AMBASSADOR GALT: I’m glad you’re all here. On behalf of the entire U.S. Mission Mongolia, I’d like to welcome United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Secretary, welcome to Mongolia. Welcome to Ulaanbaatar and to the residence on this beautiful Sunday morning. You may have heard that the weather isn’t like this every day around here, so your visit is off to an auspicious start. We know you’ve logged over a million miles in the air traveling the globe in service to the United States Government and people, and we’re grateful that you’ve added a few more miles to come to Mongolia. We’re a medium-sized mission in a strategic corner of the globe. I’ve – I’m excited for you to meet my team who work every day to help ensure that democracy in Mongolia survives and thrives in this tough neighborhood, sandwiched between Russia and China.
Here today are some of our longest-serving local staff, who’ve been with the embassy almost as long as Mongolia’s 25-year history as a democracy. Also here today are some of our Peace Corps local staff working to support our 120-plus Peace Corps volunteers serving all across Mongolia.
Mr. Secretary, we’re proud to have you and Assistant Secretary Danny Russel with us here today, and we look forward to a great day with you. Mr. Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible) does this work?
SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible.) How are you?
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m happy to see everybody very, very much. Very nice to see you here. Hello. Hello. How are you? You have a beautiful smile. Yeah, she looks beautiful. I’m really happy to be here with all of you. Thank you. Good seeing United States Marines here. Thank you very much for what you guys do. We appreciate it; everybody does. Thank you enormously. (Applause.)
Jennifer Galt – one of our qualified and outstanding ambassadors who’s been here, I guess, since last September, so she’s still experiencing the seasons in Mongolia. I understand you’ve – this is called the land of the eternal blue skies? Is that right?
SECRETARY KERRY: And you see its working. (Laughter.) It’s working hard to do that today, but we will get it out.
Who is Chooson? Is Chooson here?
AUDIENCE: Yes, yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: You’re Chooson? You’ve been serving for almost a long time, right – the longest time. How many years?
SECRETARY KERRY: Twenty-four years, everybody. Let’s send a huge thank you to – (applause). Thank you very, very much.
I think we have about 170 total. I know they’re not all here – about 170 local employees. And I want you all to know we can’t do our job without you, so everybody who is a U.S. national who is assigned here is very, very grateful to you for what you do to help us to be able to be here.
And how many members of Peace Corps? How many Peace Corps folks? Anybody Peace Corps? Hooray for the Peace Corps, and I thank you so much. (Applause.) We’re celebrating 25 years of Peace Corps being celebrated and this is – it’s interesting. This is one of our youngest missions. It’s one of the youngest embassies that I’ve had the privilege of going to, because we didn’t have an embassy here until 1988, and then in 1990 Mongolia made the decision to democracy and we’ve been working extremely closely ever since then.
And I want to say a very special thank you to all of you who’ve been part of all the special kinds of projects that we’re involved in. I understand many of you put together a air quality monitoring system, which is a wonderful way to begin to educate people about some of the things we need to do environmentally. I know that in Beijing the embassy did that, and it had a profound impact on the population. And they began to constantly turn to the American embassy in order to find out what the air quality was and eventually the policies began to change when people began to adjust and do things that they needed to do.
I also want to thank you for the tremendous work you do through the American Centers – the two centers, and the efforts that you make to try to bring more than just the local issue, the current issue, to people’s attention, but you’re bringing arts, literature, education, a certain introduction to values. And this is really important for us, because we want people to share the full measure of what our life is about and what we think democracy can ultimately be and bring to people. So we’re very, very grateful to you for all of your efforts to help do that.
And I also understand you did a hack-a-thon – is that right? – on the environment, where young people try to help find different creative ways of responding to environmental needs.
So for me – hey, young man. How you doing? He’s a little nervous about coming up too far. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.) What is that book? What is that book? (Laughter.) That’s a nice book. Look at that. It’s an animal book? Do you like the animals?
PARTICIPANT: Yeah. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: What’s your favorite animal?
PARTICIPANT: The elephant. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Look at that. It’s called – it’s called “Dear Zoo.” “Dear Zoo.” And it’s – but this is your book. I want you to keep this book because you have to memorize all the animals.
PARTICIPANT: Okay. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: All right, that’s great. Thank you very much. He is very outspoken. (Laughter.) I like that; it’s fantastic.
Now I totally lost my train of thought. (Laughter.).
No, I was about to talk about the special part of the relationship here, which we value really very, very much. I’ve met your foreign minister previously and I’ve had a chance to talk with folks from the government, and I know how much there is a genuine commitment to making democracy work. And you have elections coming up at the end of June, I think. So it’s not – it’s not easy democracy. We see that in every parts of the world. I think Winston Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for everything else. And if you stopped and think about it, governing is hard. Getting people to participate and make decisions is hard work. I want to thank every single one of you for the important work you’re doing here being part of that.
Mongolia has set a tremendous example by working with Burma, working with other countries – Afghanistan, with us, committed in Afghanistan. So Mongolia is making a contribution to global affairs and to the quality of life in a lot of other places and taking the lessons that it learned and trying to help other people to learn from those lessons.
So this is a country that is doing things much bigger than the 3 million people of the country or much bigger than its presence on the global stage over 25 years. It’s already having a very significant impact in that regard.
So my reason for being here today is to say thank you. I was with President Obama in Vietnam the other day and we had a chance to talk to the embassy folks there. And I think the President and I both feel very privileged to have a diplomatic corps and a embassy – an embassy presence all around the world that is staffed by such extraordinary local citizens and American nationals who are trying to help make a difference in the world.
So a profound thank you to all of you. I know you get more visitors here in June and July than in January. I can’t imagine why. (Laughter.) I know you have 16 hours of darkness during that period of time, but you really set a great example. You got China on one side of you and Russia on the other side of you, and there are always a lot of pressures. And here you are in this oasis of democracy, fighting for your own identity even as you hold on to great traditions. And I understand this afternoon before I leave I’m going to get to see a version of the games – a shortened version – some archery and a little horserace and – or at least the horsemanship and may – I don’t know if I get any wrestling. Is there going to be any wrestling?
AMBASSADOR GALT: I think so, yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: Think so? Okay, guys. I’m not wrestling. (Laughter.) I just want you to know.
But to every single one of you, thank you very, very much for being part of this great endeavor. We’re deeply grateful to all of you. Thank you so much, appreciate it. (Applause.)