Remarks at Embassy Rabat Meet and Greet

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Rabat, Morocco
April 3, 2014

AMBASSADOR BUSH: Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming here to join me in welcoming Secretary Kerry to Morocco. I am honored and delighted to have this opportunity to greet the Secretary in Rabat after arriving just five days ago myself. In fact, we were both hoping to come to Morocco in the fall, and events outside of our control certainly kept us away at that time.

The U.S.-Morocco relationship is one of strategic and historical significance, dating back to the 1786 Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, which still is in force and effect today. The Secretary’s visit and his participation in the U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue is further proof of the importance of this relationship, and it serves as another indication of the strength of ties between our countries.

Our mission in Morocco is a large one, with hundreds of Americans and local staff spread throughout the country, from the Tangier Legation located in Tangiers that still stands as a symbol of the historic ties between our two countries, to the Consulate General office in Casablanca where our colleagues fulfill our mission to aid and protect American citizens in Morocco. It expands to our robust USAID and Peace Corps programs that are aimed at promoting Moroccan economic engine development, and finally to the Embassy in Rabat, where we engage with our counterparts in the Moroccan Government on a wide array of issues of mutual interest. I am proud to be a part of the U.S. mission to Morocco and to serve and represent our country in the noble cause of strengthening the U.S.-Moroccan diplomatic partnership.

I know the Secretary is eager to meet you, to speak with you, and he’s well aware of how long you’ve stood around waiting for us. And so without any further ado, please allow me to introduce the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Dwight. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. How long have you been standing around? (Laughter.) What’s the truth here now? Was it a long time? I’m really sorry. Are you kids – are you guys all right? Did you find something to do while I wasn’t here? (Laughter.) Are you all mad at me already? (Laughter.) Okay, good. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Well, I think I should be welcoming the ambassador here. I mean, I don’t know. (Laughter.) Five days seniority over my visit? I’m really happy that he’s here. He’s got a distinguished career in the private sector, a lot of banking initiatives, other efforts, worked for Sallie Mae and so forth, and opened his own company which gives financial advice. So if any of you need help on the side, here’s the man. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR BUSH: I’m out of that business.

SECRETARY KERRY: You’re out of that business now. Anyway, and I’m delighted to welcome his family here. We’ve got – Antoinette is here, and thank you very much. Antoinette Cook Bush, I think. Is that correct? And Dwight Junior and the beautiful Jacqueline who’s over here. Thank you. And they’re all on spring break, guys. They’re just here, quick and easy. I guess, no. You’re here on a sort of visiting thing for high school, right? That’s kind of cool.

So I’m happy to see them. And while I’ve been gone, the Red Sox went to the White House, and I’m really angry that I wasn’t there. (Laughter.) It’s, like, painful for me. And I read the Boston Globe story of all these politician friends of mine who were all over there at the White House having a good time. And it was really funny because Republicans and Democrats alike were fawning over every Red Sox player. So Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator Shaheen were there. It was the most bipartisan moment in Washington in recent memory.

And it’s my understanding you guys have a raging softball season? Is that true? And we have – let me see now, we’ve got Swat. Any Swat people here? (Cheers.) And we’ve got Barbarians? Is that true? Are there Barbarians here? I mean of a different kind. (Laughter.) And then there’s the Nomads, right? Which I particularly find appealing. And why is there only one or two people from each of these teams here? (Laughter.) I don’t know. Anyway – well, good luck to you all. May you not destroy each other on the field.

It’s really a pleasure for me to be in this very historic mission. The ambassador, in his comments, talked about the long, long history we’ve had here. And obviously, our history goes way back here for security reasons, ironically. That’s what brought us to this part of the world. Just today, earlier, I was in Algeria, where they showed me and gave me, actually, a copy of the treaty of 1795, which was our Treaty of Amity and Friendship with Algeria, which is part of the same sort of process that brought us here.

And we have a very close relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco. I met with His Majesty the King when he came to Washington recently. We had a very good discussion, interesting discussion. The foreign minister has become a good acquaintance, friend, through the international organizations and meeting that we’d wind up attending together. And all in all, we are really hoping that we can take an already strong relationship and make it even stronger.

It’s very important for us to build our security relationship here, and that’s because of what’s happening in the region. In Mali, in Chad, you run around the region – obviously Libya, Tunisia, all the way over to the other side of North Africa – Egypt, et cetera. We really need the countries that have the capacity to be stable to expand the rights that people are enjoying, to put in place the political and economic and civil society kinds of reforms that strengthen them for the long run, and also to provide economic opportunity. We’re living in a global marketplace, a global world. And so our jobs are their jobs, their jobs are our jobs, our companies, their companies; it’s all melded now. And we need to understand that there are some people fighting fiercely against modernity, against globalization, who don’t really have a philosophy that they want people to hang their hat on, but who have an ideology which is pretty extreme that suggests you’ve got to do what they say, live the way they want to live, and that’s all there is to it. And if they don’t, they may take your life, as you know. It’s violent. It’s disruptive. It has no rule of law. And it is contrary to all the values of individual choice, freedom, and of the values of collective rule of law which has really governed the world since the post-World War II period, which we have now seen suddenly disrupted with events with Russia and Ukraine.

