Secretary Kerry and his dog, Ben F. Kerry attended the Take Your Child to Work Day ceremony at the State Department today. Secretary Kerry said he wanted to “take a moment to maybe answer any questions that some of you have, which is always very, very dangerous – (laughter) – and could put my entire job at risk.” So the Foreign Service kids get to ask their parents’ boss a few questions during the Q&A:
When do you have time to relax?
What do you do as your job?
Why do you have to wear suits to work?
Is it fun being Secretary of State?
When did you get your dog?
Is this your first time being Secretary of State?
What is your favorite sport?
What inspired you to be the Secretary of State, and what age did you decide?
How tough was it to become what you are?
Do you like to do chores?
You can add all these questions to an 11-year old’s who apparently asked Secretary Kerry, “Who are you and what do you do?” See video here. Click here for the transcript.
Last week, there was a Burn Bag submission we posted on the many losses in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ engineering staff. We’re republishing it below, as well as reblogging a post from The Skeptical Bureaucrat. Maybe this would help save the State Department leadership from having to say later on that no one made them aware of this issue.
We’re actually considering sending a love note to the 7th floor. Something like, “Hey, subscribe to Diplopundit. You may not always like what you read but we’ll tell you what do not always want to hear.” Or something like that.
On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t. They might decide to go back to just Internet Explorer and then all of our readers there won’t be able to read this blog ever again. In any case, here is that burn bag submission, repeated for emphasis:
Is the State Department leadership aware that there have been many losses of OBO [Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations] engineers in the last 18 months, leaving more than a 20% deficit (OBO words via email, not mine) in engineering staff, with more contemplating separation? Does it care?
Diplopundit’s Burn Bag entry about OBO’s losses in engineering employees made me think back to the retirements and resignations I’ve noticed among my good friends in Overseas Buildings Operations over the last couple years. Yeah, I think there is indeed a pattern there.
A demoralization among OBO’s engineers would kind of make sense in the context of OBO’s overwhelming focus on Design Excellence, or, to use the new name for it, Just Plain Excellence. (The word “design” was dropped from the program’s name about one day after the disastrous House Oversight Committee hearing in which OBO’s Director and Deputy Director were severely criticized for favoring artsy & expensive embassy office buildings over functional & sensibly-priced ones.) In a Design Excellence organization, the architects are firmly in charge and the engineers will always play second fiddle.
According to the Burn Bag information, OBO has lost about 20 percent of its engineering staff. There is substantiation for that claim in the current USAJobs open announcement for Foreign Service Construction Engineers, which says OBO has “many vacancies” in that field:
Job Title: Foreign Service Construction Engineer
Department: Department Of State
Agency: Department of State
Agency Wide Job Announcement Number: CON-2015-0002
MANY vacancies – Washington DC,
A Foreign Service Construction Engineer (FSCE) is an engineer or architect, in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations working specifically in the Office of Construction Management, responsible for managing Department of State construction projects overseas. The FSCE is a member of a U.S. Government team that ensures construction is professionally performed according to applicable plans, specifications, schedules, and standards. The FSCE must adhere to the highest standards of integrity, dependability, attention to detail, teamwork and cooperation while accepting the need to travel, to live overseas, and when necessary, to live away from family.
Those vacancies are for permanent, direct-hire, Foreign Service employees. In addition, there were also personal service contractor vacancies for OBO engineers announced on Monster.com five days ago. That one is looking for General Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, and Civil/Structural Engineers.
Why isn’t there also a need for Electrical Engineers? After all, you can’t spell Geek without two Es.
It looks like engineers are indeed exiting OBO in large numbers. Why that is, I can’t be sure. But I have to think it is not a good thing for my friends in OBO.
Sources tell us that William Miner, the director of the OBO’s design and engineering office was one of those who left in the last 18 months and Patrick Collins, the chief architect retired in January this year.
