Remarks at Embassy Algiers Meet and Greet

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Algiers, Algeria
April 3, 2014

AMBASSADOR ENSHER: Ladies and gentlemen – (applause) – thank you. I’ll just introduce the Secretary of State and let him say as he wishes, so – sir, you’ve been introduced. You may – do you want to speak from here there?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, thank you very much. Look what I got. I love it. (Laughter.) What’s her name, what’s her name? Who?

PARTICIPANT: Anna-Lisa (ph).

SECRETARY KERRY: Anna-Lisa (ph), thank you. Anna-Lisa (ph). Thank you very much.

PARTICIPANT: You’re welcome.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Can I give you that to hold?

Well, Wishrakum. I’m happy to be here with all of you. (In French.) I am really sorry that we got delayed. I had a phone call, and it was one of those calls where you can’t get the other person to realize the call’s over. Anyway, I am really happy to see you all. Thank you very, very much for this. I’m very grateful to our ambassador, Henry Ensher, and what a terrific job he does. Twenty-seven years in the service, and he’s still going at it and he brings enormous expertise to this challenge. Mr. Ambassador, we’re very grateful to you. Thank you for all that you do.

AMBASSADOR ENSHER: Team projects, sir.


AMBASSADOR ENSHER: Team projects, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Team projects. All right, well we believe in that.

Listen, let me just – I’m very late and I do apologize for that to all of you, and thank you for waiting patiently so I could have a chance to not just say hello, but most importantly have a chance to be able to say thank you to every single one of you.

We are deeply grateful. How many of you are local employees? Raise your hands. Well, look at that. Wow. I think we have – thank you – (applause). We – there is no way for us to be able to do our job unless you are here to help us, every single one of you. (In French). How many of you are speaking French still? No? Nobody? A couple? (Laughter.) I know it’s going out of vogue.

But I really thank you because you take on a very difficult task of helping another country to represent itself in your country, so sometimes the things that people think about us fall on you. And we appreciate very much your willingness to be part of our efforts.

Also, I obviously want to thank all of the Foreign Service officers, Civil Service, various agencies who are working here in a team effort within the Department, within the Embassy. And I thank the TDY-ers and political appointees and everybody who make up this incredible team that helps us to represent our interests in another country, but also importantly helps us connect to the interests of that country so we’re doing also what is important to the nation that we’re in.

In Algeria, you all are representing really one of the most fascinating and important countries in all of Africa – not just North Africa, but a country that has resources, a civil society, intelligent, experienced people, people who fought for their freedom, people who understand what independence means, people who are deeply committed to counterterrorism and to stability. This is a very important place.

And we are trying in this visit to help build a number of different things. First, try to build our security relationship so that we can do more with Algeria in the field of stability, counterterrorism. We have Mali, Niger, Chad, the issues, obviously, out west in Sahara, the challenge of al-Qaida. There’s an enormous amount on the table, and of course Libya, Tunisia, all of this is critical to us – the Sahel, the Maghreb, moving on into the Levant – there’s just an enormous amount of turmoil and change, transition. And we want that to turn out in a way that provides for the stability of the region and for the ability of people here to live the lives the way they’d like to live them.

Part of doing that is the second part of what we’re talking about here, and that’s the economic and development side. We got to create jobs for unbelievable numbers of young people. And those young people need to find a future in education, in jobs, in opportunity, or it’s hard to build stability.

And the final piece of it is the people-to-people programs that are part of all of that. You have the Let’s Chat program here, and you’re trying to help people be able to learn how – you’re in the Let’s Chat program. There she is, all right. But the point is, as people gain language skills, they gain employability, they gain an ability to enlarge their income and their lives.

And speaking of income, I am proud to come here and tell you today that the pay freeze has ended. You’re going to get your pay raise as of now. That’s starting, all right? (Applause.) There you go. Most important news I could have delivered. (Laughter.) Anyway, I’m really happy to be able to share that with you.

Bottom line is this – you’ve all been standing around a long time, I don’t want to give a long speech – there are about, I think, 100 and some of you here who – or 95 or so or who’ve come – 65, I guess, it is – who’ve come from other – from America and they’re over here. And then a large Embassy, 400 and some people when you add everybody who’s working locally. But you’re all a team. Every single one of you is an ambassador. Everything you do, whether it’s a telephone call or an interview in the consular division or outreach when we got to an event, you’re the face of America. And you’re helping us to reach people and to try to make sure we address the very values that brought you to this kind of service in the first place.

So I really thank you. President Obama is proud of our diplomatic corps. He mentioned it in his last State of the Union. All the people who don’t wear uniforms but are on the front lines, a lot of you make sacrifices to be here, and I just want you to know that as long as I’m Secretary of State I will have your back, and I know I can count on you to cover our back, too.

Thank you all, and God bless. Thank you. (Applause.)