Meeting With Embassy Luanda Staff and Families

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Luanda, Angola
May 4, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: So thank you for taking time to come out on a Sunday. I guess we’re probably glad that it’s a Sunday, because if it wasn’t you’d all be stuck in traffic, from what I hear. Is that true? Oh, it’s true. And I was standing up there. I noticed this pool over here. I said, whoa, that’s pretty nice. Do you ever get to use it?


SECRETARY KERRY: Do you? Kids, do you guys get in there?


SECRETARY KERRY: That’s kind of fun, isn’t it? Anyway, thank you very much. Heather, thank you. I left Heather over here. I’m really proud of the work that Heather is doing. She’s been forced into duty because of the absence of an ambassador for an entire year, which is pretty amazing – very frustrating to me that we have about 45 or so ambassadors that we’re waiting on from the United States Senate. But as you all know, the Senate has been sort of caught up in a very difficult political morass, and we’ve suffered as a result of it. We have a number of nominees that we’re still waiting for.

But Heather has proven her mettle. She’s really been incredible here. And she comes pretty well trained, I think, because she’s been all over the place – in Abuja, in Algeria, she’s been in – Nigeria. She’s been in Gaborone and here and Mexico, various places around the world as an economic/political officer as well as counselor, political counselor, deputy, and so forth. So I’m proud of what she’s doing and I’m proud of what you’re all doing because when Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our assistant secretary of state, and Russ Feingold, our special envoy, came out here, you guys really (inaudible), and Angola is playing a very important role. And it’s one of the things I’m going to talk to President dos Santos about tomorrow is the role Angola can continue to play as a leader, as a senior statesperson, as a leader country to be able to convene and bring other people together to help deal with the Great Lakes region. So you all are going to be sort of part of a history here. If we have our way, we can make things happen properly.

I’m grateful also to all of the families who serve. I think – where’s Scott? I haven’t met Scott. Is that him over here? So this is Scott and Rory and Maia, right? Thank you, guys. We appreciate it. I know that families – all of you – put up with a lot, and I learned that when I was a family kid. I was a Foreign Service brat, as we called them. It’s not derogatory – don’t worry. (Laughter.) So I learned a lot about the late nights and the long, hard work, also the excitement of being in another country and learning languages and being introduced to different culture. It’s a great, great opportunity, obviously.

Just a quick couple of words. First of all, I know the entire embassy feels the loss of David Brooks, and I want to just pay tribute to him and thank you all for being there for Nancy and the kids and the family. It means a lot and I know it’s a big loss to the embassy family.

But you all are doing great work here. That’s what’s really important. Africa is on the move. Africa is filled with possibilities and opportunities. That’s why making peace, ending the violence, particularly the violence against women and girls, and getting people to realize how much is there waiting in terms of education and health and opportunity, and building infrastructure, building roads, building schools, building homes. Developing the continent is going to provide extraordinary opportunity. In 20, 30 years from now when some of you come back or you visit, or if you haven’t left and you’re still here because you’re a local employee, you’re going to not recognize cities and locations. Things are going to change.

But we need to work at that. That’s why I just came from the port and from GE, General Electric, and talking with the oil companies, because they’re training more and more Angolans and they’re providing more and more opportunity for people here to be able to share in the building of this future.

So our job in this embassy is to show our values, but also to represent the possibilities of what this transformation can bring to improve the quality of life for people. And there’s so much that can be done. I have to tell you, I’m filled with a sense of wow, I wish I had more time. I only have two years and three quarters left as the Secretary, provided I don’t screw up in the next few months, and I have to tell you that I’m looking at all of these opportunities everywhere I go and the changes that are coming. I was in a hospital earlier today when I was in Kinshasa, and seeing what they’re doing to try to treat people and to work to make a difference in the quality of healthcare delivery and so forth. There’s so much to be done. And so much of what is there to be done will create incredible numbers of jobs for people.

So you all are on the cusp of that, and we appreciate enormously your willingness to do that. There are about six agencies here, I think, and at 41, 51 or so I think we have direct hire, and about 150 local employees. And I see a number of local employees here. Let me just say to all of you our local employees, we can’t do this without you and we are very, very grateful to you for the help you give us in your country to help us be able to help you. And so thank you very, very much for everything you do. I think there are two people here who have served here. We’re celebrating now 20 years of diplomatic relations, and I think Carlos Fernandes, is he here? Carlos, stand up, man. (Applause.) How many years have you done this, Carlos? How many? You’ve been here – you’re one of the earliest employees, aren’t you?

MS. MERRITT: Cuantos anos, Carlos?


SECRETARY KERRY: And Joana Nascimento , is she here? Hey Joana, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, both of you, very, very much. (Applause.)

And we have an exciting group of Young African Leaders Initiative members, the Young African Leaders are here, I think. How many do we have here? Come on up here. I want the Young African Leaders to come up here. All right, come on up here, all six. (Applause.) How are you? Nice to see you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, good to see you. Nice to see you. Thank you, congratulations to you. Thank you so much. Just stand beside me here for a minute.

These guys – how many of you are coming to Washington? Everybody. The whole crew. All right. The reason I asked that is yesterday I was with a Young African Leader in Kinshasa, and I didn’t know whether they were coming or not and I made the mistake of saying that they weren’t coming, so I felt very badly about that.

Anyway, this is a great experience. And I met a young woman in Ethiopia the other day who was in YALI, as we call it, Young African Leaders Initiative which President Obama started, and she had come back from her year working in Washington and learning and so forth and being trained, and she’d gone right into starting a company. And again yesterday, actually, in Kinshasa I met another person who had done the same thing, and she’d come back and she was working to help women be able to open pharmacies. And she would provide the money for them to be able to open it, and then they’d buy the wholesale from her, and it was sort of a revolving deal which worked for everybody and gave people the ability to be able to own things.

So you guys are going to go and you’re going to have a chance to take part also in the summit with President Obama. He’s very excited about the opportunity. And I know you’re going to come back here and you’re going to help lead the transformation of Angola. Okay? Is that a deal? All right.

Anyway, thank you all so much for the privilege of being here. It was really fun and I wish you all well. Thanks for coming out today. Appreciate it. (Applause.)