Meeting With Embassy Mexico City Staff

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Mexico City, Mexico
May 21, 2014

AMBASSADOR WAYNE: Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. It’s a great honor for me to have the pleasure of introducing Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Secretary, thanks for carving out this time on your first official visit as Secretary of State to Mexico City. As you can see, we have a great, dedicated team here of Mexicans and Americans who work together on all sorts of issues to make our relationship better and to promote our interests. But we’re really pleased that you’re with us and we very much appreciate all the hard work and dedication that you have been showing in the service of our country as Secretary of State, and helping give us guidance and the other embassies around the world.

So thanks very much for being with us, and I give you the Secretary of State. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Muchas gracias. Thank you very, very much, Tony. Muy buenas tardes. How are you? Everybody good? Como les va? (Laughter.) Okay. You got some energy in here. Thank you. Thank you, (inaudible). That is the best welcome I’ve had anywhere in the world. Thank you. (Applause.) I love it. Somebody said somebody up there had something to do with the Navy? Is that true? Are you guys a Navy mariachi band? (Laughter.) I was in the Navy; I never knew we could do that. (Laughter.) That’s outstanding. Thank you guys very, very much. Really appreciate it. I’d love to hear more. We can dance and whatever into the night.

I am really, really happy to be here, very privileged to be here with Tony, who is really an outstanding ambassador. He’s had extraordinary experience. Been here since 2011 I guess, and is doing an amazing job of not just marshaling this very, very important relationship, but also managing the extraordinary transition that is taking place here. We just keep getting bigger and bigger. I think we’ve got 2,700 people, 1,700 of whom are local employees. And I want to say a huge, huge thank you – muchas gracias – to those of you who work here, giving of yourselves to the effort of the United States to help build our relationship with Mexico. Everyone here is really grateful to you for what you do, so thank you very, very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

I know a lot of you are very nervous about what’s going to happen with this transition to the new embassy compound. I promise you I will exert all the power of the Secretary of State to make absolutely certain that when you move into the new compound, the jugo verdes will flow. (Laughter.) Does that matter to you or not? I don’t know. I was told it’s a big deal around here. Is that true? No. Only with some of you. How many people love it? Jugo verdes, right? That’s all. I’ve been misinformed. What’s the matter with the rest of you? What’s the matter with jugo verdes? (Laughter.)

Let me just say to everybody here, President Obama has now been out here five times, and Vice President Biden was obviously here last September. The President was here most recently, and now I’m here on my first trip as Secretary of State – and I promise you not my last trip. And I want to just emphasize how really both exciting and critical this relationship is. I just looked over here and I see Laura Dogu, our DCM, who is also the winner of the Baker-Wilkins Award for best DCM around. So congratulations to you. (Applause.) And her husband, Aydin , who I just met. Thank you both very much, and thank you very much, Laura, for that extraordinary leadership.

I just came from a really, really unbelievably friendly, open, constructive meeting with President Pena Nieto. And I tell you, it’s interesting to listen to him talk about the possibilities of this relationship and what we’ve achieved and what we want to achieve. Obviously, we have challenges. That’s why you’re here in these numbers. This is a critical relationship. It’s our hemisphere; it’s our neighbor; it’s an historic, long cultural attachment with enormous possibilities and potential to still develop and define. And when I think of the journey – I spent 29 years in the United States Senate – when I think of the journey from the early days of that incredibly divisive and difficult fight over NAFTA, and now you look at this journey and what has been accomplished. Our economy has grown, our jobs have grown, our jobs have gone through an incredibly sort of revolutionary kind of transition as we’ve modernized and moved into the technology era, the management of data and information, new kinds of jobs. And Mexico is doing exactly the same thing. And now we’re working on this absolutely critical relationship, the T – actually two relationships, but the TPP, which is going to be critical to all of us with respect to Asia Pacific, the Asia – and the future of the relationship in terms of both jobs and security. There are masses of young people all around the world looking for opportunity and for jobs.

