Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones

By US Department of State
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Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Benjamin Franklin Room

Washington, DC

June 11, 2013

MS. PAULI: This is a tall podium. Oh, I've never been this tall before.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests. My name is Rosemarie Pauli. I'm the Assistant Chief of Protocol, and your MC for this ceremony. It is my pleasure to welcome you at the swearing-in of Deborah K. Jones to be the next Ambassador to Libya. (Applause.)

We are also very privileged to have the Secretary of State, the honorable John F. Kerry, officiating our ceremony today. I would also like to acknowledge the Ambassador of Libya, His Excellency Ali Aujali – did I do that right – and the Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman, Her Excellency Hunaina al-Mughairi. Welcome, and thank you for coming.

And also I would like to welcome Christopher Gooch right here behind me, a new A-100 class graduate who will be going to post with the Ambassador, and he will be holding the Bible today.

Please join me in extending a warm greeting and lots of applause for all the participants and all of our distinguished guests. (Applause.)

Just a quick timeline: We will begin the ceremony this afternoon with remarks by the Secretary of State, followed by the swearing-in and taking of the oath, followed by the signing of the papers, and followed by remarks of Ambassador Jones. And now it is my great, great pleasure to introduce the Honorable Secretary of State John F. Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, thank you. Rosemarie, thank you very, very much. Welcome, everybody. This is very exciting for a number of reasons, not the least of which it is a great pleasure to swear in a spectacular ambassador, but also this is my first swearing-in of an ambassador. Yeah. (Laughter and applause.) And I look forward to many more as the process moves forward. But it's really a pleasure for me to be able to do this today, and I'm delighted to welcome our ambassador friends here.

Ambassador Aujali, thank you for being here. We're sending you one of our very best ambassadors, sir. We're very excited about it. And Ambassador al-Mughairi, I can't thank you enough for the wonderful friendship and relationship we have with the Sultanate of Oman. I had a wonderful visit with His Majesty the Sultan just a few days ago, and I saw the most extraordinary collection of cars I've ever seen in my life. (Laughter.) I coveted every single one of them; I didn't drive off in any of them. (Laughter.) But he offered me the chance to. It was pretty nice.

As I mentioned, we really are embracing a spectacular ambassador here, and I'm thrilled by her selection of Chris Gooch, who I just met, who is going to be going off, actually, to Riyadh. He is not going to be posted with her. That's not fair. You're not allowed to swear in and go be posted at the same time.

MS. JONES: Not yet.

SECRETARY KERRY: Not yet. Too much advantage. She'll drag him, I know, over there soon, but Chris is the youngest member of the A-100 class, and the reason Ambassador Jones asked him to do this is that her progeny are off in New Mexico. I think they're even Skyping in on this right now; is that correct? Are they?

MS. JONES: I hope so. I think so.

SECRETARY KERRY: You hope so, somewhere? I'm told they were, but I don't see anybody holding up an appropriate device, which you can't do in here anyways. But Chris is representing Ana and Izzy, who are off with their father in New Mexico on a trek. And we're grateful to them for sharing their mom with us.

Deborah comes to this job with a remarkable level of experience. We really couldn't be better equipped. She served in Argentina, in Ethiopia, in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. And in fact, a young Kuwaiti woman voted Deborah among her top five role models, which is a tribute to her magnetism and her ability, her leadership, and frankly, her ability to reach beyond sort of the traditional role of Ambassador in ways that really help sort of connect with everybody, with the ordinary folks in the places that she represents us.

And it's no secret that she is going to one of the toughest jobs in the Foreign Service. It's also no secret, I am told by those who have worked with her in the past, that underneath the polished exterior and the great sort of – the brilliance that you see in her character as she greets you, there is a mighty tough person prepared to do a tough job. (Applause.) And we like that.

