Meeting With Embassy Ottawa Staff

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada
October 28, 2014

AMBASSADOR HEYMAN: Okay, everyone. This is an incredibly special day. As you all know, we’ve looked forward to your visit for a long time – (laughter) – a lot longer than this weekend.

Here we have the 68th Secretary of State, sworn in in February of 2013. He spent 28 years in the Senate on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so he knows foreign relations quite well; an avid proponent of working with veterans as a result of his service, but also just his deep care for veterans. So those of you in the room who are veterans, just – you have a huge fan.

Secretary Kerry is leading our country on the world stage, dealing with some of the most challenging issues of the day, and we couldn’t think of a better person to have than our Secretary. So – sure. That works.

SECRETARY KERRY: It works. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR HEYMAN: So with that --

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m a full-service Secretary. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR HEYMAN: Full service. Thank you, sir. So the DCM and my wife Vicki and I welcome you to home Ottawa. This is your home, sir.


AMBASSADOR HEYMAN: So thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. (Inaudible.)

Thank you all very much for a wonderful welcome. I am really happy to be here, and despite the fact that it’s taken me longer than I wanted to to be able to get up here, I’m proud to say that John Baird was the first person I received in Washington as Secretary, one of my first three phone calls the day I got sworn in, and I don’t think anybody doubts – we had been meeting everywhere in the world except here, so it’s finally appropriate that I got here, though I’m sorry about the circumstances, obviously.

Thank you all for everything that you all do. You think – you guys aren’t going to throw anything (inaudible), right? (Laughter.) Looks very dangerous up – how do you get the extra plateau here? What’s the deal? You have tickets or something? (Laughter.) Right. Cheaper tickets, right?

Anyway, this is special for me. I’m really glad to get up here. First of all, this building was designed by a fellow from Boston, so it’s special for me to do that. But secondly, a good friend of mine who was on the other side of the aisle, Paul Cellucci, was the ambassador up here. Anybody of you get the chance to work – how many have you worked with Paul? Yeah. He was a terrific guy, and God rest his soul. He really was special, and very courageous in his final battle with ALS.

And I had a lot – a bunch of other friends have been up here too as ambassadors, and it’s – so I feel connected, notwithstanding the fact – I also – it’s nice to be in a – I’m a hockey player, and Bruce and I both root for hockey teams – the wrong ones (inaudible) – in his case, the Blackhawks; in my case, the Bruins. It is very nice to be in a city as a former senator where they actually cheer for senators here. (Laughter.) Although, given what’s going on, not the appointed ones up in the Hill. The other ones.

Thank you all for being here. Thanks for what you do. And I know that the last week was pretty jarring to everybody, being on lockdown. I want to thank the Marines, I want to thank the RSO, I want to thank the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others, all of whom gave people a sense of confidence during the events of last week, which bring home to all of us why we’re here and what we’re doing and why this work is really so important.

We’re living in an incredibly challenging time. It’s almost cliched now to sort of say that, because it doesn’t fully bring home to people the full measure of challenge that we all face. I’m sure some of you have served in Kabul or Baghdad, and the last thing you expected was to come to Ottawa, know that there were gunshots in the streets and that the parliament was potentially under siege and certainly assaulted by one individual with weapons. That brings home to us that this is a different kind of challenge. This – the challenge of our generation is going to be to deal with religious radical extremism, which exploits a legitimate and beautiful religion that is being totally distorted, has nothing to do with what they purport to be pursuing, and nevertheless captures the minds of some of our young people, even in America. We have over a hundred people who’ve gone over there to fight with ISIL. Several hundred from France, from Germany, from Britain, from Holland, from the Netherlands, from Australia – run around the world.

And so we have to push back. We’re not going to win this exclusively through our efforts on the ground in this coalition with kinetic efforts. We’re going to win this with ideas. And we’re also going to win it with better alternatives for a whole bunch of young people who today live in places where they feel oppressed, where they don’t have a lot of opportunity, there’s not enough education, they don’t have jobs, but they know what the rest of the world has because they all have smart phones, they all have mobile devices, and they’re all seeing what’s going on and they trade thoughts. And frankly, there have been years and years of anger and frustration building up for a whole lot of different reasons in South Central Asia, Middle East, Horn of Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and different places.

So our challenge is to not make them think that modernity and rule of law and civil society and states that have long existed is somehow the enemy. And what we have to do is take our values and our principles out there as never before, in hard work and now sometimes dangerous work. And what’s critical is we’re near a country that could not be a better partner to us. We’re very lucky. Nobody gets to choose their neighbors, but we have neighbors that are in sync and very much committed and sharing the same set of values, which is not true of everybody everywhere else in the world.

So you are fostering a very important relationship here, and I want to thank you all for doing that. We’ve got all kind of – I think we’ve got more than 30 agencies represented here, 250-plus direct hires, a whole bunch of folks who are Canadian local hires, and we thank you profoundly, all of you, who share in our journey and who are willing to sort of bear the burdens of the United States as well and come here and be part of our team. I think everybody here joins in saying thank you. I think there’s somebody here named Gloria Yerly. Is she here somewhere?


SECRETARY KERRY: Gloria, where are you? (Cheers and applause.) Gloria – 38 years Gloria has been working here, right?

MS. YERLY: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: You’re the best. We love you. Thank you. (Cheers and applause.) Thank you very much. Golly, I can tell why she’s so special. I mention her name and she springs into action. (Laughter.) She’s up here in 10 seconds. I love it. Thank you so much for everything you do. We really appreciate it. And DCM Richard Sanders – where’s Richard? Somewhere. There he is, over here. Thank you, sir, very much for (inaudible). (Applause.)

And Vicki and Bruce, we really appreciate the energy and experience you bring to this and your enthusiasm, which is unbounded. I want you to know I’ve been getting the down-low the whole time we’ve been walking around. So I am well-schooled here in terms of – so schooled that I got out to the Provence, the Moulin de Provence over here, and I’m now full of cookies. (Laughter.) Feeling my sugar high at, what is it, 3:11 in the afternoon? Let it be recorded. (Laughter.)

But the bottom line is that President Obama and I just want to say thank you to you. None of us can do anything that we do without all of you undertaking what you do. And I know it’s easy for me to decide to take a trip like that; it’s hard to make the trip happen. And a lot of you have to scramble and make a lot of pieces come together very quickly. I thank you for doing that, and I know that within about 10 minutes of my getting out of here you guys are going to have a hell of a wheels-up party. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR HEYMAN: No, Secretary Kerry. Secretary Pritzker is coming in 48 hours.

SECRETARY KERRY: Forty-eight hours? Well, I’ll warn her about the potential of some very droopy eyes and (inaudible). (Laughter.)

Anyway, keep up – keep doing what you’re doing, because this is a long haul. We have a lot of miles to go, so to speak, and it could get harder before it gets easier in some ways in certain parts of this journey. So I ask all of you – Foreign Service, Civil Service, agency appointees, United States Marine Corps – all of you stay at it. We need you. We are profoundly grateful for the fact that you’re here. But I’ll tell you something: We’re the lucky ones, because a lot of people cannot get up in the morning and go to work and feel as rewarded and make as much difference in people’s lives and have as much impact on a course of history as everybody here gets to do.

So you are the lucky ones in many, many ways. And on behalf of the President, myself, and the people of the United States of America, I thank everybody who’s involved in this great enterprise. It’s a privilege to be with you. Thank you. (Applause.)