So a lot is at stake. And what you all are doing here is connected to everything that we’re doing in every other part of the world. It’s very important work. And I want to thank you for it on behalf of President Obama and myself. We are very proud of the work that you do. I think there about 143 families out here. There some 400-plus people who are working here, a bunch of local folks. Local employees, would you mind raising your hands, those of you who are local? Look at you all. Thank you. We can’t do this without you, and everybody is very grateful for what you do. Thank you. (Applause.) I know sometimes you wind up getting the burden of our mistakes, or if people don’t like something we’ve said or done you hear about it, so we’re really grateful to you.

And for everybody else, Foreign Service officers and Civil Service, political appointees, temporary duty, agencies who are sharing the roof of the Embassy and working together, I just want to wish you all well as you go forward in these duties. I want to thank you on behalf of your country, the President. I was with him in Italy the other day. He talked to the Embassy folks there and told them how proud he is not just of them but of everybody in the diplomatic service who carries the values and the interests of our country every single day in everything that you do.

So I ask you to go forward remembering that I will have your back in everything you do. I promise you that. We have an amazingly hardworking crew back in Washington, from Pat Kennedy and the Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and everybody who are watching out for security issues on a daily basis, and all of your interests.

And by the way, I have really good news. I’m here to tell you that the pay freeze that was in place has been lifted and you’re all going to get a little bit of a pay raise, and I hope you’re happy about that. (Cheers and applause.) The only negative part of that is I said a little bit of a pay raise. (Laughter.) I wish it was gigantic, but that’s not the world we’re living in now.

So I want to know – this is really important – how long have you been here, and how do you like it? Can you come here? Come here and tell me something. Come on. Do you mind if I put you on the microphone? You can share a thought with everybody, because I’m always interested in this. How old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: Nine years old. And how long have you been here?

PARTICIPANT: About half.

SECRETARY KERRY: Half a year. Are you learning some language?


SECRETARY KERRY: What are you learning?


SECRETARY KERRY: And how’s your French? Pretty good?


SECRETARY KERRY: No. Okay. (Laughter.) All right. You get the honesty award. (Laughter.) Anybody else got something to tell me about what they’re doing which is fun?

Come on up here. Come on up. What’s your name?




SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. And how old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: Seven years old. Okay. And are you learning some language?


SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. That’s cool. Can you say something in French?


SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. (Laughter and applause.) Great job. That’s so good.

Okay, you’ve something to tell me? Come on up here. All right. What’s your name?


SECRETARY KERRY: And Jack, how old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: That’s cool. You’re both seven. That’s wild. Are you at school here?


SECRETARY KERRY: What school do you go to?


SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. Is that –

PARTICIPANT: It’s an American --

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, okay. That’s the American school.

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Are you? Okay. And what – are you learning a language?


SECRETARY KERRY: What are you learning?


SECRETARY KERRY: Also French. What are you going to do with that? Speak it, right?

PARTICIPANT: Yeah. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Say something to everybody.




SECRETARY KERRY: Ah, right. Yeah. (Laughter and applause.)

All right. Wow, you guys are great. Anybody studying a language other than French? Come on up here, Lauren. Come on, don’t be bashful. Come on. I won’t embarrass you, I promise you. But I’m going to – how old are you?


SECRETARY KERRY: I was eleven when I went abroad with my dad in the Foreign Service, and I was 11 years old, and I learned a little bit of German, Italian. They sent me to school to learn – what did they send me to school to learn? They sent me to school to learn German, and they wound up having so many Italians there, if I wanted to eat or do anything I had to learn Italian. And then I promptly forgot it pretty soon afterwards. But I knew enough to swear at people and do other things. (Laughter.) So how are you doing?




SECRETARY KERRY: What language are you learning?


SECRETARY KERRY: I thought you were learning another language. (Laughter.) I thought you were learning a different language. You’re learning another one, too? Any other languages? Is that it?


SECRETARY KERRY: What? What’s the other?

PARTICIPANT: The other is Bulgarian.

SECRETARY KERRY: No kidding. That’s fantastic. Can you say something in Bulgarian for everybody that we won’t understand? (Laughter.)




SECRETARY KERRY: Zdrasti. Is that “hello”?


SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I thought so. (Laughter.) Ah, you did understand it. Okay. Thank you. You guys are heroes. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

So I want to have a chance just to say hi to everybody, and again, a profound thank you to all of you for your service. It’s great. Appreciate it.