Transcript: Marie Yovanovitch Speaks at Georgetown, Gives Warning about State Department
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Thank you. I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by all of the tributes that I could never have imagined. Certainly from this distinguished roster of speakers and I'm overwhelmed that all of you are here and are giving me a standing ovation before I even say a word. And so I'm tempted to just slink away now because I don't know that I can do better than than that. But I do thank you for coming today. It is an honor. It's even more of an honor than I had imagined it would be.

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And at the outset, I want to thank Dean Hillman and also Ambassador Bodine for bringing me on as a fellow back in the straight spring and then sticking by me through a very difficult fall when frankly, I was nothing but trouble. I also want to thank Frank Hogan for heading up the trainer trust fund and ensuring that the practitioners of diplomacy and it is a very distinguished list and therefore diplomacy itself are recognized. And of course, a big thank you to Ambassador Pickering.

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A previous recipient, of course, of the three, your award, a State Department legend.

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You were and are a fantastic role model for me and for so many others. And working for you and Ambassador Burns in Moscow remains in many ways one of the most significant highlights of my career. And I still remember that Sunday, because on Monday afternoon when I came there, a lot of amazing things that we did during that time. And I owe an awful lot to both of you. Thank you. I also want to welcome my former colleagues who are here today.

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I think we all recognize that diplomacy is a team sport and every one of you has contributed to whatever successes I have achieved. So I thank you for that. And I thank you for being here today.

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And finally, in that reverse order, I would like to especially welcome all of the Georgetown students who are here. I know many of you are feature diplomats or you are going to be contributing to our national security and other meaningful ways. Take it from me. And I think many others in this room. There is nothing more gratifying than working for the American people, making the U.S. and the world more democratic, more prosperous and more secure. I believe that that those of us who Chote choose this life make a difference every day.

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And I remain grateful for the many opportunities that I've had over the course of my career. And for those of you who haven't yet decided whether you want to go to work for the American people, I'm hoping that tonight I can convince you to at least think about it. And if you're a student from another country, I want you to know I'm talking to you as well. You wouldn't be here at Georgetown if you didn't share the same commitment to principled service.

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And no country, including the United States, can go it alone and be successful over time. Partnerships and alliances are our strategic advantage and we look forward to facing a future together with you.

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I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself and why I decided to become a diplomat, because it was pretty unlikely. But many American stories are unlikely. And that is the beauty of America. I grew up in rural Connecticut and had an idyllic childhood, but my parents grew up during World War Two in Europe. And their experience of war, deprivation and loss influenced me profoundly. My father was born in Siberia in 1921. He grew up in Serbia in Russian emigre circles, was a German P.O.W.

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and ended up in Paris working as a handyman where he earned his green thumb and learned carpentry in just about any other skill in order to survive. Those were years of hardship and he really never talked about it very much. He eventually emigrated to Canada, where he put himself himself through university, including earning a master's degree by working at a chocolate factory. And when I was a kid, I loved the idea of my father as Willy Wonka, but I think the reality was a little bit different in Canada.

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My father met my mom, who had her own amazing backstory. Her father had fled Russia after the revolution and found refuge in viscardi in Germany. My mother grew up stateless, half Russian and poor. It was a precarious existence, especially when the Nazis took over Germany and World War 2 began after the war. The family emigrated to London, but their outsider status didn't really change. My mom continued her westward journey to Canada, where she met my father and where I was born.

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When my father got a job in the United States, we moved to bucolic Connecticut. And my exhausted parents didn't budge for 40 years. They never moved. Well, they moved to retire, but that was it. Like so many immigrants, they understood what a gift they received when they came to America. And they brought me up to believe that I needed to give back to repay that gift, that it didn't matter, that they had been scarred in ways that no one in our community could understand and frankly, that I couldn't really understand either.

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It didn't matter that we were living from paycheck to paycheck. What mattered was the future.

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And although my parents had their roots in Russia, which many of the people in this audience know is the home of pessimism. They were optimists. They kept on moving until they found each other. And then a place where they could raise their children in safety and with opportunity. It's actually a pretty typical post-World War 2 experience. And frankly, it's probably a pretty typical story today as well. My parents passed on their unwavering belief in the idea of America that all people are created equal, that they have inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that the U.S.

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government is of the people, by the people and for the people. That was such a powerful concept, almost a prayer when President Lincoln delivered those words at Gettysburg. When our nation was so divided. And one hundred years, almost a hundred years later, those words spoke to my parents. They had lived in countries where the people had to serve the government. So the promise of a government that serves the people meant more to them than perhaps to most.

