nuland in a receiving line to my left of the podium to congratulate her personally. Thank you for being here.

PRN: 2013/1138