Remarks at Introduction of Doug Hickey as the new Commissioner General for the USA Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
December 1, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, good morning, everybody.  Thanks, all, for joining us here, and I want to recognize our Assistant Secretary of State Toria Nuland, who’s over here, who said to me, “I don’t need to introduce you.  You just go out there and take it over.”  (Laughter.)  So I’m following my orders, as usual.

Thanks to all of you here, the whole bunch of you here who are already deeply committed to and dedicated to this effort to make the USA Pavilion at the Milan Expo a success, and also folks who have been deeply involved in the issue of food security for a long period of time.  We have a very talented team at Friends of the USA Pavilion, and – John Phillips, our ambassador to Italy; Philip Reeker, our Consul General in Milan; Beatrice Camp, who is our Milan Expo coordinator; Kelsey Bacon; the entire team that is working on this at the State Department.  And I particularly want to thank my senior advisor David Thorne, who is our former ambassador to Italy, who has been laser focused on this effort from the very beginning, who saw the possibilities in it.  So that in one of my visits to Rome we had a major meeting with a lot of the players there and made our commitments to try to help make this a success.

Now I understand that Ambassador Bisogniero is traveling today, but I’m pleased that his DCM, Luca Franchetti Pardo, is here this morning.  And we all congratulate the Italian Government and the Italian people not just for their great energy and planning that they’ve committed to this, but also on what is already shaping up to be an extraordinary event and an opportunity for Italy to show the world its identity, but also its special sense of invention and commitment to the substance of this issue, which is global food security, in a way that only Italy can do.

Now we’re particularly excited – I am particularly excited about the person who will lead the effort to demonstrate America’s contribution to this effort, and he is the person who has agreed to serve as the Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion, Doug Hickey, to my left here.  I’m personally really happy that Doug has agreed to take on this responsibility, and I’m grateful to his wife Dawn and to their family for being willing, because these are always family affairs, to commit to this and support him as he represents our country.

Doug and I were talking just a minute ago out in the East Room about his memories of being at the World’s Fair when he was a kid, and I think all of us have grown up with a sense of what the possibilities of expositions are and the opportunities they provide to define the future.  Doug Hickey is a leader.  He’s a calm, reliable, experienced business person.  He’s a motivator.  He energizes people around him and he has a can-do spirit, and that’s what we need when you take on this kind of an effort.

Most importantly, Doug’s got vision, and let me underscore that:  He’s – he knows business.  He understands sort of the dynamic that comes together in an event like this.  And he has always intuitively and instinctively been able to help define the future and be ahead of the curve, and he has gravitated towards innovation in business as much as anything, which really makes him the perfect person to try to shape America’s engagement next year at the Milan World Expo. 

And I’ll just give you a little feel for – I’ll give you a little texture for what I was just saying about his intuitive vision.  In a sense, Doug’s personal journey in business is the story of Silicon Valley.  In the mid-‘90s when a lot of people were just getting used to the idea of the internet and email, and believe me, I remember that because I was chairperson of the Communications Subcommittee on the Commerce Committee of the Senate when we rewrote the telecommunications bill in 1996.  And I will tell you the entire discussion was about telephony.  Nobody mentioned data and data transmission.  And about a year later, six months later, the bill was DOA.  It was, though signed into law, it was as out of date – to tell you something about the movement and speed where these things matter.  This was the sound – this was the moment when the sound of dial-up – remember dial-up, folks? – (laughter) – was music to your ears.  (Laughter.)  And now it’s, oh my god, if you ever heard it today, you’d think you’re crazy. 

Doug was leading a company at that point in time when they were – he was already laying the fiber optic cables and building the exchange points for the high-speed internet, which most people didn’t even know was a possibility.  Then he was starting a company that worked with clients like Yahoo and The Washington Post to begin to develop the internet’s potential beyond the email – the potential for disseminating data and for content in a much larger and more creative way.  And that’s exactly what you see on websites today.  That’s what we just came from a presentation on this morning in our large department-wide meeting that we just had.  In the years that followed, Doug invested in a number of hugely successful companies – all of which shared the same goal: finding ways to bring new technologies to more people who could benefit from them. 

That is precisely the power of Expo.  And Doug’s challenge is to take this old institution and marry it to the times, bringing technology and all the possibilities of food security together in a way that helps America to send a message about what we do and what we can do together in order to address this challenge.  It helps us imagine life’s possibilities.  Innovation has defined the more than 60 expositions held since the first one opened its doors in 1851.  Each and every one of them has been about changing the world and shaping the future.  And you can trace the history of many of the devices that we all use today – the elevator that you took just a few minutes ago to come up to this floor, the touchscreen that every one of you likely has in your pocket right now or nearby – not nearby I think because you’re not allowed to have them in here.  (Laughter.)  Better be nearby.  (Laughter.)  Even a dishwasher in your kitchen or the electrical outlets on your walls, something as prosaic but as important to me as the ice cream cone – all of these things came from expositions. 

So I have high hopes, Doug, that out of the American Pavilion particularly but out of this exposition is going to come an answer to the challenge of global climate change, the challenge of massive mother nature events that are changing the way people live and the possibilities of food if water resources are more scarce, if we have greater weather events the way we have had in the last years.  If the predictions of scientists are correct, where and how we grow our food and what we grow could actually change. 