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But they understood that to keep the promise of reality, everyone has to pitch in. And my parents did just that. They were both high school teachers and they helped raise generations of students who continue to be in touch, grateful for their example and their influence. My college experience reinforced everything my parents taught me despite the odds. I went to Princeton University on a scholarship. Our motto there was Princeton in the nation's service. That motto was inculcated in us from day one to graduation with a purpose.

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The message was that it didn't matter who you were or where you came from. If you were at Princeton, you were privileged and you needed to give back. And I would just say to everybody who is a Georgetown student. That same message is for you. If you are here at Georgetown University, you are so fortunate and I believe it's incumbent to give back. When I graduated, I took some detours and detours are good. They teach you lots of stuff.

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And I worked in three different advertising and marketing firms in Manhattan. It took a personality test and that's what they told me I had to be good at. And so that's what I did. And, you know, it was OK for a couple of years.

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But what I learned is that while I really liked a paycheck, money isn't really what motivates me. And on the day in 1983 that the U.S. invaded Grenada and none of my co-workers was interested, I knew I needed to find something different. So I went back to my high school goal of being a foreign service officer. My thoughts were inchoate, but I thought I could somehow contribute to greater security in the world. I loved the study of history and politics.

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I liked the idea of service, of giving back. And I thought it would be exciting. There'd be interesting people, new cultural experiences, travel around the world, great food. I was ready, more than ready. And I wasn't disappointed. I got all of that and more from Mogadishu to Moscow. So I joined the State Department in nineteen eighty six, the world that we knew then was shaped by World War 2, the rise of Soviet communism and the framework that we put in place to manage all those challenges to lifelong public servants had conceived the key pillars for the post-war order and did it by rejecting the to the victors belong the spoils mentality that had previously fueled almost constant war in Europe.

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In 1946. Ambassador Cañon, a career foreign service officer, outlined a strategy that would endure nearly 50 years to contain Soviet communism. And then in 1948, a career military officer, George Marshall, conceived of a generous peace for the recovery of Europe, much of which had been destroyed. The Marshall Plan financed Europe's reconstruction, bound us more closely to Europe and turned enemies into partners. These innovative measures, along with the establishment of economic and security institutions, created the conditions for the long peace in Europe.

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Now at seventy five years and counting.

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And although the Cold War dominated our foreign policy for the next 40 years, it turned out that the tyranny of communism couldn't compete with the ideals of democracy and the promise of capitalism. By the end of the last century, Soviet communism collapsed, bringing an end to an era. Thirty years on, though, it doesn't feel like the end of history as some had promised. It feels like now we have not just the nation state challenges of old, but also new challenges of terrorism, post-9/11, pandemics, global warming, the disorienting and dangerous effects of disinformation and the tension between a globalizing world and a trending nativism.

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And that's just to name a few. At the same time, our alliances are fraying. New powers are rising and that creaking sound. We can all hear. Those are the institutions of an international order under very severe strain.

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Without doubt, our international institutions need a reboot. They don't need reboot. We need to reform them to accommodate the challenges of the time. But the principles on which they were established remain our true north rule of law. Generosity of spirit and understanding that we are stronger together. And a commitment to put U.S. resources on the line together with others to make the world a more democratic, more prosperous and more secure place.

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Clearly, this is in the interests of other countries, but it is first and foremost in our own interest. These are the principles that guarantee the long peace in Europe after World War 2, and I believe they can keep us going for another 75 years. But we need to recommit to first principles, reassure our allies and send a signal to our adversaries, and no agency is more prepared to take on them that mantle than the State Department and its dedicated team of professional diplomats, many of whom are here today.

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The quiet work of diplomacy can be more effective and less resource intensive than just about any other tool in the governmental toolkit.

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To achieve this, we need to be engaging with our partners and peer competitors all the time, not just when it suits us. We need to tend the garden, as President Reagan's secretary of state, George Shultz used to say, so that the weeds don't grow and choke for the garden. It sounds so old fashioned in our high tech world, but diplomacy is about human interaction. And creating relationships of trust is more important than ever now. It's not as exciting as sending in the Marines, but it's cheaper and usually more effective in the long term.

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We have outsourced our work to agencies with greater resources and greater political clout in Washington for too long.

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It's important to allow the folks with regional expertise, experience, language skills and relationships to lead in our foreign policy and to allow other agencies to be able to concentrate on their own very important missions. We need to be principled, consistent and trustworthy. To be blunt, an amoral keeping guests in foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul, especially in our social media savvy, interconnected world. At some point, the once unthinkable will become soon inevitable that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self-interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners partners whose interests might not align well with ours.

