Meeting With Embassy Kinshasa Staff and Families

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Chief of Mission Residence
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
May 3, 2014

I’m happy to be here. I’m really happy to be here. I have wanted to be here for a long, long time. And finally, I get to be here and I get to join a terrific ambassador, Jim Swan. He is really one of the best – where is he hiding over here? (Applause.) Get over here. All right.

And I presume – where’s Daphne Michelle Titus? I haven’t met her, but where is she sitting over here? Daphne, hello. Thank you very much. How are you? Thank you. (Applause.)

And the twins, Mitchell and Garner. Hey guys. How are you? Stand up and – nice to see you. How you doing? (Applause.) You guys having fun? I’m jealous of you. (Laughter.) Anyway – for a lot of reasons. But age can be the beginning, anyway.

It’s really fun to be here. I tell you, Jim has had an extraordinary career, as many of you know. He was desk officer when the Mobutu regime (inaudible). And he’s really knowledgeable about this region, as knowledgeable as anybody we have in the Foreign Service. He served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. He’s been on the desk. He’s been at the intelligence arena, helping to discern the future. And we couldn’t have a better ambassador. I’m really honored that you’re here. So thank you, Jim, for your latest efforts. Appreciate everything. (Applause.)

I want to take the liberty of just introducing a few folks who are here and who are very special for your efforts and our efforts here now. I’m really proud of the work that our special envoy, former Senator Russ Feingold, has done. He’s over here. He’s absolutely done a spectacular job. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you for the support that you’ve been giving to our team. He’s been out here nine times. I know it demands everybody to sort of (inaudible), but the progress we have made and what you’ve been able to achieve is historic. It’s really significant. And I’ll say a little more about that in a minute. But I knew he was the right person for the job, and he’s grabbed the bull by the horns and he’s out there, willing to take some risks and make things happen. And that’s how you get things done in the world of diplomacy.

We’re also blessed to have a spectacular Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. I stole her. I had to twist her arm; I didn’t quite break it, but I had to twist her arm because she had one of the best jobs in the State Department, because that’s how much we all respect her. But I knew we needed somebody out here who could really make things happen, and I’m so delighted to have Linda Thomas-Greenfield here, our Assistant Secretary of State. I thank her for her efforts. (Applause.)

Now let me – this is like having a Bible tent out here. (Laughter.) You want me to preach? I’ll get going. (Laughter.) I can’t thank you enough, all of you. We have about 113 Americans out here with their families, and we have about 372 local employees. Now, I want all the local employees – raise your hand. We can’t do this without you. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much. You are essential to what we do. Thank you very much.

I really thank you for – and President Obama, the American people, we’re grateful to you for helping us to help you. And I hope you see it that way. We’re here to try to help make a difference to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the continent of Africa, and we believe this is a moment for a new Africa. This morning in Addis Ababa, I was privileged to give a speech on the top of a hill at the botanical retreat there that the University of Addis Ababa has. It’s a green building. It’s really a marvelous building, very special place. And I talked about – the opportunity is in Africa today.

Traditionally in America, regrettably, Americans think of Africa and they too often think of the images, the distant images of war or of other challenge, of crisis, of revolution, or a famine, or it’s a place for philanthropy, or it’s a place for some sort of different distant kind of mystery or something.

The truth is that that’s all changed now. There’s an enormous amount of investment coming to Africa. Eight of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. And there’s enormous change in the mood and the sense of identity in Africa today. We believe in that. President Obama is committed in that. That’s why he is hosting the African – summit of African leaders in August. We’ll have 40-some African leaders coming to Washington. It’ll be the first time in history that that many leaders from Africa have come to Washington at one time to meet with the President of the United States. And it’s an opportunity for Americans to refocus on Africa and begin to understand what the possibilities really are.

Africa has enormous challenge – enormous resources, obviously, enormous capacity. And what we need to do now is make certain that when we can end the war with M23, when we can finish doing what we need to do with the ADF or with the FDLR, when we can begin to get the nine nations that surround the Democratic Republic – all of which are negatively affected if something bad happens here. Everybody feels it. But if we can work together, this is the heart of Africa. This is where we can make a difference to the rest of the world.

And obviously, we face a security challenge. We have people who, regrettably, have no (inaudible) whatsoever about doing anything positive, but they want to tell you how to live. And they want you only to live by their standard, by their belief. And they’re willing to engage in terrorist acts, in violence, in order to make you do that. Well, that is not what the vast majority of people in Africa or in the world, and certainly in America, believe.

So we want to work with you to help provide these unbelievable numbers of young people who are teeming with energy and ability. We need them to be able to make sure they’re educated. We need to be able to make sure the jobs are there for people. We need to develop the infrastructure, build the capacity of government. There’s a lot of work to do here in the Democratic Republic. You know that. This is a place that is coming back from difficulties of the last years. But it’s a place of enormous promise.

So I just want to tell you that for me, it is a privilege to be here. We very much look forward to working with you in so many different ways, in the days, months, and years ahead here. We have an opportunity to help complete what Russ Feingold, Mary Robinson, President Kabila, President Kagame, and President Museveni and others have all been involved in – the Kampala Accords and the declaration and the whole peace and security framework – that now needs to be implemented. That will set an example to the rest of the continent.

So right here in Kinshasa, in this embassy, you all are in the middle of making history. And I hope you feel it. I hope you feel proud of it. I hope you’re ready to tackle the difficult tasks ahead. And on behalf of the President of the United States and on behalf of all the American people, I say thank you to you, whether you are Foreign Service, civil service, whether you’re in one of the separate departments of our government and you’re here serving in the embassy as part of the team, whether you’re local employee or temporary or political appointee – every single one of you are part of a team that is going to make an historic difference to Africa and to the world. Thank you for being part of that. We appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)