The USAjobs announcement cited by TSB does not indicate how many vacancies OBO plans to fill. In addition to the open vacancies for Foreign Service Construction Engineers, USAJobs.gov also has one vacancy for a Supervisory Engineer (DEU) and one vacancy for Supervisory Architect (DEU). The monster.com announcement linked to above includes full-time, non-permanent-temporary non-status jobs with initial 1 year appointment renewable for 4 years. All must be able to obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance. Oh, and relocation expenses will NOT be paid.
A 2013 HR stats indicate that OBO has 81 construction engineers including 10 who are members of the Senior Foreign Service (SFS). Those numbers are, obviously, outdated now. And we’re not sure what “more than 20% deficit” actually means in actual staffing numbers. But if we take a fifth from that HR stats, that’s about 16 engineers gone who must be replaced not just in the staffing chart but also in various construction projects overseas.
Even if OBO can ramp up its hiring the next 12 months, it will still have the challenge of bridging the experience gap. A kind of experience that you can’t reconstruct or replicate overnight unless OBO has an implantable chip issued together with badges for new engineers. Experience takes time, time that OBO does not have in great abundance. Experience that OBO also needs to rebuild every five years since in some of these cases, the new hires are on limited non-career appointments that do not exceed five years.
According to OBO, the State Department is entering an overseas construction program of unprecedented scale in the history of the bureau. What might also be unprecedented is OBO engineers running out the door in droves.
Why is this happening? We can’t say for sure but …
We’ve heard allegations that an official has “run people out of the Department with his/her histrionic behaviors” and other unaddressed issues in the workplace that have generated complaints from staff but remained unresolved.
There are also allegations of “poor treatment” of OBO employees and families while in the Department or even when trying to separate.
One commenter to the Burn Bag post writes about problems within the Department of “an extreme lack of planning which will have caused our children to attend three schools in three countries just this year alone.”
Another commenter writes, “I know it’s TRUE, because I recently departed. Somewhere along the way OBO decided that Design Excellence meant more architecture and less engineering.”
Foggy Bottom, you’ve got a problem. People do not just quit their jobs and the security that goes with it for no reason. Somebody better be home to fix this before it gets much worse.
QUESTION: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal. These are diplomatic statesman types. Do you guys have any reaction to that? Do you think they were fair?
MS HARF: Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized. And we’re having conversations with other senior officials. We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn’t, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives. And that conversation will certainly continue.
QUESTION: Okay. So one of the things they say is that “absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony” in the region. Not true?
MS HARF: I would obviously disagree with that. I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon. That’s what this deal does.
QUESTION: Back when —
MS HARF: And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently. I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics.
QUESTION: Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren’t enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty. And I think that’s what the point is they’re making. That you reject, it, I understand that. One of the —
MS HARF: Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest —
On that same day, conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt had NYT’s David Brooks as guest and was asked about the Kissinger-Schultz op-ed, and the State Department’s official response to it. Click here for the transcript: Below is an audio of the exchange.
HH: David Brooks, this is the critique of the critics, is that we don’t have a lot of alternatives. In fact, every critic I’ve heard has alternatives, and I’m sure Kissinger and Schultz do. But a lot of big words? Really?
DB: Are we in nursery school? We’re not, no polysyllabic words? That’s about the lamest rebuttal of a piece by two senior and very well-respected foreign policy people as I’ve heard. Somebody’s got to come up with better talking points, whatever you think. And of course, there are alternatives. It’s not to allow them to get richer, but to force them to get a little poorer so they can fund fewer terrorism armies.
William M. Todd, apparently a friend of the Harf family reposted the Daily Caller story on his Facebook page with a note that says: “Team Obama bans polysyllabic words !!”
Here is the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson on Mr. Todd’s FB page.
Marie HarfBill – I’m not sure how you could think this article accurately portrays me or how I view complicated foreign policy issues, given how long you’ve personally known me and my family. Does your hatred of this administration matter so much to you that it justifies posting a hurtful comment and a mean-spirited story about the daughter of someone you’ve known for years and used to call a friend? There’s a way to disagree with our policies without making it personal. Growing up in Ohio, that’s how I was taught to disagree with people. I hope your behavior isn’t an indication that’s changed.
She also posted a lengthy follow-up response here from the Daily Press Briefing.