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How one accomplishes that right balance between reforming old institutions and advancing our interests while respecting our allies and outpacing our adversaries is the art of diplomacy. There isn't a chart or a map laying out the way with every country and every problem. But if we stick to our principles and have a coherent foreign policy, we are on our way to making America more secure. But if we don't follow that path, our allies will merely tolerate us. Perhaps I don't need to be too.

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But perhaps even abandon us just when we need them the most in our increasingly uncertain times. We need a vigorous department of State. But right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills. The policy process has been replaced by decisions emanating from the top with little discussion, vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy, even behind closed doors.

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It's not news. The State Department is being hollowed out from within. At an at a competitive and complex time on the world stage. This is no time to undercut our diplomats with so many challenges, we need to double down on our diplomacy. And here are some thoughts on the way forward. First, we need to re-empower our diplomats to do their job. We can't be afraid to share our expertise or challenge false assumptions.

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Working off of facts is not the trademark of the deep state, but of the deeply committed state.

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In the words of Ambassador Hall, truth matters. We have learned this lesson once again with the Corona virus. Had Chinese authorities acted responsibly and immediately, rather than suppressing the information of Dr. Lee, who first reported the news. We might be in a different situation today. We need to be as mindful about U.S. political priorities and our own political environment as we are about the countries that we are in. There isn't always a lot of emphasis on that in the State Department.

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But here's the bottom line. We at the State Department won't be effective if we know all about what needs to be done abroad, but can't figure out how to get back at home. We need to build bridges among all agencies and also, and most especially with our co-equal branch of government, the Congress, our approach needs to change.

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We need to better explain what we do and why said that Congress wants to reinvest in diplomacy. Likewise, foreign assistance program, which is much in the news this week, a key tool of diplomacy needs to be fully resourced. It's not about a handout for foreign friends. It's about enlightened self interest. For example, it is hard to see how cutting the budget for the World Health Organization in the middle of the coronavirus crisis keeps Americans safer and our military colleagues war consistently that the more we cut the international affairs budget, the higher the risk for longer and deadlier military operations.

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When another agency is seeking funding for your agency, you know there's something going on. We need to build a constituency among Americans over the last few months. I have really received hundreds, perhaps thousands of letters from all over the United States from individuals thanking me for explaining what diplomats do. I am grateful for those letters, but they send me another metal message, which is that we need to be doing a better job of explaining our story in a democracy.

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We work for the people and the boss needs to know what we are doing at the State Department, why it's important and important to every American. We also need to do a better job at countering the disinformation that totalitarian regimes are spreading as well as communicating more effectively. Our American story so that foreign audiences better understand us. We need to continue to partner with interest groups and non-governmental institutions on diplomatic initiatives and projects. We champion civil society abroad. We should do more of it at home.

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And this also builds a constituency for our important work. We need to look at how we do our work. We need to look at where we do our work. And most importantly, we need to come to a consensus on what our work is. We need an overall and crucially a bipartisan foreign policy, but one that is flexible enough to account for the differences in each country and the different relationships with each country. History, culture, geography, not to mention economic and military clout.

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All of those factors matter. Our adversaries know this and groom their diplomats for years.

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We at the State Department are doing better, but we sent our diplomats out with relatively little training, hoping they'll learn on the job. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't. Our adversaries have timelines of decades and in some cases centuries. Our timelines, frankly, are bound by this election cycle. This budget cycle, we in the United States, not just the State Department, we in the United States need to play the long game in order to keep the peace and our prosperity.

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We also need to provide educational opportunities for diplomats, not just training, so that we can broaden our our outlook, deepen our knowledge, provide intellectual challenge and hone critical thinking skills that would better prepare individuals for leadership roles that require us, in the words of Ambassador Grossman, to peer around corners. We need to be able to get the jump on the next trends, the next crisis. The military does this. They do an incredible job of educating their senior officers.

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And I have never understood why we don't do the same. Because I think the dividends are clear. We also perhaps a little more prosaically, but equally important, we need to be more flexible about work arrangements to match the diverse family arrangements in 21st century America.

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Or we won't be able to attract top talent. And we need to be more flexible about how we conduct diplomacy. We need to be willing to take calculated risks. We need to be nimble. We need to be creative. We are not a department that is known for either of those two things. And while the principles of our tradecraft remain the same. There are innovations we should be considering to match the times and the challenges. The good news is that there is a lot of work going on in this area.