When you ask her friends to describe her, over and over again you hear the same words – feisty, fearless, funny, wicked funny, as we say in Boston – (laughter) – and they say she is someone who really knows how to get stuff done. And that's why she is going to Libya. She personifies, really, the very best of the Foreign Service, and her willingness to take on the toughest assignments in tough places with grace and with dignity, with her special energy, is the mark of a true leader.

So I think we really couldn't find anybody better to represent us in that tough part of the world at this critical moment in history. And we look to her to help Libya to move from that place of saying thank you when they held all those signs thanking us after Chris passed away, from transitioning from that place to a place where a democracy is commonplace and accepted and everybody understands how tangible the future is. And we will have played such a critical role in making that happen, and Deborah will have been a key part of that. She has to be.

And one of the good things about her going off to do this job is for her, it's not a just a job; it's a calling. It's a mission, and she shares that with her predecessor, Chris. So I am absolutely confident that the dream of the Libyan people to be free and to exercise their rights and to enjoy democracy and to pull back from the militia and find the capacity to build the institutions that they need is going to be all of it embodied in her work. And these are going to be the critical next few years in this transformation. I know she has no illusions about the enormity of the task ahead. And her service in countries that have all faced instability and transition and enormous sectarian and religious, tribal, and other kinds of tugs, all of it is absolutely essential, and she understands there aren't any shortcuts in this.

So, Mr. Ambassador, we know that we're sending you somebody who is going to help strengthen the ties between our people, and I'm absolutely confident she's going to be out and about among the people, helping to define our mutual sense of the possibilities of the future. I'm told that she set records during Ramadan for the number of Dewaniyas that she attended in one night. In fact, she made so many friends in Dewaniyas around the region, they regularly text or email her at an email address that will tell you a lot about her: “shakeadeborah.”

I predict that “shakeadeborah” is going to cultivate a whole new set of friends during this incredible assignment in Tripoli. She's a thinker, she's a doer, she's a leader who thrives when charged in tumultuous situations. And I think she's obviously somebody for whom no obstacle is too big.

So we've been able to rely on her in the past to tell us the truth, and I know she will. I can hear the phone call now. (Laughter.) And she's never been shy about calling things as she sees them. So as you embark on this assignment, Deborah, please know that you have the great trust and confidence of the President of the United States, of me and all of your colleagues here in the State Department. We thank you for your outstanding service and we congratulate you on your assignment, on taking on this really critical role at this critical time.

It's my honor now to ask you to step up and have Chris perform his functions, and I will read the oath – administer the oath to you at that time.

(Oath administered.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Congratulations. (Applause.)

That's – I'm not repeating that.

AMBASSADOR JONES: No, you're not. (Laughter.) Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you for your very generous and very diplomatic remarks, considering what you might have been able to say here – (laughter) – and for making the time to officiate at my swearing-in. Your presence here today underscores the importance the President and this Administration attach to Libya and our commitment to support the Libyan people. We are so fortunate to have someone of your experience, your knowledge, and energy at the helm of our ship of State during this turbulent period.

Ambassador Aujali, (in Arabic.) (Laughter.) A consummate diplomat, you have served your country with distinction over many years in important roles and places, and ultimately you played a key role in representing the new Libya's Transitional National Council in Washington. And welcome also to Ambassador al-Mughairi of the Sultanate of Oman and to all my colleagues, my mentors, and beloved friends, some of whom have traveled from the distant planet of the West Coast to be here.

I also want to thank the desk, Elise and Lydia, Idamarie, and more recently, Liz, for bearing with me and organizing all of this, and for Jenny and the folks in HR and in Congressional Liaison for guiding me once again through the process. Thank you all so much for sharing this important day with me.

Unfortunately, as the Secretary noted, my biological family could not be here with me today. We had a wonderful week all together earlier this month, celebrating my youngest daughter's graduation from high school, and now the girls are out west spending precious time with their dad, who is on leave from his post in Islamabad.

I am so grateful for my parents and their love and example and for my delightful, wickedly astute, and lovingly supportive daughters. But fortunately, I am surrounded today by members of my other family, my NEA family, the so-called mother bureau, one of whose newest members held the Bible for my oath, and as the Secretary said, will soon serve in Riyadh.

