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Video: Foreign Affairs Day– Who Knew?

State Department Foreign Affairs Day Celebration

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
May 7, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much.

Oh, my goodness, well, it is absolutely a privilege for me to join all of you today and I’m delighted to see so many of you here for Foreign Affairs Day. You are among the small, elite group of Americans who know the joys and challenges, the problems and potential of our work here in the State Department from the inside out, and we are absolutely delighted to see you back here.

I also am pleased that Anne-Marie was able to talk with you for a while and answer questions. It’s been a joy working with her. And some of you may know her work from her academic career and her deanship at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, but her grasp of the kind of interconnected network world in which we are operating today has been immensely influential in how we are attempting to think through how we better influence others around the world, how we have to partner with not just governments, but so many other important entities.

And of course, I thank Nancy Powell, who’s doing an excellent job under very challenging circumstances, because we were almost too successful last year in fighting for an increase in the budget. We have a flood of new Foreign Service Officers coming on board, and managing them, mentoring them, even selecting them and then assigning them has been quite an undertaking. And Nancy and Steve Browning and others are really leading the way for us.

Last year, Foreign Affairs Day came on the 100th day of my tenure in this job, and in another month, it will be my 500 days. So I’ve never heard of a 500-day report, but – (laughter) – I can safely tell you that we’ve made considerable headway on the priorities that I outlined when we last met here. We are elevating development and diplomacy as core elements of our foreign policy, alongside defense. We’re doing so with strong support from Secretary Gates, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, who have really become believers in the necessity for us to be activists in diplomacy and development to try to prevent conflict, to try to ameliorate and resolve conflict, to try to go into post-conflict situations to begin to help rebuild.

We are strengthening our relations with our historic allies in Europe and Asia. We have engaged emerging partners such as India, Indonesia, Brazil. We’ve established constructive, albeit still challenging, relationships with both China and Russia. Our new START agreement with Russia is just one example of the concrete results we’ve achieved through these efforts. And of course, we’re addressing the very tough security problems that we face in Afghanistan, Pakistan, still, in Iraq.

And the State Department and USAID are not on the margins in this work. We are right in the middle. We are working hand-in-hand in very difficult settings without the kind of massive support that the military is able to provide for its troops. But it has proven to be a very rewarding relationship.

We are advancing the Middle East peace process, tackling proliferation challenges from Iran and North Korea, and we’re addressing the broader dangers posed by unsecured nuclear materials. We’re dealing with global challenges like climate change and energy, advancing human rights and democracy on the terrain of the 21st century by pushing for internet freedom and looking for more ways to empower women.

On development, our new initiatives are significant. But the biggest change in our approach may not be so much in what we are doing as in how we are doing it. We’re approaching development with a very clear-eyed expectation about results. That begins with partnerships that we set the parameters for between the United States and developing countries. We are learning from the experience of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an innovative idea that I think holds great promise. Our new Administrator for USAID, Dr. Raj Shah, brings a background of accountability measurements and metrics to his current position. We are demanding accountability not only from our partners, but we’re expecting the same from ourselves. We are implementing better processes to gather data and measure results not on the basis of dollars spent, but on truer measures of progress – lives saved, jobs created, children educated. We’re investing in potentially game-changing research, particularly in agriculture.

I think that USAID should not only be the premier development agency in the world again, but it should be the premier development research agency in the world. There are a lot of game-changing technologies that the United States can help develop and then to spread and implement. We’re pursuing funding mechanisms that encourage private companies to develop products and services for the poor.

Now, we know in these tight budget times that our resources are limited and we have to make hard choices about where our support will have the biggest impact. That means we have decided to focus on two key areas: global health and food security. Our Global Health Initiative and our Feed the Future Initiative are intended to make long-term, large-scale investments in a smaller number of partner countries rather than peppering support across different issues and regions.

We want some success stories. If you look at the history of development in Africa, there are some bright spots but there are too many places that just haven’t advanced the way they need to. If you look at development in Latin America, there are many success stories, but the inequity that exists between the rich and the poor is the highest of any place in the world. So how do we build middle classes and middle class institutions? These are some of the issues that we’re grappling with because we want sustainable development progress.

We’re also working to ensure that the Department’s capabilities are aligned with our long-term priorities. Anne-Marie’s work on our very first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, along with Deputy Secretary Jack Lew and Raj Shah, is moving us closer to that goal.

Now, if this sounds like a full agenda, that’s because it is. And frankly, we could use your help. We need our retired Foreign Service and Civil Service employees to assist us. And we actually have a program called WAE, W-A-E, When Actually Employed. It enables our Foreign and Civil Service retirees to continue contributing to our work without sacrificing your annuities.

Our coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, Ambassador John Herbst, is looking for WAEs, W-A-E-s, who are willing to deploy on short notice to work on critical conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilization missions. WAEs can join the Civilian Response Corps as standby members and receive specialized training that will help them apply their skills and experience working alongside our full-time active members.

We’ve already deployed WAEs, your peers and your counterparts. We’ve deployed WAEs to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chad. We’ve deployed you in support of our earthquake response in Haiti. And I hope all of you will think hard about taking advantage of this opportunity because we have more work than we can say grace over. (Laughter.) We are fully engaged every minute of the day, and we need your experience and expertise for these kind of short-term assignments.

Now, going back to my initial point, our country faces a lot of difficult decisions. Our economy still is not producing jobs the way it should. We are still trying to make sure that we get our kids educated for the future, not for the past. And we have a lot on our plate when it comes to the domestic agenda. But when it comes to foreign policy, issues that affect every American are often not as widely understood or known. And we need your help not only if you can deploy for a short period of time but also to be advocates and messengers on behalf of the global issues, their complexity that we are confronting, and what the State Department and USAID are doing about them.

So we welcome not only your visit once a year on Foreign Affairs Day, but we not only welcome, we invite your continuing involvement in the work of the State Department. And it is exciting for me to be a Secretary of State at this point in America’s history and to know that I can rely on so many people with your levels of understanding. We do need you, and so I guess my final point would be that if there’s any way you can be of help, if there’s any ideas you have, we want to hear them because we think that the next couple of years will set the tone for the first half of the 21st century. How successful the United States can be in asserting our leadership in helping to shape that future – a future, we hope, of peace, progress, and prosperity – is critical to the well-being of our children and grandchildren and to the country that we all have loved and served.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.