Remarks at Embassy Meet and Greet

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Tbilisi
Tbilisi, Georgia
July 7, 2016

AMBASSADOR KELLY: So, Mr. Secretary, this is your Tbilisi team working hard to keep America safe and helping Georgia become a independent and democratic nation. And Team Tbilisi, this your Secretary of State John Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Ian, thank you very, very much. Gmadlobt, as I said earlier. Thank you. I’m really happy to be here with everybody. So many people.

AMBASSADOR KELLY: This is about half.

SECRETARY KERRY: Only about half? Wow. Anyway, it’s really nice to see you. And kids, thank you for coming. Good morning to you. How are you all? Are you getting out of school by being here today? No, it’s summertime. (Laughter.) Summertime, right? Do you guys have a camp? Do you get to go to camp? That’s cool. Very quiet for summertime. (Laughter.)

Anyway, well, I’m really happy to be here. Let me just say a word about this fellow. We are really blessed to have a super-professional here who loves this country, came here as a student as all of you know, and then came again to help set up the embassy, and now he is here as our ambassador. He’s been in Moscow. He’s been in St. Petersburg. Taught Russian, by the way. Did all of you know that? He was a professor at Columbia. Keep that under – don’t let anybody know you’re a professor. It’s very dangerous.

But we’re very blessed to have a super team here. And where’s Courtney Austrian? Somewhere here. Courtney, our acting DCM, thank you for your good work. Courtney, appreciate it very, very much, thank you. And thanks to everybody. This is a terrific team which has grown significantly in the last few years. I know the last year or so has been difficult. It’s been complicated. Let me begin by saying how much we appreciate, deeply appreciate – in fact, we can’t function without – the local staff, those of you who are Georgian nationals. So will everybody Georgian please raise your hand so we can say thank you to you? Thank you very, very much for everything you do. (Applause.)

There’s no way we could do anything – we couldn’t find our way anywhere, we couldn’t know where to go buy something, we couldn’t do anything properly – but most importantly, your ability to talk to your fellow country people and explain to them what we’re trying to do and how we are supportive of Georgia and its journey to full democracy is important.

I just met with opposition leaders and I just met with the speaker of parliament, the chairman, and yesterday I obviously met with the prime minister and the foreign minister and the president. And my message to everybody was the same: that they need to invest in their democracy and not in personalizing the politics, not in the politics of destruction. And believe me, witnessing what’s happening in America today, I know what I’m talking about and so do you. (Laughter.)

We want the best of democracy to emerge, and that means they need to have a really good election in October. And I conveyed as strongly as I could to everybody the importance of that, and I ask all of you to work very, very hard in these next weeks and months to help them nurture this process. It’s not easy. Go back and read American history in the 1700s and early 1800s. I mean, throughout all our history we’ve had some slam-dunk, go at ‘em, hardcore political campaigns for president in which the worst things have been said about human beings long before the two candidates appeared today. This has been something we’ve seen for a long time.

But in the end, we come out of it and we have a sense of direction that never really changes. And that’s what we’re here to try to help convey in this case to Georgians, but in any embassy in the world we’re working to help countries understand what the best of opportunities could be, what the best of values we think can be. They have to choose, but at least we put a menu in front of people and we fight for that menu. And I don’t think any country on the face of this planet can boast the history that we can boast of helping other people one way or the other. Have we made mistakes? You bet. Some beauts. And one of them was talked about yesterday in great depth with the report from Great Britain about Iraq telling us much of what we already knew.

But yeah, we make some mistakes, but no country has engaged as we have to save other countries, to end a war, to World War I, World War II, to fight for people to be able to be free and democratic. And if you look at Ebola last year, year before, people thought a million people were going to die in West Africa. But no, President Obama sent people in. We went in. We sent health care specialists and we stopped Ebola. We’re working to do the same thing now with Zika. We’ve been doing this with AIDS for 25 years now with the PEPFAR program, and we’ve been able to now be on the brink of having the first generation of kids who are born free of AIDS because of the work that we’ve been doing.

So whether it’s peace in Sudan or peace in the Great Lakes of Africa or our efforts right now to try to get a ceasefire and peace in Syria and Libya and Yemen, we are working to help other countries be able to be strong and be free. And I think everybody here ought to take enormous pride in the work that you do every single day to carry the values and protect the interests of our country, yes, but also I think the best opportunities and best of life for people in other countries too.

So I just wanted to come say thank you to each and every one of you for the extraordinary work you do. It’s hard to be away from home for long periods of time. It’s a more dangerous world in some ways, although there are less people dying of violence in the world today than at any time in the 20th century. Now, that’s despite, yeah, we wake up and we see a bomb goes off in Baghdad and 140 people are killed. But that’s non-state actors, and most of the last century was defined by state actors, nations fighting against nations. We’re going to win this fight in the long run providing we stay on track to open up opportunity, provide for strong economies, create free societies where people have a choice, and build the ability of people to have a democracy and be able to make their own definitions of their choices for their life and build strong rule of law. It is critical. And here in Georgia, we need to work still to improve the judicial system and the security system so that it’s working for all of the people.

So I’m proud of you. On behalf of President Obama, who I will join tonight in Warsaw, we hope to have a strong meeting, a summit at NATO. Our door remains open in NATO. Georgia will at some point get in. I can’t tell you when because Europeans have to make decisions along with us. But we’re supportive of it, we’re pushing it, and that’s why I signed a memorandum yesterday to strengthen our security work with our friends here in Georgia.

So a profound thank you to every single one of you. Keep it up, don’t stop. You’re the only people in the world who get to get up every day and know that you’re going to work – other than nurses and doctors – who make life better for other people. So God bless you all. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)