Remarks to the Staff at the Seattle Passport Agency

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Korea University
Seattle, WA
May 18, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Teresa. Thank you very much. I’m really happy to be here with everybody. Are you doing all right?

STAFF: (Cheers.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, you’re getting paid a lot of overtime, I hear. (Laughter.) So I mean, that’s pretty good. That’s all right. I just want to thank you all. I thought it’d be fun to come by here. I just was in China, and a lot of folks there – last year, actually, at my last visit – I didn’t do it this time – I was able to give out a bunch of visas to kids, to business people. A big fourth grade class was coming over here.

And – but most recently and most poignantly, I was in Djibouti a little over a week ago, and that’s the result of a tragedy, obviously. And you’ve got this enormous influx of American Yemenis trapped in Yemen who want to come home, and they were trying to get out on various ships. So our consular division there has been absolutely spectacular. People have been out there on the docks meeting boats as they come in trying to assure people that their lives are going to be okay.

And so a lot of people don’t know this division, and yet you’re the face of the State Department and you’re the face of America for countless numbers of people. I gather about 40,000 people come in here passport direct, and then about 150,000 passports and visas are issued through other mechanisms and paper and so forth, which is an incredible, staggering number.

And needless to say Seattle – which is why I’m here – is so important to trade, to American jobs, to this new global world that we live in. And so more and more people are going to be asking you for overtime – (laughter) – and obviously, this is a division that’s going to be increasingly pressured everywhere around the world. It’s a good thing, not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because with that travel, with those reunifications of families and so forth, comes a huge positive event and moment for America and for those people.

And a lot of people don’t realize it; you actually save marriages. It’s true, right? You actually wind up uniting a family with an adopted child. You get a senior citizen who may have difficulties reuniting with their family in a moment of difficulty, or somebody’s had a terrible loss and there’s an urgency to processing. So this is a place where human relationships and human emotions get served, and I’m proud of that. And I think every single one of you, I’m sure you are just equally as proud of that.

Somebody told me that they came in here and they were so concerned and upset, and then they – one of you took care of them, and they left here happy and said we should have a Hug a State Department Employee Day. (Laughter.) And as far as I’m concerned, we could do that every day. It would be great.

So I just wanted to come by and say hi and see if, notwithstanding that I come from Boston and New England, you guys would let me come in the door. (Laughter.) Mea culpa. (Laughter.) But I’m really happy to be here with you. Thank you. A profound thank you to you from President Obama, from me, from all of America, for the hard work you do here and for the tremendous way in which you represent our country . We’re very proud of you. So thank you very, very much . Glad to be here, thank you. (Applause.)