William M. Todd responded on FB with the following:
I certainly can understand why your Team would disagree with Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on policy matters. However, what is amazing to me was your condescending and, almost childish criticism of what I considered to be a well-reasoned and thoughtful op-ed on the current Middle East crisis.
So, this is where we are people.
That’s potentially the next official spokesperson of the United States of America to the world.
The April 2015 issue of State Magazine includes the 2014 Foreign Service promotion statistics: a “modest decrease” in overall promotion rate it says:
Due to the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI) and Diplomacy 3.0 hiring efforts, Foreign Service hiring surged in the first decade of the 2000s. These employee cohorts are currently moving into the mid-ranked positions and above, intensifying the competition between employees for promotions. Although the total number of promotions increased to record levels over the past few years, the overall promotion rate decreased as the total number of promotion-eligible employees increased more rapidly. As a result, the overall 2014 promotion rate for all eligible Foreign Service employees experienced a modest decrease to 21 percent, compared with 22 percent in 2013 and 24 percent for the five-year average.
Yup, not only is this behind the great firewall, they put it in the “Sensitive But Unclassified” page so they can yank anyone who wants to pass this information out to us or anybody who is in the public sphere.
Last year, somebody in Secretary Kerry’s staff told us he’d take a look and see what can be done. That’s the last we’ve heard of it and follow-up emails just went into dead email boxes. To this date, we have not learned of any legitimate reason why the detailed breakdown on gender and race in Foreign Service promotions are protected information.
In order to represent the United States to the world, the Department of State must have a workforce that reflects the rich composition of its citizenry. The skills, knowledge, perspectives, ideas, and experiences of all of its employees contribute to the vitality and success of the global mission. Our commitment to inclusion must be evident in the face we present to the world and in the decision-making processes that represent our diplomatic goals. The keys to leading a diverse workforce successfully are commitment and persistence. Delivering strong and effective action requires every employee’s commitment to equal employment opportunity principles. To that end, I pledge that at the Department of State we will: Propagate fairness, equity, and inclusion in the work environment both domestically and abroad…
But that commitment apparently does not include publicly sharing the Foreign Service promotion statistics by gender and race.
The question is why? Why is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) demanding that our diplomats self-certify that they have not committed a felony within the last seven years? The form says “disclosure of this information is voluntary.” But also that “failure to provide the information requested may result in delay or exclusion of your name on a Foreign Service nomination list.”
Career members of the Foreign Service must be promoted into the Senior Foreign Service by appointment of the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. This self-certification is reportedly also required for employees who are up for commissioning and tenuring at the Foreign Relations committee.
So basically in bullying our diplomats into signing this witless self-certification, the SFRC will be able to provide better advice to President Obama?
All Diplomats Must Hold and Keep Top Secret Clearances
The American diplomatic profession requires the issuance of a security clearance. All Foreign Service officers must hold and keep an active Top Secret security clearance.
The personnel security background investigation begins after an individual has been given a conditional offer of employment and has completed the appropriate security questionnaire, usually a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, and other required forms. Once the security package is received by the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, it is reviewed for completeness. National agency record checks and scanned fingerprint checks are then conducted. A case manager will direct the background investigation to cover key events and contacts from the individual’s past and present history. Once the investigators have completed a report, highly trained security clearance adjudicators will weigh the results against existing adjudicative guidelines for security clearances. A critical step in the background investigation is the face-to-face interview the individual will have with a DS investigator. This interview usually occurs within a few weeks of an individual submitting a complete security clearance package. Security clearances are subject to periodic reinvestigation every 5 years for TS clearance, and every 10 years for a Secret clearance.
When there is derogatory information, even based on preliminary facts from a DS criminal investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterintelligence or other law enforcement investigation, or an Inspector General investigation, the security clearance is suspended. Personnel whose security clearances have been suspended may not be placed on temporary duty status at diplomatic facilities abroad and may not be retained in positions requiring a security clearance until the investigation is resolved.