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The American Academy of Diplomacy, which I think is pretty well represented here, I can see produced a recent report on strengthening the Department of State. Chapman Cox Foundation is funding the American Diplomacy Project, a foreign service for the 21st century. I understand that there's also a new diplomacy caucus that has been formed in Congress. That's really important. And there are other efforts as well. This is all really promising because it's not a stretch to say that we're in trouble.

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I am still optimistic about the United States and the future of American diplomacy. Some people say I'm too optimistic and that maybe. But throwing up our hands is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Prophecy in these trying times. Optimism is no longer a default setting for many of us. It's a choice. I think back to Secretary of State Colin Powell telling us that optimism is a force multiplier. You know, we could be pessimistic and sort of give up unilaterally or we can believe in ourselves and in our country, do the hard work, make our own luck and hopefully prevail.

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We always have a choice.

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Recently, I had the. Recently, I had the privilege to be on the selection committee for the 2020 McHenry Global Public Service Fellows. And let me give Ambassador McHenry if he is here today. A shout out. Thank you, sir, for creating such a wonderful program.

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You'll be glad to know the essays were inspiring, each applicant was more qualified than the next. Every candidate ready to change the world for the better.

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I mean, it was it was just inspiring. And when I think about the students here at Georgetown, about the up and coming officers at the State Department, about the incoming entry class into the Foreign Service, which includes a bumper crop from Georgetown, I am again inspired. These are individuals who understand the challenging times we are in. They are realistic, but they're also smart.

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They're motivated and they are idealistic. And most importantly, they are, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt and Moshav Ondrej, the man and the woman in the arena. They are not giving up. They are committed to a career in public service to make this nation and the world more democratic, more prosperous and more secure place. How can we be anything but optimistic in the face of their inspiring example? And how can we do any less? I believe that this is a time for each one of us to pick our passion, whether it is in diplomacy or a different area.

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We all need to be contributing to making our community, our country, our world. The kind of place we want it to be. No one else will do it for us. So with that challenge, I want to say thank you for your attention and thank you for this great honor.

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Maisha, it's wonderful to be with you on this stage. Tom Pickering helpfully assured all of you that this is going to be the enthralling part of the program the next 20 minutes. And I must admit to feeling deeply inadequate right now because I'm not sure I'm going to be able to reach the Devon Nunez standard for enthralling questions. Marsh, it really is wonderful to be with you and congratulations on the train, your award. Thanks for your incredibly eloquent remarks.

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And rich family story. But thanks most of all for the dignity with which you have conducted yourself in these recent months. Well, the dignity with which you have conducted yourself in these deeply undignified times. I really can't imagine a better example of diplomatic professionalism or integrity than what you've given all of us. So thank you very much. So let me start with the obvious. This past year was probably the least expected and most challenging of all the 34 years that you have spent as an American diplomat.

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What about this past year? Gave you hope? What sustains you? Well, first of all, let me let me just say this is a through the looking glass kind of experience for me to have Ambassador Pickering, Ambassador Burns Hall, a full hall here at Gaston Hall and the Trainer Award. This is not anything I could have imagined. And so I think one of the things that has sustained me is the support of all of you. You know, when when you go through some things, you get say.

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I mean, you know, to fall back on cliches, you have to dig deep a little bit. And so I have tried to be grateful for the silver linings, which is that I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends. And, you know, one of the silver linings is that every friend, every teacher, every person I've ever known in my whole life has reached out to me over the last six or seven months. And that is, you know, just an incredible blessing.

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So that's that's been great. I think, you know, I don't think there's a magic formula for how you get through anything in life but faith, family, friends. And now that I'm retired, I decided to add a fourth F. Which is fun. Yeah. I will tell you that during that time, during some of those those times, I lost my sense of humor. But I'm glad I found it again, cause that is also very helpful.

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I would just say there's one other silver lining, which is that with all of the focus on Ukraine and I'm not one of these people who thinks that all news is good news, but with all of the focus on Ukraine, it has meant that there is continued bipartisan support for a strong Ukraine policy. And so, you know, I'm grateful for that as well, because I think that's important for Ukraine, but also for us.

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You've done a lot to help ensure that any kind of leads me to my next question, which is, you know, as you mentioned in your remarks, you entered the foreign service toward the end of the Cold War and then spent most of your wonderful career serving in the countries which emerged out of the Soviet Union, Russia and Armenia, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine. As you look at that experience now and reflect on it. What do you think American policy got right over the past three decades and that huge and consequential part of the world?

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And what do you think we got wrong? Well, how much time do you have? I think we got a lot right. Because I think that the message of America, the message of freedom, of democracy, prosperity is is a hugely powerful message that resonates not just with Americans, but all over the world.