The challenge to governance is really greater than it’s ever been. We have to deliver, and it requires a kind of cooperative effort that is different from anything we’ve ever known. We have this extraordinary amount of money – a billion dollars a day, unbelievable economic relationship that is moving one way and the other way between our nations. We have a million people a day crossing the border legally one way or the other. It’s an astounding relationship in that regard. And we’re only tapping into it because there’s still too many people yet to fully reach their economic potential in our country and in Mexico. So that’s the challenge, together with the challenge, obviously, of people who don’t like anything to do with modernity or who want to fight back against law and rule of law and structure. So Mexico is fighting some of that battle, and we’re trying to help them do that.

We have a whole bunch of unaccompanied children crossing over the border. It’s an enormous challenge, and we need to meet the challenge even as we are trying to fix our immigration laws, which I hope we could do this year. We passed that bill in the Senate. We now need to and want to pass it in the House of Representatives. I still have hopes that might be possible this year, and that would revolutionize the relationship between us.

But we have to make certain that we don’t let people exploit that issue or create problems with it, so we need to get ahead of it. We have too many guns coming from the United States of America into Mexico. We need to do our fair share of making certain that that’s not disrupting their capacity to fully develop and reach their potential, and to control the communities and the streets and not have chaos in certain places, or challenges by criminal enterprises.

So this is hard stuff. Building community is hard work, but it works. You can see it. You can measure the difference that we are making together every day in our countries, and particularly nearer the borders and in the communities that feel the greatest impact of the flow of those people.

So I just want to say thank you to you for what you’re doing. It’s a big embassy; it’s one of our biggest in the world, and it probably is going to grow, because the population’s going to grow and the challenges are going to grow. And when you add all the consulates and the 20 – I think it’s 26 agencies that – 29 agencies – 29 agencies that are all working together in a coordinated way, that’s more agencies by far than almost every other embassy in the country – in the world has.

So this is a big deal, and I am very, very happy to finally be able to get here and begin a series of engagements which we think are going to mature over the next year on the innovation, research, education front. The bilateral discussion that we had today where we’re actually pinning down real steps that we can take to guarantee that we’re going to expand the opportunities of Fulbright English language, of students moving across both borders both ways and learning in each other’s countries – that’s how you build relationships. I’ve seen that all over the world. I can’t tell you how many foreign ministers, finance ministers, environment ministers, prime ministers, presidents I meet somewhere in the world who brag to me privately how pleased and excited and incredibly affected they were by their relationship to the American university that they went to in their youth. And it builds a foundation of understanding, a relationship on which we have an ability to get through, sometimes, the toughest times.

So a profound thank you to every single one of you. You – I say this everywhere I go because I believe it: We, all of us – me, you, everybody involved in this – gets to wake up every morning – a lot of people who go to work don’t – liking what you do, loving the fact that you get to make a difference in the lives of other people and in the life and definition of your country. If you’re a local employee, Mexican working to help Americans do that, you’re still – you’re making a difference for Mexico and for the United States. And if you’re American, you’re making a difference for both, and that’s the way you build community, that’s the way you build stability, that’s the way you provide opportunity to young people, that’s the way you build the future. How many people get to get up and not punch the clock or go in or do something where they don’t feel that way? So it’s a blessing. And I hope we all work very, very hard as part of a family, which is what we are in the State Department, to keep it that way.

So thank you all. God bless you for what you do, and keep on doing, all the way (inaudible). (Applause.)

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Let me – I actually wrote a note down on that. I want to call everybody’s attention to two very, very special people: Arturo Montaño Robles – (applause) – and Ana Elena Tappan Alvarado. (Applause.) I can’t believe either of them, they look so young. I can’t believe either of them have worked here in Mexico City at this embassy for 42 years. That is amazing – amazing. (Applause.) Thank you.

And I want to – no, no, don’t go away. Don’t go away. Don’t go away. Stay here. No, no. (Laughter.) I want you to say thank you also, because everybody here knows that you don’t just serve alone; your families serve when you come home late at night, and you’re traveling, you’re doing whatever or you’ve had to leave them for a while. The families also contribute. And I particularly want to call attention – Arturo’s wife, Lucinda, and his daughter, Lucy, are here. You guys stand up and let everybody say thank you to you too, okay? Thank you, Lucy. (Applause.)

And Ana Elena has brought her brother and her sister, Ricardo and Silvia. Ricardo, Silvia, thank you very, very much. (Applause.) No, don’t get up. That’s okay. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you for the reminder.