The names of those with pending investigations are automatically removed from the promotion list. It goes without saying …. oops, maybe it does need saying — diplomats who have pled guilty or convicted of a crime will not be able to hold a security clearance, much less have his/her name included in the promotion list.
Let’s give you an example — Michael Sestak, an FSO who pled guilty in a visa fraud-bribery case. He is currently sitting in jail. He’ll be sentenced in April. When he comes out of prison, he will not/not have a job to return to at the State Department. Does anyone at the SFRC really think that somebody like Mr. Sestak can slip through federal employment again, get on the promotion list and somehow make it through the most deliberative body in Congress. No? So why would anyone in the Senate think that this self-certification is anything but idiotic?
8,042 Diplomats Targeted
On March 2012, fcw.com cited 2,102,269 as the total number of executive branch employees. Of those, however, only 1,877,990 are full-time, permanent employees. These numbers reportedly do not include uniformed military personnel, or data on the Postal Service and excludes legislative and judicial branch employees.
Out of the 2.1 million employees, the State Department has a total of 71,782 employees which includes 47,110 Foreign Service National (FSN) employees; 10,871 Civil Service (CS) employees and 13,801 (FS) Foreign Service employees as of December 2014 (see stats here-pdf.)
Of the total 13,801 Foreign Service employees, 8,042 are considered “Generalists” and 5,759 are “Specialists.” The “Specialists which include DS agents, and HR, IT professionals are not subject to Senate confirmation. The “Generalists” are the Foreign Service Officers whose tenure and promotion are subject to confirmation by the United States Senate.
The Senate majority in the Foreign Relations Committee appears to be targeting only Foreign Service officers. FSOs, and FSOs alone have been asked to self-certify that they have not been “convicted of or pled guilty of any crime” in the last seven years. As far as we are aware, this requirement does not extend to nominees who are political appointees.
What makes career diplomats special, pray tell?
The White House Knows About This? You Gotta be Kidding.
This self-certification form which is not available at OPM.gov and does not include an official form number says that “The information collected and maintained in this form will be used as part of the vetting process for Foreign Service Lists submitted to the White House for eventual nomination to the Senate.”
An informed source told us that this self-certification had been negotiated between a representative of AFSA, a staffer at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the State Department.
No, there were no photos.
Apparently, there also was no White House representative involved, although you might missed that when reading the unclassified State Department 14 STATE 98420 cable dated Aug 12, 2014, which says in part:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) now requires additional vetting before it considers nominees for confirmation in all of the above-mentioned categories. Effective immediately all employees in those categories who have been nominated on or after April 1, 2014 must file a self-certification form certifying that they have not been convicted of a crime or pled guilty in any court over the past seven years, regardless of whether the record in the case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record. HR will notify those employees who are up for commissioning, tenure and SFS promotion that they must submit the form, available at: [Note: we redacted sbu link]and which must be submitted to HR-PasSelfCertificat@state.gov.
Please note: failure to submit the form will mean that HR will not/not forward your name to the White House for nomination to the Senate. There is no waiver of the SFRC requirement. For those individuals who are unable to make the certification, and wish to provide information relevant to any conviction or guilty plea in the last seven years, they may report the information in the space provided on the form. Further investigation may be made on the basis of any additional information provided. The Department may then be required to provide this information to the SFRC.
AFSA and the State Department must realized that this is a meaningless and coersive made-up document, but both rolled over and played dead. No other nominees of any agency of the U.S. government are obliged to sign such a certificate, which is essentially, again, meaningless in the context of a profession in which an active security clearance is a prerequisite to the performance of a job.
The SFRC can hold up ambassadorial nominations, senior State Dept level nominations (undersecretaries/assistant secretaries), and decide who to put first on the hearings list and who to put last (see Happy Easter Greeting: SFRC Left Town With 19 Ambassadorial Nominations Still Stuck on Glue!). The simple act of holding up large numbers of nominees rather than passing them through at a reasonable pace wreaks havoc on State’s budget, assignments process, and people’s lives. (see Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?) Salaries, promotions, transfers, offices, authorities are money. Ambassadors who do not go to posts on time have big time resource implications in addition to political implications. People who do not have the legal authority to do their jobs (is a consular officer’s notarial legal if he/she did not receive Senate confirmation?) operate in a legal limbo presumably implying risks of all kinds.
click image for larger view
Why not ‘just do it’ like Nike? It’s already done but it’s a horrible precedent, what’s next?
