Remarks During Meet and Greet at Embassy Dhaka

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Dhaka
Dhaka, Bangladesh
August 29, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: (In progress) blessed to have a terrific ambassador. She has fought against corruption in Senegal. She has been in so many difference places making a difference, India struggling at a time when we were doing the nuclear program and so forth. And when she said you are the best embassy in the world, everybody here knows she only tells the truth, right? (Laughter.) So, Marcia, thank you for what you do. Thank you so much.

Thank you, all of you. How are you doing? Everybody all right? (Cheers.) Good, all right. A lot of energy? (Cheers.) Well, then what are you doing here? You should be working. No, I’m joking. (Laughter.)

So I am very, very honored to be here with all of you. I am sorry it is such a short trip. And it is a trip that’s been postponed a couple of times, and for that I apologize profusely. I don’t know who the control officer was who got all geared up and then heard from the department he was not coming. I know you probably hate me. (Laughter.)

But you know we’re living in this dynamic, incredibly complicated time, and so we’ve been putting out a lot of fires, or trying to put out a lot of fires, and to building a 67-nation coalition to fight Daesh, dealing with Yemen and Libya and Israel-Palestine and Syria and Afghanistan and Pakistan and North Korea and Somalia and al-Shabaab and Nigeria, Boko Haram. And you start running the lists; this is a busy time.

And I can come here and I can proudly tell you that I can’t think of a time in history – and I mean this – when one – when our country has been as engaged, leading actively, working to solve problems, in as many places as we are today. And I am so proud not just of the 150 direct hires who work for us, but of especially the 500 of you who are Bangladeshi, who have tied your fortune to us, who believe in what we are doing and have come here to work with us. And we all want to say thank you to you, because we can’t do this job without you. So thank you very, very, very much for all you do. (Applause.)

And I know it has not been without sadness, without great sense of loss. This has been a very, very difficult year. We all mourned the loss of Mohammad Shahnawaz. And I believe that there isn’t anybody here – I know many of you were so friendly with him. He had just moved into a new home. His wife and two of his three children lost, just a tragedy, a terrible tragedy, and we all feel bad. And then a little bit later, the Xulhas Mannan was murdered by extremists, his life taken away from us. And then of course, two months ago, just down the street from here at the Holey Artisan Bakery, 22 civilians – Bangladeshi and others – murdered, again, and two police officers who were trying to save their lives.

So it’s impossible not to feel a change in the workplace, a change in day-to-day life. And I just want all of you to know that you’re not feeling that change, you’re not experiencing that, by yourself. You’re not alone. This is a complicated world today. It is different from anything I grew up in in the Cold War in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, still the Berlin Wall fell. That was simple compared to today. Yes, there was the threat of destruction, but that was national, Soviet Union versus the West, and everybody presumed that the threat was so great nobody would be crazy enough to do anything. And it didn’t happen.

But now we have individuals, one person, who can decide to take on a nation, just by blowing themselves up. It doesn’t lead to anything. I don’t think any one of you here could tell me that you’ve heard something constructive from any of these groups. Are they telling people we’re going to put all your kids in school? Are they telling people we’re going to build you better roads, we’re going to give you cleaner water, we’re going to build a society that respects you as an individual? No, they tell you do what I say or I’ll kill you.

And in Iraq, Daesh kills Yezidis because they are Yezidis. They kill Shia because they are Shia. They kill Christians because they’re Christians, and so forth. And they blow up thousands of years-old Roman arches in Palmyra and they destroy history. They attack history. They don’t like anything that offers somebody a choice. They don’t like anything that allows somebody to be an individual who decides what they want to do with their life. They want to tell you what you have to do with your life.

And we’ve seen what happens. I wish that – there is no way to negotiate with that. There’s no negotiation. So we’re in a fight. But I want you to believe in something. I really want you to believe in something. We’re winning this fight. We are going to win this fight, because there are many, many, many, many millions of more people, billions of more people, who want to live in a world of order and structure and rule of law, who want their kids to grow up peacefully, go be a doctor or be a lawyer, be whatever you want in life, have an opportunity to make a difference, and enjoy a family and not be caught up in bombs and suicide vests.

And ultimately, what will happen is we’ll win, because I’ll tell you what’s going on. The world globalization that is happening is actually, a lot of people resist it and they say oh, my God, I just want to be the way I am and don’t change. But guess what. For the first time in the history of the world, we are seeing extreme poverty is below 10 percent. We’re curing diseases we could never cure before. We actually have less people dying today, even though you see violence, less people are dying in the first part of the 21st century than were dying in any part of the 20th century. More kids are going to school. If you are a young kid born today, you are more likely to be fed, to have food, to go to school, and have a longer life.

So you don’t hear about the progress every day, because television just dwells on crisis. But we are seeing modernity moving forward. Hundreds of millions of people in India brought out of poverty, hundreds of millions of people in China brought out of poverty, millions of people here brought out of poverty. You’re growing at 6 percent a year here in Bangladesh.

So believe in the future. That’s my message to you. Hang in there and believe in what you’re doing. And my privilege today is really to be able to say thank you to every single one of you, to all of you who are part of the Foreign Service or the Civil Service or TDY here from some other agency, we are deeply appreciative that you have chosen your life to help your country build relationships with other people in the world. And to all of you who live here, we are so grateful to you for being part of our journey to build a friendship between our countries.

Today, I was just over at the Edward M. Kennedy Center. Ted Kennedy came here in 1971 and – in 1972 he came here, but in 1971 the war of independence began and was going on, and he supported the independence of Bangladesh, as did people in my state of Massachusetts. We believed in you and looked at the journey you are on. You are making amazing things happen, and even better things are yet to come.

So you’re serving here in Bangladesh in a very exciting time, a time of transformation, a time of huge possibilities, and yes, a time of challenge. But believe me, not many people get the opportunity to get up every day and go to work and make a difference in the lives of other people, and that’s what you’re doing. So on behalf of President Obama, I want to say to you a profound thank you for doing this work, thank you for being part of this great embassy, and I wish you well in the days ahead. Thank you and God bless you all. Thank you. (Applause.)