Meeting With Staff and Families of Embassy Kuala Lumpur

John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Joseph Y. Yun
   U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 10, 2013

AMBASSADOR YUN: Thank you, guys, for being here. I am so fortunate. Many, many ambassadors don’t get a chance to introduce the Secretary, but in my first four weeks, (inaudible). (Laughter.) I’ve traveled with the Secretary a couple of times. I know how tiring it is. He is so gracious and charming, and he looks great, fresh. (Laughter.)

So this is our Embassy. Thank you, for everyone, on a wet night for being – for giving us such a warm welcome to the Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you. Joe, thank you very, very much. Thank you, all. It’s great to be here with you. You have, I’ve got to tell you, a great ambassador in Joe Yun. I cannot (inaudible). (Applause.) They had to twist my arm for me to give him up in the State Department to let him come out here, but I’m glad he is, and he was very, very diplomatic in his introduction of me, because he took great pleasure in introducing me, but the truth is I know he’s really sad he’s not introducing the President of the United States. (Laughter.)

But nevertheless, I’m happy that he is introducing me. I’m very, very pleased to be here with all of you. Thank you for taking time to come out here. I want to introduce Dr. Melanie Billings-Yun, who is here somewhere.

AMBASSADOR YUN: She couldn’t be here. She --

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, she couldn’t be here?


SECRETARY KERRY: She’s being a doctor somewhere. (Laughter.) What can I say? Well, somebody – anyway, Lee, thanks for your great work, appreciate all you’re doing as DCM, and thank you, all of you. I understand we have five employees here who each have spent something like 35 years. I don't know if they’re all here.

AMBASSADOR YUN: I think some of them are here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Have we got – let me see, I wrote them down so that I could embarrass them appropriately. (Laughter.) Gerard George, is Gerard here? Gerard, there’s Gerard. (Applause.) And Andrew Sin? Andrew here somewhere? Who else have we got? I can’t read my own writing. Oh, Letchu Alagirisamy?


SECRETARY KERRY: No? Not here? Gosh. Okay. Selena Liew Kim Lan?


SECRETARY KERRY: Not here also? How about Irene Tham Chee Lin?

QUESTION: Irene --

SECRETARY KERRY: Irene? Irene, we can all say – well, they’re all working for (inaudible). (Laughter.) Well, I’m glad they’re working hard, but between the five of them, they’ve put in 190 years in helping our Embassy and the United States of America. And even though only one of them is here, how about a round of applause for all of them. (Applause.) Thank you. They’re fantastic, pretty amazing.

And is Matt Ingeneri here?

AMBASSADOR YUN: He’s with Froman.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, he’s with Froman, all right. Well, I want to just congratulate him for all the work he has done on this global summit, which is absolutely incredible, and I look forward to addressing it tomorrow, but – everybody’s out working. I mean, Christ. (Laughter.)

Anyway, thank you all. I really just wanted to be able to meet you and, first of all, tell you that the President is obviously not happy that he is not able to be out here doing the business that he needed to do over the course of the last few days. And while I’m proud to be here as the Secretary, the Secretary, as we all know, is not the President and doesn’t have the ability that – the meaning, obviously, of a presidential visit.

So the President will get out here. I’m actually confident of that. But I know he sends his best wishes to every single one of you, but also his apologies for what is going on in Washington, (inaudible) from all of us. I spent 28-plus years in the United States Senate, and it is really painful, sad, to watch what is happening – I should say not happening – right now. But it’s affecting all of you; it affects everybody – the uncertainties, the disruption, the question marks about our country and our government. Believe me, I’ve had some conversations in the last few days out here with leaders about it. It’s impossible – for the Government of the United States of America to be shut down when there are people out here – not to say, “Question mark, what’s going on here? What does this mean and what does the long term mean?” And so my hope is this will end quickly. I know you hope the same thing.

I want to thank you for hanging in, staying at it, not being deterred, not being demoralized, and for recognizing that all of us got into this because we care about the values and the principles that we’re trying to share with the world, and that doesn’t change because of what is happening in Washington. So we’re on the same mission, and we can hold our heads high and be proud that every single one of us are out there trying the best we can to represent our country and to stand up and advance our interests. That’s what this is all about.

Every single one of you is an ambassador. I know we have about 118 or so local staff. How many of you are local staff who – thank you, all of you, very, very much. (Applause.) There’s no way for us to do what we do here or to try to do what we do without your help and support, and I know that sometimes it can be difficult. And we appreciate enormously the fact that you’re committed to this task, and some of you for, as I say, as many as 35 years, which is quite extraordinary.

And for all the rest of you, the hundred and, I guess, 20 or so – 118 or so who are in the Embassy and the some 75 families represented here, many of you sitting right here, I really am happy to say, on behalf of your country, on behalf of the President of the United States, a profound thank you to all of you for what you’re doing. Every one of you may not be walking around yet. Some of you newer people are either in the consular division or in your first or second round. You don’t get the title of ambassador, but there isn’t one of you who isn’t an ambassador every day. And for a lot of people, you may be the first person they ever see that has contact with America, in some cases maybe the only person, but in other cases, you’ll go – they may go on through travel or through one of our education exchange programs or through other things to go to America, or to be in some other country where they have a sense of what they learned by being part of our journey. And it makes a difference in their lives too.

So this is a big deal. This part of the world is changing faster than any other place on the face of this planet. You are part of an extraordinary moment of history. When you think of the journey of this region over the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years, and you go back to the Cold War, and even World War II, where we find ourselves today in this region is stunning. And I’ll tell you, as I sat around that table, listening to the Prime Minister of Vietnam, to the Prime Minister of Laos, to the prime minister of any number of them – of Singapore, of Malaysia, and all these places expressing this commonality of interests, every single one of them feeling the sense of globalization and change and the impact on their governments.

I was talking with the prime – well, I won’t say because it’s not appropriate, it’s a personal conversation – but I just was talking with one prime minister at lunch today who was telling me how it can’t – nobody can go back. There’s too much accountability now. The social media has changed everything. Instant accountability and globalization itself has created a set of norms that’s conditioning behavior, and so everybody’s sort of now reaching for the brass ring. That’s why things like the TPP, the trade agreement, and other things are raising standards and people realize, “Whoa, we better be part of that if we’re going to be successful and continue to go down this road of growth and development, and provide for our citizens.” And the beauty of it is citizens everywhere know what citizens everywhere else are getting, and they know what their problems are, and they know what the challenges are. So we’re now on a much smaller planet with a much greater degree of shared responsibility and shared opportunity, and you all are on the cutting edge of that, making history literally every single day in this transformation that is taking place.

So keep it up, don’t worry. We will get through this in America. We will get back on track. This will end. You will get paid. Things will happen and you’ll enjoy the turkeys I hope you ordered for Thanksgiving, and life will go on, and we’re going to continue to do what we do, because I think that we’re involved in one of the greatest adventures you can ever be involved in. You get up every morning and go to work with the belief that you’re really making a difference for the lives of other people and making a difference for your country. It doesn’t get better than that.

So, thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T15-19