Remarks at the Take Your Child to Work Day Event

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
April 24, 2014

MS. BERNICAT: Good morning, everyone. I’d like to welcome you to the Department of State. My name is Marcia Bernicat. I’m the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources. We’re so pleased to have you all here today, and we have a great program lined up for you.

Without further delay, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Come on, Ben. Sit, sit, sit. Well, good morning, everybody. There’s one rule in show business: Don’t do anything with kids or animals. (Laughter.) I’m breaking those rules today big time. This is Ben, everybody. (Applause.) Whoops. Sit, sit, sit, sit. He’s learning. He’s one year old yesterday, two days ago. Whoops. (Laughter.) Sit. He’s learning, slowly. He’s getting there.

But anyway, it’s really a pleasure to welcome all of you here today. He’s actually – this is Ben. He’s named for Ben Franklin, among other things, our first diplomat. He’s actually the diplo-mutt. (Laughter.)

So anyway, it’s really a pleasure to welcome all of you here. It’s so much fun to have sons and daughters coming to work. Back in the 1990’s, when this idea of bringing daughters to work – it really began with bringing daughters to work. Now happily – my leash is being bitten apart. (Laughter.) Now happily, everybody comes to work.

And it’s really amazing the number of women contributing in many, many, many different facets of America today – leadership positions, all contributing in so many different ways – who really were empowered by this idea of learning sort of what parents did and what life is really all about and having a sense of reality about what a job is and what kind of contributions parents are making to the world. And today, there are women who will tell you they were impacted by that, particularly in the 1990’s, and I think young men and women across our country today who are following in the footsteps of their parents.

And it’s partly because of this opportunity we’ve given people to be able to connect. It’s more than just being a parent and you come home and your kids have their lives and you have your life and nobody really knows what’s going on. Now everybody is connected more, and we think that’s wonderful.

I will tell you, early on in my life as a senator, I took both of my daughters with me on a trip as a senator. We went to Vietnam and Cambodia, and it was a remarkable journey. And to this day – I just heard my daughter, who is now a doctor and a parent herself, a physician working at Mass General Hospital in Boston, and she came down here to speak about health, because she has started a global health initiative to try to bring healthcare to people and build the infrastructure, not just deliver the care but make sure that they’re building something that’s permanent so people have permanent care.

And she talked about – I didn’t know this, actually – but she – about her – but she talked about how this trip, when she was, I think, 14 years old, she went to Vietnam with me, and for the first time, was introduced to another world, another society, and got a sense of how other people live, or can’t live, as the case may be. And it had a profound impact on her as she walked around the streets of a city in which people were not allowed to talk to strangers back then. And she was struck by everything that she saw, and that had an impression on her and led her to being a doctor and doing the work she does.

My other daughter, Alexandra, is a filmmaker, and tries to tell stories to people about things that she sees. And part of that came from her journey on that same trip where she saw things. And she has a certain artistic streak and she sort of took that and loved the idea of telling the story through film. So I think no matter who you are or where you are, you all have an opportunity to be able to make a difference.

And my dad kind of took me to work in a funny way, like maybe many of you. How many of you kids here have lived abroad with your parents at one time or another? A bunch of hands going up, wow, a lot of you. Well, I did the same thing. When I was 11 years old – I don't know how many of you are 11 – my dad worked right here in the old building around – that’s attached to the new building, and he was a young Foreign Service officer. He was stationed in Europe. And one day, I was pulled out of my school, didn’t know where I was going, and off I went to Berlin, Germany, and to school overseas. And it had a profound impact on me as I learned language and learned how other people sort of live and the differences, and it opened my eyes to a whole bunch of possibilities.

So all of you who are here as the sons and daughters of Foreign Service officers and civil servants and people who get up every day and try to make the world a better place, you all are getting a very special introduction to the possibilities of life. And so it’s really a great privilege for us to be able to celebrate here at the State Department Take Your Child to Work Day, and since my children are grown up and have kids of their own, this is the best I can do to bring my child to work. (Laughter.) Believe me, at age one, that makes him – in dog years, he’s about seven years old, right? So I got my hands full. (Laughter.)

On a recent trip, I will tell you I never forget meeting a bunch of young women, young girls in Afghanistan, where they are struggling to be able to go to school. And many of you have seen that struggle lately, and you’ve seen it on TV, and the young woman who was shot because she was going to school – Malala – and she has been a child model of courage and of what you can do, all of you, even now at your age, no matter what age you are as you come here today.

There are so many challenges – climate change, energy, energy use. You can shut off lights at home. You can make sure that the water isn’t running excessively. You can help put seals on windows or do things so that you’re energy-efficient at home. You can pick up trash. When you go to the beach this summer, make sure that there isn’t a lot of plastic left around because it kills fish and it kills birds. There are all kinds of things that you can do as you think about the world around you.

And I’ll tell you something that having your parents do what they do here at the State Department is about the best education and the best possible role modeling you could have. Every day your parents get up and they come here to work, and they work for other people. They work for Americans to help America be stronger. They help people in the world to be able to avoid disease or be cured from disease or to be able to eat food. More than half the people in the world live on less than $2 a day and a lot of people live on less than $1 a day. Try that for a day or two and see what happens.

So we have an amazing task here to try to make peace where there is war, to try to open up opportunities to people, to try to make sure that every kid has the kind of healthcare that you have, the kind of education that you have, the opportunities to dream that you have. And that’s really why this day is so important.

The future belongs to you. You’re sitting here today – I don’t know what age, whether you’re five or seven or younger, or whether you’re in your teens – but the future belongs to you. And we need you. We need you to think about these issues. We need you to do your homework. We need you to work hard at school. We need you to go on to follow in the footsteps of your parents and help to make the world a better place. And that’s why it’s such a pleasure for Ben and me to welcome you here today. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

We’re going to have the privilege – I’m going to have the privilege of swearing you in. For the one day that you’re here to work, you’re going to work under the same rules that your parents work and you’re going to pledge your faithful allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. Okay? So I’m going to ask each and every one of you to stand up in the seats where you are. Everybody is going to stand up. I think you all have your pledge in front of you. Parent have already done it. You can stay seated if you’re feeling tired after a week of -- (laughter). So everybody, I want you to raise your right hand and you’re going to pledge and follow me. Now, after I say the word “I” you say your own name and then you’ll continue with the Oath of Office as I repeat it. And I’ll go slowly so you can get each part of it.

(The Oath of Office was administered.)

Congratulations. You’re working for a day. (Applause.) Thank you. So that – I want you to know that the Oath of Office you just took is the same Oath of Office that I took as Secretary of State. It’s the same Oath of Office that many of your parents have taken in one role or another. And it is also the same Oath of Office that members of Congress take and public officials take. It’s an Oath of Office that we’ve taken in our country really way back to the founding of our nation. So that’s a pretty good set of responsibility, and I expect all of you to go to work today. Is that a deal?


SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Thank you all and God bless. Thank you very much. (Applause.)