Meeting With Staff and Families of Tri Mission Brussels

John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Brussels
Brussels, Belgium
May 20, 2016

AMBASSADOR BAUER: So very quickly, on behalf of Ambassador and Mrs. Gardner, and everyone (inaudible), Secretary Kerry, welcome. We are honored to have you and so grateful for taking the time. You are a true inspiration to all of us. Your lifelong devotion to public service and tireless efforts on behalf of the American people and the world truly do inspire us.

So you want to hear from him, not me. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Whoever, (inaudible). (Laughter.) Hi, good morning, bonjour. How are you? (Applause.) Everybody good?


SECRETARY KERRY: Unbelievable. Thank you. Denise, thank you very, very much. Thank you for having everybody up here. Lee, get up here, because you’re representing the ambassador, the ambassador who is in his chair working. So we’ll get you to stand here. Thank you very much, Lee Litzenberger.

Tony, thank you. Sandra, great to see you. Thank you very, very much. And thank you all for taking a moment to come out and say hello. I really appreciate it very, very much.

I understand that Denise has a pet project of bringing American-brand draft beer, whatever – (laughter). Which I’ve got to tell you, I’ve heard of brazen efforts – (laughter) – but that’s pretty shameless. (Laughter.) That’s not bringing coals to Newcastle. (Laughter.) Now, how’s it going? You doing well?


SECRETARY KERRY: I love it. (Laughter.) Anyway, as a Sam Adams lager guy – (laughter) – I wish you well.

Let me just say to everybody that this is a very special, challenging time, obviously, in so many different ways. I want to thank all of you for the tremendous response in March at the time of that extraordinary explosion and the loss of lives here and throughout the country, (inaudible) very special, I think, proximity and I had the privilege of coming here and being able to share a few thoughts at that moment. But it’s (inaudible) emblematic of the – what I hope – I refuse to call the new normal. I just won’t go there. I don’t want to call it normal. It’s not normal and we don’t want it to ever become normal, but it is certainly the challenge of the moment.

And we’re all engaged in this effort, and on top of that, you all are doing an extraordinary amount of work in the Tri-Mission. And whether it’s the U.S.-EU relationship or the NATO relationship and all that we have that we’re just talking about in the last couple days – or the bilateral relationship, which is critical, needless to say. There’s TTIP, there’s the challenge of privacy and cyber, the challenges of counterterrorism, hosting the surge team here in response to what happened, the – I mean, just, you run the list; I can’t think of a moment in history where everybody has been as flat out as they are today with as many different kinds of interconnected challenges.

And part of that is just the challenge of globalization. We’re living in a very different world. Information moves so much faster, people have so much more choice of what to watch. It’s a lot harder to actually communicate to people. I will tell you, as a 28-year veteran of the United States Senate, the transition that I saw from the time when I came in to the time when I got out and to today is like night and day. And back when I was a kid, the President of the United States would – the press office would call CBS, Bill Paley, and say, “Give me a half hour on TV tonight,” and you’d have ABC, NBC, and CBS, and public television. And they’d block the whole thing, and that was it. That was the – next day in the office, everybody would be talking about what the President said. Today, if the President scheduled something like that, everybody goes to QVC or Netflix and – (laughter) – finds an alternative.

So it’s hard. It’s hard to build consensus. It’s hard for leaders to compete with this incredible crashing crescendo of noise that is out there. And some people – and we’re seeing this a little bit in our politics today – have the ability to create their own facts. (Laughter.) And obviously, they’re not facts. But who’s going to tell the difference? Who’s the referee, so to speak?

So you’re living – you guys are representing our country in this effort.

And for those of you who are all the local employees – local employees, please raise your hand. How many local employees are there here? So you are also – you get a double task. You have to not only live your life as a citizen of your country, but also you have to bear the burdens of representing our country too. And I know sometimes that’s difficult, so everybody joins me in saying a very special thank you to all of you who do service that way. We appreciate it enormously.

There are a couple people I just want to single out. I know she’s not here, but Raymonde Versali – I think. Am I correct? Not here, no, but retiring – she’s the visa section senior and she’s the local staff and we’re very, very grateful for the extraordinary service she has given. And I understand the next fellow is sort of a legend, Roland Deglain. (Laughter, applause.) Roland, Roland, Roland. I understand that Roland has written the most extraordinary cables that describe – (laughter) – no, no, no – c’est vrai. (Laughter.) And they describe the workings of the EU as nobody else could describe the workings of the EU. And believe me, if you can describe the workings of the EU, I want to get you to come and describe the workings of our – (laughter). That would help me a lot. (In French.) (Applause.)

As I was coming over here, he was telling me that Roland’s skillset at describing how everything works really would make an extraordinary textbook, even, for those who try to understand it. So he’s prompted my curiosity and you’re going to have to get that to me – (laughter) – so I can use this in the State Department, okay? Thank you. Spread it around a little more.

Just quickly, folks – I don’t want to keep everybody long – but I mostly just want to say thank you. I don’t know how you feel. I feel privileged every day to be doing what I’m doing – the honor of serving country but also serving mankind and you all are doing that, trying to create peace and stability and build a better world. I know it sounds a little cliche, but that is literally what we get up every day to go do. And there are a whole bunch of people who, believe me, they’re bored with their jobs or they hate their jobs or they are constantly casting about.

My sense is that the people who work in this know what they want to do in life, they know what they want to make out of life, they know what they want to contribute, and that’s a great virtue. And it creates a wonderful family, which is what we are. So, (inaudible) merci beaucoup – I don’t speak Flemish. (Laughter.) But I want to thank everybody enormously, all of you, for helping to represent the United States of America and help us carry our values and protect our interests. Thank you for what you do. Take care. God bless. Thank you. (Applause.)