Remarks at Meet and Greet With Embassy Staff and Their Families

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Wellington, New Zealand
November 13, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: (In progress) I was impressed by his language skills, but – (laughter.) (Inaudible.) And I want to thank him for his service, his family for their commitment. As all of you know, he was a professional ballplayer – (inaudible) knows that – and he actually – he batted in the same lineup as one of my heroes, Carlton Fisk.

PARTICIPANT: Carlton Fisk.



SECRETARY KERRY: And Tom Seaver – some of you may have heard of Tom Seaver. I don’t know, but anyway, he batted .273, right? (Inaudible.)


SECRETARY KERRY: For a guy named Tony La Russa, who’s very famous also. And most importantly, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. And so I like to believe, as he told me for certain, that he is responsible for their march to the World Series (inaudible). (Laughter.)


SECRETARY KERRY: Is Janet Coulthart here? Janet?

PARTICIPANT: Where’s Janet? Janet’s right here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you for 32 years of service. (Applause.)

So, folks, you heard what I had to say over there, so you have the history, in essence, of this remarkable relationship. And I know that every single one of you knows how incredibly open the people of New Zealand are, how welcoming, and the hospitality is incredible. And we are so grateful. How many of you are local employees? Raise yours hands. We can’t do what we do without you, so all of us say a profound thank you to you for committing yourselves to our endeavors here, and we really appreciate it.

Just very, very quickly, President Obama and I have had the privilege – I’ve been to over 90 countries now, all seven continents after Antarctica, and I am so struck by the unbelievable work that all of you do. I know there are about 100 folks here in this particular embassy with – representing some six agencies of our government, and it’s a – it’s one of the few life missions that people can adopt where literally on a day-to-day basis you can get up and go to work and say, “I’m going to make a difference to someone else and to life.” Now, there are nurses and doctors and service folks and others who do that. That’s why they do it. But in terms of taking on a burden, of traveling abroad and living in a place that’s different, sort of learning a culture, disrupting your kids and their lives and putting them in a school or adapting or maybe being separate because they’re in college somewhere else and you’re here – it’s a big deal. But I’ve got to tell you, I meet a lot of people who, regrettably, get up and go to work and they hate what they’re doing. And they go to work because they have to go to work and they have to – that’s the way – the only way they know that they can put bread on the table and pay bills and do the things they want to do.

So it’s a great thing, this service to country, and I see the folks who are in uniform here. I particularly want to express my gratitude to you for serving in the way you do. But for everybody here, you’re all serving. You don’t have to wear the uniform day to day of a military branch; you serve by going to work in the embassy. And whether it’s consulate or economic or political or whatever it is you’re doing, you are helping your nation to be able to help make the world a better place.

And for all the countries in the world that I think of when you read history – we’ve been through kings and emperors and dictators and countless forms of government where people have chosen to conquer territory. Only the United States of America has conquered as much territory as we have and turned around and given it back to people, turned around and helped our enemies rebuild their country, whether Germany or Japan or other countries. That is a remarkable guiding ethic, if you don’t mind my saying so. And the fact is that when we intervene, we intervene not so that we can make people do what we want them to do, but so they can choose to do what they want to do. And we try to empower people around a set of values – moral values, guiding principles of how you can organize government and organize your lives.

Sometimes we make mistakes. I think Iraq was a disastrous mistake and we’re still paying the price of it today. But we can make mistakes and still have the right intentions and the right design. And what we need to do now is help the world find a measure of stability and calm and a better sense of direction so that our kids can grow up to inherit a world that is better than the one that we came into. That is always the goal, and every single one of you, whether you are Kiwi or whether you are U.S. citizen, you’re temporary duty or you’re here full-time, you’re all contributing to that effort. And I just want to say on behalf of President Obama and myself how proud we have been – he to be President, me to be Secretary of State – and work with a team like you and this guy. So – (laughter) – and his family.

So thank you very, very much to all. It’s been an honor to be here. It took me 48 years to get back to Wellington. I’d love to come back here and just roam around one day, but we’ll see what the future brings. Thank you all, and God bless. (Applause).