Secretary Antony J. Blinken to Mission Indonesia Staff

Date:

AMBASSADOR KIM:  (Applause.)  Great.  Thank you very much.  That was an amazing performance.  I had no idea that our mission was so talented musically.

Look, I’m really excited and grateful that the Secretary is visiting us.  In fact, in warmly welcoming the Secretary to Indonesia yesterday, President Jokowi said the Secretary’s visit is a clear demonstration of America’s commitment to Indonesia and the broader region.  So I have no doubt that the Secretary’s visit will give a huge boost as we look for opportunities to deepen our ties with Indonesia as they preside over the G20 and beyond.

Rachel and I are also grateful that our very talented and dedicated team here at Mission Indonesia get this opportunity to meet the Secretary in person.

And for me, personally, having had the privilege of working for the Secretary when he was deputy secretary a few years ago, I am really thrilled that he is now back and leading America’s foreign policy during this very important period.

So please join me in welcoming to the stage Secretary Antony Blinken.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, thank you.  Good afternoon.  Great to see you all, and great to have everyone together in this room.  That was the most amazing welcome.

We just came from Liverpool.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t think the Beatles might ever have imagined hearing Ob‐La‐Di, Ob‐La‐Da played in exactly that way.  But it was a wonderful way to connect the two parts of this trip.  I have heard a lot of Beatle covers in my days, but that is definitely at the top of the list.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And it’s also wonderful to be in this stunning new embassy, taking this in.  The last time I was here you were in a rather different building, different location.  So it’s very good to see the new embassy, as well.

Ambassador Kim Sung and I go back a long time.  We worked very, very closely together when I was last in government.  One of the things that gives me a great sense of confidence in what really is one of the most important relationships we have is to know that Sung is leading this effort.  Back home, that confidence extends very much to the President.

And Sung, we’re just grateful to you for your leadership here, at what really is an important time of reinvigorating and, in some cases, even reimagining this partnership, both with Indonesia and in the broader Asia Pacific.

And to DCM Kleine, to CDA Cooke, to the acting ASEAN DCM (inaudible) is here, thank you, thank you, thank you all, for your leadership at the Bi-Mission Jakarta and U.S.-ASEAN.  And to all of you here today, whether you’re joining us in person – I think we may have some virtual colleagues as well – thanks for making this trip, short as it is, I think, successful.  I know how much work goes into these visits.

I know the work is even more challenging in times of COVID, which I want to come back to.  But just in the short space of time that we were here, we managed to spend a really good hour with President Jokowi, more time than that with Foreign Minister Retno, other members of the Indonesian Government.

I had a chance to give a speech this morning at the Universitas Indonesia that lays out the President’s vision for our commitment and our engagement in the region that we share, the Indo-Pacific, and some of the key parts of the strategy that we’re putting in place to do that.

And again, this doesn’t just happen, nor does it just happen that we had a chance that we had to relocate it, but we met with an amazing group of young people who were doing incredible things in meeting the common challenge that we face of COVID, here in Indonesia.  None of this just happens.  There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into these visits.  There’s a tremendous amount of churning.  I only see the surface, which is incredibly smooth.  But I know what goes into it.

And so I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you for all the work that went into it, and I especially want to wish you a very, very, very good wheels up party, which I know will start very soon.  (Laughter.)  I wish I could stick around for that.

But I hope that you also see that the work that you’ve been doing each and every day to build this partnership is being reciprocated, to some extent, by the focus, the renewed focus, that we have in Washington on Indonesia and on the region writ large.  Just in the last few weeks and few months you’ve supported visits by the counselor, Derek Chollet, who is here with us again; with Assistant Secretary Dan Kritenbrink; with Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh; congressional delegations.  A lot of work has gone into that, too.  But again, it’s evidence of the fact that we are really putting focus, energy, attention on this partnership.

Now, I have to tell you I’m a little disappointed in one thing.  Dan told me that, when he was here, a flash mob materialized.  (Laughter.)  So this is an incredibly – Sung, yes – talented mission, but I guess I’m very fortunate that you didn’t get me to dance, so – (Laughter.)  But I’d like to hear about Dan.  So if there’s any of you witnessed that, please let me know.

At the heart of what we’re doing, what you’re doing, every single day is strengthening a partnership, a relationship, that is so necessary to actually deal effectively with the things that are having an impact on lives of people here and back home in the United States and around the world.  And whether it is dealing with COVID-19, whether it’s confronting the climate challenge, whether it’s looking at energy, at economic development, at how we’re dealing with all of these new technologies that are shaping our lives, Indonesia is incredibly important and increasingly front and center, and that work is having a real impact on the future that our fellow citizens are going to experience.

We’re collaborating in ways that are not just important bilaterally, as important as that is, but increasingly regionally, and notably with ASEAN, but also globally.  The fact that Indonesia is taking on the G20 next year is very, very powerful evidence of that.  So I really mostly wanted to say thank you for that, all of that work, because it’s making a difference in ways big and small, in ways that sometimes our fellow citizens back home don’t really see or don’t really realize, but we know, I know, it’s making a big difference.

I also know that this has been an especially trying time, for obvious reasons, COVID-19.  We see that in mission after mission around the world.  Some of you have lost friends, loved ones, including here in this mission.  Even for those of you who haven’t, just the changes that have been required to deal with COVID-19, to adjust to it in the way you’re doing your work, I know the impact that that’s had.