Swearing-in ceremonies are akin to weddings. Normally, your first is elaborate and large. Your second, a small gathering before the justice of the peace – (laughter) – wiser and more sober about the nature of the journey upon which you are about to embark. So why the hoopla today? Because our family needed it; our State Department family needed it. It is the weddings, with their optimism and promise of new life, that get us through the moments of grief that life invariably presents, the grief we now associate with Libya and the loss of our colleagues and NEA family members – Chris and Sean and Ty and Glen. And it is these rituals that remind us of what brought us to serve in the first place, the ideals we are privileged to represent, far beyond the din of Washington's political noise.

I had wanted to do something to add a little pizazz to the event. I understand that one of my colleagues had a gospel choir sing at her swearing-in. (Laughter.) So I thought about one-upping her with a musical group affiliated with my own religious upbringing, but unfortunately, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would have absorbed the room's capacity.

But these ceremonial celebrations also infuse us with the optimism and the energy we need to carry on despite the inevitable tragedies and setbacks, and to remind us to keep our eyes on the elusive but nonetheless honorable prize, which is a world that enables every human being to fulfill his or her full potential. Everything we do is about making it possible for people to work and to love with dignity, period.

I suspect that in the wake of the various national uprisings and revolutions we have witnessed over the past two years, we all have a much greater appreciation for the governing architecture and political legacy of our founding fathers, enduring progress forged – to quote former President Clinton – in a cauldron – forged in a cauldron, not shaken or stirred in a cocktail glass, of both principle and compromise, and premised on the sovereign empowerment of the people.

The Libyan people endured 42 years of rule by intimidation. They courageously defeated a dictator and are now determined to experience governance by representation. The heavy lifting will fall to the Libyans themselves, of course. At the end of the day, their sovereignty will emanate from their own engagement, and they are more than capable of shaping their new country. It will take time, as we know, but sometimes conveniently forget from our own civil war in which current estimates that more than 720,000 soldiers and civilians died in battle over a four-year period, the equivalent today in relative terms of more than 6 million deaths.

In his famous second inaugural address just months before his murder, President Lincoln implored our badly shattered nation to seek reconciliation with malice towards none, with charity towards all, to bind up the nation's wounds. Even so, the legacy of that terrible war cast a long shadow, aspects of which continue to this day. Inshallah the new Libya can find a better path.

Libya's friends are here to assist to help build effective security institutions that provide a liberating framework for Libya's democratic evolution, to support the development of civil society and governance that is accountable and transparent, and to strengthen Libya's economic potential. I have been deeply moved by the commitment of so many of you here today to the success of a new Libya. I am also fully committed to supporting that success in the context of our important bilateral relationship, and I am excited to get to post and get working.

And if I may, I would like to close with a few words to our Foreign Service family, and particularly its less veteran members. We serve in challenging times under siege, often under siege on a number of fronts. It is hard work and it can be dangerous work, but it remains the best work in the world to advance the march of human dignity, and it remains a unique privilege and honor to represent the American people.

Our tragedies reveal our strengths. If I were to ask those in this audience who have lost a Foreign Service friend or colleague, officer, TDY, Civil Service employee, or FSN-LES staff to an act of violence to raise your hands, I suspect many hands would go up. And I am also certain the same people would raise those same hands to volunteer for duty again, just as Chris, Sean, Anne, my mentor, Arnie Raphel, and so many others have done.

So I hope you will join me in a virtual toast to these individuals. To Chris, to Sean, Ty, Glen, Anne, Arnie and to all those dear friends, colleagues, mentors, and family members who serve, because that's who we are and that's what we do. Thank you so much for being here today. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: That was terrific. Really, really terrific.

MS. PAULI: Thank you so much. You're a rock star. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR JONES: You've had yours, I have mine, but anyway – (laughter) – cheers to all. To all of you, thank you so much.