Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What the Secretary Said--John Kerry in Vilnius

John Kerry
Secretary of State

U.S. Embassy Vilnius
Vilnius, Lithuania
September 7, 2013

What has taken place here in 20 years plus one is really remarkable, and I am told that back in 1992 when we were first setting up shop here after the end of the Soviet Union, they had to bring truckloads of cash down from Finland in order to be able to just pay people because there weren’t even banks. It just wasn’t even functional. And so now, you all have this incredible burgeoning economy. We have – we, the United States, and Lithuania--have a remarkable relationship which is built partly on security, partly on economics, partly on democracy, on hopes about the future.

And what really excites me is what’s happening with respect to the energy diversification, climate change efforts, the efforts to create the European Eastern Partnership. All of these things are going to guarantee that not only will this relationship stay strong and flourish, but as we go forward, the economy here is going to get stronger, the democracy here will become more entrenched, and this will become really one of the great models for transformation out of a period of just kind of crushing restraint and oppression, and I don’t even want to go back to some of the stories. In fact, as I drove up here, the Ambassador pointed out what is now a Holocaust museum that used to be a place where the KGB used to take people and terrible, terrible things went on.

So that’s the transformation. All of you are part of this amazing adventure we get to be part of. I get to be the Secretary and parachute in like this for a few hours, and I know that these visits aren’t simple and a lot of work goes into them. I also have learned that the minute I get out of here, there’s a pretty good wheels-up party – (laughter) – which I never get to share in. But I just want to say thank you to you on behalf of America, on behalf of the President, and all of us who are privileged to work for our fellow citizens. There honestly is no more rewarding kind of work.

For those of you in the consular division, you’re the face of America. Somebody walks in and they talk to you and you have an interview and they need to get a visa, and they want to either emigrate or they want to just visit or be a student and go over and study or have an opportunity to sort of touch our values and our dreams, that’s a big deal. For many of you, you may be the only American people we’ll ever see. And whether you’re a civil servant or a Foreign Service officer, you get to come to work every day and build a bridge, build a relationship, reach out to people with a set of values that we all believe in, which historically have made a huge difference to people all over the world.

That is good work. That’s a great, great job. I wish it was better paying for everybody. It’s not what we all get into this for. We’re in it because we love what we do, we love the opportunity to change people’s lives, we love the opportunity to bring America to other parts of the world, and we love to build the friendships and the relationships that go with it. And they last a lifetime and they’re worth every moment of it.

In tribute to that, the Ambassador, Deborah, was just in Afghanistan, and we’re pleased that we have a special working relationship here in Lithuania for a small country – I think it was the smallest country leadership of the PRT – and working with us and others – Georgians, I think, and some others in there – we had this tremendous PRT effort. And just the other day – we’ve now transferred that PRT, as we are now transferring and transitioning out of Afghanistan – the PRT commander honored us, all of us, and particularly the Ambassador by giving to her the flag that was flying there.

It says “The USA National Flag was waving over Forward Operating Base Shield of the Lithuanian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghor Province of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The hard work, dedication, and actions of the USA representatives directly supported and assisted the PRT to reach the goals and objectives in support of the ISAF mission,” and that’s dated 25 August 2013. Folks, that belongs to all of you, to this Embassy, to our efforts jointly, and it’s a huge statement about this wonderful relationship and participation we have.