But many of you have also worked incredibly closely, especially our friends from USAID, the health teams, the U.S.-ASEAN team, with the Government of Indonesia and other ASEAN countries on COVID response, and that has quite literally saved lives.  The fact that we’ve gotten 25 million vaccine doses here to Indonesia, more on the way – in fact, some more arrived just this week – that is literally saving lives.  The work that you’re doing to get other kinds of support to our friends in Indonesia is literally saving lives.

And again, I know that so much of this is heartfelt, and especially for the colleagues here who we lost.  And we think of them.  We think of their families.  I know you do every day.

I also want to say a special word about a couple of people.  And I want to recognize Julie Washburn.  I don’t know, Julie, are you here?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  The Community Liaison Office, the job that you’ve done keeping everyone connected even while folks were on ordered departure because of COVID-19, that just makes a huge difference because finding ways to keep connected during something like COVID, that’s how we keep getting the job done.  That’s how we keep the community together.  That’s how we keep the mission strong.  And to you and to each and every one of you, thanks for everything you’ve done to really be there for each other during this particularly challenging time.

One thing I wanted to share is this.  We feel the determination in Washington – because you’re doing so much to deliver for us and to deliver for our fellow citizens – to do a better job delivering for you.  And one way we’re doing that is through an effort that we’ve launched to fully modernize the department that we share.  We need to make sure that we’re giving you everything that you need to do your jobs as well as you can.

So just a couple of quick words about that because it’s something that we’re going to be driving throughout the next months and the next years.  A few things that we’re really focused on.

We want to make sure that we’re building our capacity to actually confront today’s challenges, from the climate crisis, to cyber security, to health, to global health.  These are areas where, for understandable reasons, the department hasn’t necessarily focused throughout its history, but where we have to focus now, making sure that we are dedicating the resources, building the skills, supporting the expertise and knowledge that we need to do that job well.  So we’re going to be doing that.

We want to make sure that we have new voices being heard throughout our policy process.  We’ve launched a number of things, including an ideas channel, so that anyone everywhere in our enterprise, if they’ve got a good idea, they have a way to make sure that it gets surfaced, and doesn’t necessarily get caught up in the small bureaucracy that we sometimes have.

We want to make sure that we’re investing in building and retaining a diverse workforce, a workforce that looks like the country that we represent.  And we’ve made significant efforts already in that direction, including through the appointment of a chief diversity and inclusion officer, an entire office dedicated to that proposition that reports directly to me, and a strategic plan that, over the next years, I think will make a significant difference.

We’re modernizing our tech, our communications, our analytical capabilities, so that you literally have better tools to do your jobs.  And in all of this, we’ve worked to be informed by listening to all of you.

Now, secretaries come and go.  Modernization plans come and go.  We’ve tried not to reinvent the wheel, but to actually be informed by a lot of good work that’s been done in recent years, and understanding what it takes to make this department as effective as it can be, what it takes to make you as effective as you can be.  And mostly we listened to you.  So I’m looking forward to really putting this into motion.  You’ll see more and more of this roll out in the weeks and months ahead.

Finally, in closing, there are a few other people that I’d like to just single out, because, having heard from the ambassador and the DCM, I know this is a talented group, it’s a hard-working group, it’s a fun group, as evidenced by what we’ve already seen, and there are just a tremendous number of extraordinary people here.  But again, just to take a minute to recognize a few of you.

Robert Ewing.  Are you here, Robert?  (Applause.)  Economic councilor here, run – or won the Frank E. Loy Award.  That’s the department’s highest recognition for environmental diplomacy, for helping Indonesia and the United States collaborate to cut carbon and methane emissions.  It’s a really significant achievement.  Indonesia now signed on to the methane pledge.  If we manage to bring a few other large countries along, one of which is in the general neighborhood, that’s going to have a dramatic impact on dealing with climate.  If we manage to do that by 2030, that’ll be the equivalent of taking every plane out of the skies, every ship off the seas, in terms of emissions.  So thank you for your great leadership, and for getting things done on that.  (Applause.)

Now we also have two colleagues who recently passed the FSO exam.  Amy Canby, are you here somewhere?  Yes.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)  And Keller, I understand that’s also the case in your case.  (Applause.)  So congratulations to you both.

And finally, Dr. Jones, the medical team in Jakarta, are you here?  (Applause.)  You all have been on call 24/7 for months – for months – to help coordinate the testing, the treatment, the vaccines for COVID-19.  You’ve made the biggest difference of all in the lives of this mission.  Your colleagues are incredibly grateful to you and the entire team for your leadership.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)

And finally, finally, finally, I want to say a word about the lifeblood of this mission, of every mission that we have around the world, and that’s our Locally Employed Staff.  I am told that there are 11 staff members who’ve worked for Mission Indonesia for more than 30 years.  That, in and of itself, speaks volumes.  We are so grateful to you.  And I am told one of our Locally Employed Staff members, Ibu Hana – Ibu, are you here?  (Applause.)  Thirty-nine years.  Thirty-nine years.  (Applause.)  That’s almost as old as I am.  That’s incredible.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.

But just to everyone here at Bi-Mission Indonesia and U.S.-ASEAN – local staff, direct hires, whether you’re Foreign Service, whether you’re Civil Service, whether you’re a contractor, an eligible family member – we know how much you do.  Whether you work for the State Department, whether you work for any of the other extraordinary agencies and departments that we’re so fortunate to partner with, simply put, I came by with two words: Thank you.

I’m so grateful for your service.  I’m grateful to have each and every one of you as a colleague.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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