Remarks at the AFSA Plaque Dedication

John Kerry
Secretary of State
C Street Lobby
Washington, DC
May 6, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: (Applause.) Well, Barbara, thank you very, very much. Thank you for your tremendous work with AFSA. You never forget the folks who are on active duty or retired, and we’re very grateful to you for that.

Good afternoon to everybody. Thank you all for being here. Barbara has listed the names of all our distinguished guests. I just want to thank all of them for being here. I’m particularly grateful to the senior leadership of the State Department and to our ambassadors emeritus. We’re very appreciative that you came here to honor not just Steven but everybody whose name is on this plaque.

Donna and Brett and Cameron and Chris and the entire Farley family and distinguished guests of the Farley family, we honor a very special individual today, Captain Steven Farley. He dedicated his life to defending our nation and to promoting our values, and he lost his life in service to our country’s ideals of justice and liberty for all when he was working in Iraq to deliver that to other people, because he believed in that so deeply.

Many of us already know Steve’s story – the proud son of Oklahoma; the small business owner in Guthrie; the sailor and the naval reservist who served in Korea, Japan and Iraq; the man, who after shedding his military uniform, still wanted to serve and made the brave decision to return to the front lines in civilian clothing in order to help Iraqis build a brighter future. Our friend – one friend said of Steve, “He was the kind of a guy that when he walked into a crowd, he had this magnetic personality. You wanted to know what he was about.” And for anyone who ever met Steve or heard his story, it wouldn’t take long to see what his life was about in a world of service.

Duty was literally in his blood – the descendant of a family whose members had served in every U.S. war since the American Revolution. And I had a moment back here before we met to meet with his dad, who was telling me about his service in Vietnam, his two tours of duty. So it is no surprise that Steve always answered the call no matter what the request or how daunting the task.

When the mayor of Guthrie needed a hand with a local event or a project, he could count on Steve to help. When recruited to join the armed forces as a teenager, Steve immediately signed up. And when he finished college and then business school, he re-entered military life. When active duty ended, he continued on with reserve duty. When the 9/11 attacks shocked our nation, Steve was called to action once more. And when his career in the Navy came to a close, he joined the State Department’s effort to stabilize, secure and rebuild Iraqi communities.

After all that time – excuse me – after all that time, after he had seen and experienced and given so much, you could forgive any person for becoming jaded or cynical, but not Steve. As he wrote to family and friends from Baghdad just months before his death, “What matters is that these people only want for their families the things that every American wants for theirs: safety and security for loved ones, the opportunity to see children grow and learn, to become adults, pursuing those things that give us peace with our God and a sense of reason for our existence.”

Such powerful words completely capture Steve’s empathy and his optimism at the same time, and they reflect as well the faith and the commitment of so many of the foreign affairs professionals who represent our nation across the globe. It is fitting that Steve should be remembered by what he did for others – by his selfless actions and his unyielding belief in the better angels of humanity. That’s simply who he was.

As another friend and fellow naval officer put it, “He showed us how to live our lives,” adding, “Sometimes when you meet someone, you don’t realize that they’re a hero.”

So public servant, friend, hero, beloved husband, father, brother and son, this is what Steve Farley was all about. This is his legacy. And today his name has been carved into the marble of the State Department. Throughout his career, his deeds have been inscribed heretofore in the lives of the people that he met, in the difference that he made, the people he touched and helped. Now and always, his story is going to be etched in the hearts of all that knew him and who loved him. His heroism will continue to inspire everyone who carries forward the daily work of this department.

President Kennedy famously said in his inaugural, “Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” He took it to heart. May God bless his memory, the Farley family, the country Steve loved so much and served so well. (Applause.)