This is already being done. Folks have already signed this self-certifying documents and have submitted them as a requirement to their nominations. They don’t really have a choice, do they? But where does it end?
We’ve learned that the SFRC gets information on names recommended for promotion from the State Department “following vetting” and also directly from the OIG, including information that reportedly goes back decades.
That’s right, going back decades.
If an FSO or any employee is charged with a crime, the employee defends himself/herself in court, and if charged with an administrative matter, the employee defends himself/herself in an HR process. That’s how it works.
One SFRC staffer is now reportedly “negotiating” to gain access to OIG investigative data under the guise of allowing the Senate panel to better advise President Obama concerning the qualifications of Foreign Service Officer candidates. But what the SFRC is now “negotiating” with State and AFSA would be access to raw OIG and Diplomatic Security reports containing derogatory information without any of an employee’s mitigating, exculpatory or defensive evidence information. You okay with that?
What is Senator Corker’s SFRC going to ask for next, your diplomatic liver?
The White House seems asleep at the wheel on this. Today, it’s the State Department, tomorrow, it could be any agency in the Federal Government.
Hey, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is doing it, what’s the rest of the Senate going to ask for next?
On March 17, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs announced that U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced H.R. 1368, the No Healthcare Subsidies for Foreign Diplomats Act of 2015, legislation to prevent foreign diplomats from receiving subsidized health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the Department of Health and Human Services, foreign diplomats and United Nations employees in the United States are currently eligible to obtain American taxpayer-funded subsidies under the ACA, such as premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, just like American citizens and lawful permanent residents. By contrast, U.S. diplomats overseas do not depend on foreign taxpayers for health care coverage, relying instead on domestic health insurance plans that provide overseas coverage.
Chairman Royce said:“After a year-long investigation, the Obama Administration finally came clean about the fact that foreign diplomats are eligible for taxpayer-funded health care subsidies. This is unacceptable. Americans’ tax dollars should not be used to foot the bill for foreign diplomats’ health care coverage. I am pleased to reintroduce this legislation and look forward to working with Chairman Ryan to pass this commonsense reform.”
Expresses the sense of Congress that foreign diplomats should be allowed to purchase health insurance coverage in the U.S., but the cost of that coverage should be borne by their sending States;
Expresses the sense of Congress that U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize the health insurance expenses of foreign diplomats;
Amends the Internal Revenue Code to make foreign diplomats ineligible for health insurance premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions under the ACA;
Requires the Secretary of HHS to certify to Congress that no foreign diplomats are receiving such benefits under the ACA; and
Requires the Secretary of State to notify all foreign missions in the U.S. that their personnel are ineligible for these benefits under the ACA.
The Committee says that initially, it sent a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting information on the arrest and the eligibility of foreign diplomats receiving government-funded medical benefits. In January and April of 2014, the Committee also sent letters to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding foreign diplomats’ eligibility to receive Obamacare. In a response on September 30, 2014, HHS confirmed foreign diplomats’ eligibility for government subsidized healthcare. In October of 2014, Chairman Royce and former Chairman Camp wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen seeking information about how many foreign diplomats have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act and have received subsidies.
