Meet and Greet With Staff and Families of Embassy Abuja

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Abuja
Abuja, Nigeria
August 24, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. How are you? Everybody good?

AUDIENCE: (Cheering.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Now, let’s do a little organizing here. You’re getting wet, man. (Laughter.) So I want you – push back a little bit so – now we – I want you to get out of the water. Both sides – you got to organize this a little bit. I want you to show the common sense of people who work in the United States embassy. Are you less wet now? You okay? You guys are great. I really appreciate the kids coming out. What’s going on, man? You want to talk to me? Come on up here. Come here. Come here, come here, come here. (Applause.)

How you doing? What’s on your mind? How are you doing?

PARTICIPANT: Doing fine. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: What’s your name?

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Okay. Are you having fun?


SECRETARY KERRY: But you’re getting wet, right?


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s just water.

PARTICIPANT: Yeah. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. He’s not so sure how great that is. (Laughter.) Anyway, well, I’m really proud of you for being here. Are you going to school?


SECRETARY KERRY: Good. All right. You learning a lot? Yeah. (Laughter.) Not so sure. Okay.

Before I destroy this guy’s – I better get him back to his parents. You want to go back to mom and dad over here – or mom, anyway? That a boy. There you go. All right. There you go. (Applause.) All right. And see, while he came up here it started to rain less. It’s pretty good. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Martin Brennan for coming out of retirement to take on this task for the time being until we get our ambassador here, and I’m really appreciative. He’s a pro. He spent a lot of time in Africa. He’s been here before, and we’re really proud to have him willing to come back. He was in retirement in Italy and in New Mexico, but now he is here and part of the family. And Martin, we’re deeply appreciative. Thank you very, very much for doing that. (Applause.)

And our deputy chief of mission arrived a couple weeks ago, David Young. Where’s David hanging out over here? Everybody, he’s a terrific guy. He’s going to be part of this team, and when we get everybody full speed here, I’m very excited about what is going to be happening.

Thank you for coming out. I think we got about something like 500 local employees here, locally hired employees added. Would all the local employees raise your hands and I can – thank you. (Cheering.) Yes. We cannot possibly do what we do anywhere in the world without your commitment and your help, and we’re deeply appreciative for everything that you are doing.

As you know, this is my third trip out here in 20 months, and yesterday President Buhari was very complimentary and thanked me for having come out here during the election, when I met with him and with President Goodluck Jonathan. And as President Buhari said, I read them the riot act, quote, about the elections and the imperative of these elections being free and fair and accountable and transparent, and that there not be violence. And indeed, Nigeria had a terrific election with a peaceful change of power, and now a president who is committed to moving this country forward and dealing with corruption, dealing with the economic challenges – obviously, with the price of oil reduced, there’s a huge economic challenge – and also dealing with the challenge of Boko Haram. We are making enormous progress in pushing back against Boko Haram, and I came here now to reaffirm the promise of the United States to stand by Nigeria, to help Nigeria. We will win this battle against Boko Haram, promise you. (Applause.)

And we will also do everything in our power to help to adjust the economy to a change. No country should be single-resource dominated in its economy, and the lesson is you’ve got to diversify. I just came from an amazing meeting with a group of young women, Nigerian women. We all know – and girls – and we all know that here in Nigeria, there are 6 to 8 million, 10 million girls who aren’t in school. And we know the difference that educating young women can make to the capacity to build a future for a country. And I quoted the Egyptian poet Hafez Ibrahim, who said, “educate a woman, you build a nation.” That is so true. You cannot have a country that works leaving half of your population on the sidelines. So we are committed, deeply committed, to helping girls to be able to go to school, to helping girls to be able to have opportunity, to trying to change this notion of forced marriage in childhood – 10, 11, 12 years old – and also trying to deal with the problem of female mutilation, which we really need to see stop.

So there’s so much on the table here. This is a country that has enormous capacity, enormous potential, and we want to help tap into it. I go to a lot of countries; I’ve traveled to more than 80-some countries. I don’t know what the number is now and I’m not tracking it. But in every single one of them, I get a chance to see what is going on and where that country is. Some of them, obviously, very developed – when I go to Europe, or nowadays you go to China, Korea, and other countries – they’ve transitioned. This is a country yet to fully transition. And so all of you are really part of a critical moment of transformation, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to work in an embassy and work in a place where our policies are geared to try to help accelerate that transformation and shape that transformation.

One of the things that President Buhari said to me yesterday was – when I came here before the election last year, he said you didn’t come here asking for anything for the United States. You didn’t come here seeking a contract; you weren’t here to try to get something. You were here to try to help us be able to do something. And I’m – I like to think that that is one of the things that really distinguishes the efforts of the United States. Yes, we have interests, but by and large our interests are in the safety and security of another country. Our interests are in peace and stability. Our interests are in other people being able to live their potential to the fullest and be able to experience the blessings that we are able to live with in the United States of America.

So I just want to say thank you to you. I want to thank you for taking on these jobs. I want to thank you for the work you do to help to change lives. There are a lot of things you can choose to do in life and a lot of people make their choices. Not everybody gets to get up every single day and go to work and know that you can make a difference in the lives of other people, you can make a difference in the life of a country, and you can help the planet to be a better, safer, more prosperous place, where everybody gets to enjoy their human rights, their dignity, and the possibilities of life lived in peace. So God bless you all. Thank you so much for what you’re doing, and go get dry quickly. All right. (Applause.) Thank you.