Remarks at the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour Ceremony

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
April 14, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Secretary Ryan. I am really excited to be here. This is a big deal for – what did you say, I was a kid when I played? (Laughter.) I actually – I played in university. I didn’t think of myself as a kid, but I’ll take it. (Laughter.)

It’s a real pleasure to be here. I’m honored to be here with members of the American national team, veterans of our American team. Cobi Jones is sitting here in front of me and I thought Tony Sanneh was here somewhere. Am I wrong? Is he back over here?


SECRETARY KERRY: He’s over here. And of course, Julie Foudy, who only has two gold medals from the Olympics, one as she calls it white gold, and two World Cup championships. Pretty amazing. But we’re honored to have you here. Thank you all for being here with us. (Applause.)

I should say that Ambassador Thorne, who works here in the State Department with us, we were teammates back in those crazy days, and he’s still at it. He’s still playing, actually. So it’s good to have him here. And Heather Higginbottom also played. She’s deputy – I only hire soccer players, folks. It’s part of the deal. (Laughter.)

I want thank our friends from Brazil for being here with us: Minister Aldo Rebelo[1], Ambassador Viera, thank you very much, sir. Thank you for remind us of the dominance of Brazil a few minutes ago – (laughter) – as if we needed to be reminded. We grew up with nothing but a healthy respect for the magic of the way you guys play. Clyde Tuggle from Coca-Cola, thanks so much for being a part of this. Delia Fisher, thank you also, and thank you for your contributions to sports and diplomacy. We greatly appreciate it.

The Department of State has a long history of working with athletes, and athletes, frankly, can be some of our finest ambassadors. Historically, they’ve actually been part of diplomatic breakthroughs. The Boston Celtics were famous for their journeys during the Cold War when they went behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960s to help break the ice. And the ping pong diplomacy helped to open up China in the 1970s. So there’s been a history of sports, obviously.

I have absolute certainty that those of us who have been privileged to travel – the Vice President and myself – we see it all the time. I was recently in Colombia and I had a chance to play seated volleyball with physically challenged veterans, and it was as animated a game as any game I’ve ever been part of and a lot of fun. I had the privilege recently of talking hockey in the locker room with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin before they went off to the Olympics, and got a sense of their – even as professional players, their excitement about this kind of international competition. I’ve had the privilege of kicking around a soccer ball with women players in Afghanistan of all places and one woman who had started a business making soccer balls and selling them.

And I can remember anywhere I go, whether it’s been in Sudan, South Sudan, or Indonesia or Afghanistan, kids, just all you need is a ball and you go out and you play. And it’s remarkable how it captures the imaginations of young people everywhere.

I saw some of that power last week when I was in Algeria, and Nike had assembled a group of young kids at a clinic outside their store. And thankfully, almost all of them were much too young to remember Landon Donovan’s overtime extra-time goal that beat Algeria back in – if they’d remembered that, it might not have been such a friendly gathering. But it was exciting, and what leapt through to me was really just the incredible sense of excitement and optimism that soccer – football as they call it – brought to them. That’s what’s going to leap out at the world from Brazil this summer.

This trophy, which the Vice President and I will have the privilege of uncovering shortly, represents the shared hopes and dreams of billions of people around the world. And I can’t think of anything that unifies people as much, brings out the best, and shows our commonality, the common spirit of sportsmanship, the common spirit of competition, the common spirit of great athleticism. And I think that Julie will tell you the extraordinary feeling you have as an athlete when you win a world contest and raise that trophy over your head in victory.

We’ve seen the power of sports to bring people together. And how fitting it is, Mr. Ambassador, that the World Cup will be held in Brazil – a country that has hosted such an extraordinarily rich conversation between continents and cultures for a long time. As the ambassador reminded us, it is also a country steeped in the rich tradition of showing how the Joga Bonito is played, “the beautiful game.” It celebrates diversity and it celebrates excellence.

So the United States and Brazil are natural partners in so many ways. Despite occasional differences that rise to the surface, we have a huge shared commitment to democracy, to diversity, and a determination to increase the opportunities for our people. I am very, very pleased the world is going to have an opportunity to feel the dynamism of Brazil firsthand the course of this summer, and I agree with Brazilian Tourism Minister Vinicius Lages that there could be nothing better than to watch a match between the United States and Brazil. Now, having said that, I have to, in the spirit of candor, tell you that to do that the United States has to get through Germany, Portugal, Ghana, but we have a strong squad and strong spirit. (Laughter and applause.) The one thing I can promise you is this: We will both be rooting to bring the cup back to our hemisphere. (Laughter.) That’s for sure.

So I’ll tell you, there’s no greater fan. He’s been our head of delegation to the World Cup. He will watch the World Cup. There’s one leader I know who’s going to be sharing this with his granddaughters, and that’s our Vice President. So he’s been to his share of World Cup matches, folks, and he was the leader of our last delegation to the World Cup in South Africa.

The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. (Applause.)

(A closed caption video version of Vice President Biden's remarks can be found on the White House YouTube site.)


[1] Vice Minister Luis Fernandes was in attendance representing Brazil.