So this is an important exposition.  And all of the innovation and the networking and the entrepreneurship that will take place at the World Expo in Milan will all be geared to helping the world answer this fundamental question:  How do we make sure that future generations as we go from six and seven billion up to nine billion people in the next 20, 30 years, how do we make sure they have enough nutritional food to eat?

The question – this question is one that Doug Hickey has actually been engaged in and asking himself for a period of time because he has been serving on the Board of Catholic Charities.  And Catholic Charities does as much to confront this challenge as any entity on the planet.  It is a question the whole world is increasingly asking, frankly.  Hundreds of millions of people around the world spend days severely undernourished today, and nearly half of infant and child deaths are rooted in under-nutrition and the lack of healthy food.  And that translates to 8,000 children lost forever – every single day.  And to that fact you add the population of the world that I just mentioned, which will grow, as well as the ways in which climate change is already making it more and more difficult to be able to produce, and you can understand why scientists are telling us today that we need to find ways to expand global food production by about 60 percent if we’re going to have any hope of feeding the world in the years to come.

That’s why President Obama has been so focused on Feed the Future.  It’s why we brought Dr. Nancy Stetson here to the State Department to focus on global food security.  And it’s one of the major reasons we’re so committed to assembling an outstanding pavilion at Milan.

So how we do that is going to be important.  When I travel around the world – even to places where people disagree with our worldview on politics – I meet young people who remind me that the world admires and respects our long history of innovation, and our pioneering culture and support for entrepreneurship is something that people all over the world want to be part of.  All of those qualities are in Doug Hickey’s DNA.

And Doug will now go to work trying to stitch those qualities into the fabric of our pavilion itself that for more than 20 million visitors from around the globe expecting to visit the Milan Expo – and millions more who are going to come and visit online – for American businesses, this effort will define our face to the world, and we want it to be the best of America.  And I’ll underscore:  If we do this right, it will also be the best face of what the United States and Europe can do together.  The largest trade relationship in the world – Europe and America – and it can only grow and deepen.

Already, transatlantic ties support more than 13 million jobs, 1 trillion in annual trade, and 4 trillion in investment.  Now, I don’t think there’s anyone here who doesn’t believe that every one of those numbers can grow, especially when we complete the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  The opportunities cultivated at the Milan Expo can actually help plant the seeds for that growth and development, and even for a better understanding of why something like the TTIP is so important to Europe and the United States.

In 1959, a businessman by the name of Edward Carlson sat in a coffee shop and he drew a sketch on a napkin as he thought about the possibilities of the 21st century.  That sketch became the Space Needle that was unveiled a few years later at the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962.  Today, the Space Needle continues to stand tall amid Seattle’s skyline, and it is an internationally recognized symbol for science, exploration, technology and progress.  And so as we prepare for the Expo in Milan for 2015, we need to ask ourselves:  What’s our Space Needle this time?  What is going to inspire our future?  That’s a question that Doug is going to help answer in Milan next year, and he’s going to do it with the full support of President Obama and a grateful country. 

So it’s my pleasure now to introduce the new Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion, Doug Hickey.  (Applause.)

MR. HICKEY:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I appreciate it.  I want to thank President Obama and you, Mr. Secretary, for giving me this opportunity to lead the effort to create an outstanding U.S. pavilion at the Milan Expo.  I’m especially excited about this Expo because it’s built around an issue of global importance:  How do we feed 9 billion people by 2050 in a responsible and sustainable way? 

Coming from my background in the tech industry, which the Secretary talked about, I think our pavilion’s focus on innovation in the areas of food, nutrition and sustainability will spark an important conversation at the Expo about feeding the future.  The United States plays a vital role in so many aspects of these issues that it’s essential that we have a significant presence in Milan, not just to take place and part in those conversations, but to help lead them.

The creation of the USA Pavilion is also a great opportunity for many of our most important companies to showcase the contributions that they’re making to meet the challenge.  We’re grateful to the many companies that have already contributed to this effort.  In particular, I’d like to thank our friends at Microsoft, Brand USA, General Electric, DuPont, illy, 3M, and Uvet, who have stepped up to early support this program.  And I’m delighted to see the representatives from many of those companies here today.

I will be out urging other companies to participate in an active way, to step forward to ensure that we bring the best of America to the more than 20 million people that will gather in the heart of Europe to participate in the Expo. 

I very much look forward to getting to Milan tomorrow to meet with the Expo officials, our private sector partners, friends of the USA Pavilion, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the James Beard Foundation, the International Culinary Center, and look forward to meeting with Ambassador Phillips in Rome, Consul General Reeker and his team in Milan.  All of them have been a tremendous help to me in this process.  We’ve clearly put together a world-class team here.

The Expo will open in five months.  Now, when you and I talked about this, I’m not quite sure you told me that.  (Laughter.) 

SECRETARY KERRY:  Constructive ambiguity.

MR. HICKEY:  Right, exactly.  (Laughter.)  But five months from today, the Expo will open.  It’s an incredibly exciting thing.  Earlier today in Milan, a ceremony at our pavilion site with Ambassador Phillips marked another milestone, actually signing a key piece of the construction taking place at the Expo.  Our team has made excellent progress on the Expo.  I look forward to hitting the ground running and delivering on a world-class experience for all constituents.  Thank you.  (Applause.)