The HHS response to the eligibility of foreign diplomats under Obamacare notes the following:
[F]oreign diplomats’ eligibility to participate in the Health Insurance Marketplaces is governed by the Affordable Care Act, which speciﬁes that, in order to enroll in a qualiﬁed health plan (QHP) through the Marketplace, an individual must: (I) reside in the state that established the Marketplace; (2) not be incarcerated, other than pending the disposition of charges; and (3) be a United States’ citizen or national, or a non-citizen who is lawfully present and reasonably expected to remain so for the entire period for which enrollment is sought. Non-immigrant, non-citizens in the “A” and “G” visa classiﬁcations are lawfully present for this purpose, if they have not violated the terms of the status under which they were admitted or to which they have changed after admission. Accordingly, to the extent that a foreign diplomat who is a non-immigrant under an “A” or “G” visa classiﬁcation and who has not violated the terms of the status under which he or she was admitted or to which he or she has changed after admission resides in the state that established the Marketplace and is not incarcerated other than pending the disposition of charges, he or she would be eligible for enrollment in a QHP through the Marketplace. The Department does not collect data on the number of foreign diplomats who participate in the Marketplace.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Ambassador Arnold Chacon oversees the Bureau of Human Resources (M/DGHR). The Bureau handles recruitment, assignment evaluation, promotion, discipline, career development, and retirement policies and programs for the Department’s Foreign and Civil Service employees.
DGHR Chacon was sworn-in by Secretary Kerry as the new Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DGHR), at the Department of State on January 8, 2014. Excerpt below, see the full remarks here:
The Department’s diversity, like our country’s, makes us stronger, not weaker. I will be the director general for all of the State Department family – Civil Service, Foreign Service, locally employed staff, family members, contractors, interns, detailees, and yes, Mr. Secretary, even Ben the diplo-pup. (Laughter.)
I will also ensure that our family reflects America in all its magnificent variety and represents every corner and every face of our great nation. Our mission is to recruit, retain, and sustain exemplary employees who advance our values, interests, and goals. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the essential thing to do if we’re going to navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century and make the most of new opportunities.
I’m also pleased and humbled by the presence today of so many friends and colleagues who share my desire to make a difference in people’s lives. I think of myself as a protege of a unique generation of accomplished and trailblazing diplomats – in particular, Ambassadors Cresencio Arcos, John Negroponte, Alan Solomont, Kristie Kenney, Harry Thomas, Ruth Davis, Skip Gnehm, Ambassador Perkins, and Sally Cowal. It has been my good fortune to have been mentored by such exceptional individuals who gave me career-enhancing opportunities and helped me become the best that I could be.
On February 23, 2015, the State Department announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Today, Secretary Kerry hosted a welcome reception at the State Department to commemorate the announcement. Click on the image below to view the video of the welcome remarks by Secretary Kerry, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) and Special Envoy Randy Berry:
Randy Berry, LGBT Special Envoy at Welcome Reception on February 27, 2015 (click image to view video)
I am well aware how lucky I am to be standing here before you today with such amazing and comprehensive support networks, not only professionally but also personally. I’m joined here today not only by my sisters, Rita and Rhonda from Colorado, but also by my husband and my fellow global traveler, Pravesh Singh. Pravesh left his native South Africa nearly a decade ago not only to join me, but I think he really didn’t realize he was also joining a larger family, and that is the Foreign Service, a family bound together in service to the United States. He’s as much a member of the United States Foreign Service as I am, and I am very pleased to say that post-DOMA, when we move here from Amsterdam in early April, he will move home as an American citizen. (Applause.)
Pravesh and I do not share a common culture, nor do we share a common religion, nor do we share a common race. As much as it pains me to say this, we don’t even share a common decade – (laughter) – really. What we do share, however, is love, and that love has built a good and happy life and a family that now includes our exceptional – (laughter) – our exceptional young children who are normally so well behaved – (laughter) – Arya and Xander. Yet as I say that, I think all of us in this room recognize just how unbelievably fortunate we are, for in far too many places around the world not only is this type of story impossible, but additionally, great and terrible injustices are visited on people like us.
This love still stands ground for imprisonment, harassment, torture, and far worse in too many places around the world. That is a violation of human rights. It is a violation of human rights by the standards set forth by many of our allies and partners around the world, and it is a violation of human rights by the standard of the universal declaration. We can and we must do better. Lives, futures, hopes and dreams depend on that, and that is why we’re here today. That’s also why this type of role is needed.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 2015, after the Secretary stopped by a gathering to thank Embassy employees and a Department-based task force for their work to safely and successfully evacuate the Embassy after the suspending operations and temporarily relocating staff out of the capital of Sana’a. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]