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And I've seen that throughout my diplomatic career. And it is you know, we often talk about our military might and our economic might. And those are two huge resources we have. But really, I think it's our values that are the strength of America. And, you know, I think of Ambassador George Kennan, who you have written about in that book, The back-channel, which I mean, he he, too, talked about the values of America and how how potent that is in our foreign policy.

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And so I think that when all of a sudden the Soviet Union broke apart and you had 16 countries that were wondering what their path was. I think that we did move out with alacrity. We could have resourced it better, frankly, but we didn't do that with alacrity. And we made a lot of, I think, friends and created a lot of support for the United States. And that was important over time, and particularly when 9/11.

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So I think I think we did a lot right in in in that decade. I think, though, that sometimes we were not always great on the follow through. As I mentioned in my remarks, I think that U.S. timelines are very different from other people's timelines. You know, we want immediate results. We don't have patience to, you know, stick it out year in, year out and resource it year in, year out. When you think about where the United States was sort of 25 years, 30 years after the Declaration of Independence, you know, our country was a country in trouble.

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Jefferson was wondering whether whether the U.S. was going to make it. And I think about, you know, those countries of the former Soviet Union, many of those countries, particularly Ukraine, fighting a war with Russia, wondering whether they're going to make it. And I think because we are on our accelerated timeline, we think, you know, well, you know, why isn't it over yet? You know, do they really need to keep on, have a support?

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And I think that once we we need to stick with it. There needs to be more follow through then perhaps her husband.

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Well, so we're in a new era now, as you mentioned in your remarks. United States is no longer the singular, dominant player that we were. We're no longer the only big kid on the geopolitical block. And we're trying to navigate a much more competitive and complicated international landscape. Could you talk a little bit more about what you think that means for American diplomacy as you look at over the next couple of decades?

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I think it means that American diplomacy is more important than ever. I think that we need public servants, we need diplomats. When times are great, we need them even more when there are challenges. And I think that's when we can really shine and be added value. I think it means we need to upper game. We need to work harder, work smarter. And I think that really the most critical thing when I look around the world and, you know, talk to counterparts in other governments is.

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Making sure that we continue those relationships of trust with our allies and partners. That's obviously very important, but also our adversaries. It's important that when the US speaks, whether that is at the most senior levels or workaday diplomats, that what we say means something so that there is no misunderstanding. That's again, important with allies and more important with adversaries. And so I think that diplomacy is going to be more important than ever. I often admire diplomats from other countries that maybe don't have all of the resources of the US and the military right behind the diplomats.

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And all of that, I think is a Belgian colleague in Ukraine who I think it was him and maybe one other person. And he knew more about what was going on on the front lines than anybody else. And the reason he knew that is that, you know, on a shoestring budget, he had a cultural program and he took musicians to the frontlines and entertain the troops.

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Kind of a third experience, I guess. And that gave him access and it gave him information. And he was in a really good position to inform his government and influence events. And so I think that individual diplomats can do things like that. And we do it all the time. And the U.S. government. But at the end of the day, it also matters what our political leadership wants and what our foreign policy is.

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Another of the big challenges. And your story about the Belgian diplomat sort of hints at this in, you know, our experience in the foreign service over the last decade or so of our careers was managing risk. And, you know, especially after some of the tragedies that have befallen our colleagues overseas most dramatically in some ways in Benghazi, you know, risk aversion has become a huge challenge, especially in a lot of the places that you served, you know, our colleagues or former colleagues who are serving in, you know, as we speak this evening, how do you how do you balance, you know, risk, which is inevitable and what diplomats do to get out from behind the embassy walls?

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Yeah. And and I should say, just to be clear with everybody, that when we're talking about those risks, we're not only talking the State Department. It's it's all agencies. And I think certainly in my most recent posting, we managed a lot of risk and we did it because we thought that it was, you know, on balance, it was worth it.

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But I will tell you that as I told everybody to go forth, you know, I mean, I was wringing my hands like I am now because I mean, you don't you don't ever want to be responsible for a tragedy.

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But we need to take risks, because if we sit behind our desks, we're not actually we don't actually know what is going on in a country. And even if we stay in the capital, I mean, if you stay in Washington, D.C., you're going to know something, but you're not going to know everything or even very much about the broader United States.

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And so I think we do need to go forth. But I think it also requires the backing of, again, the political leadership that it's OK to take risk and that they will manage the if there is political fallout back home. But I think, you know, certainly when I came up in the Foreign Service, there wasn't, I think, an expectation that. That it. That there wasn't going to be risk and again, manage risk is one thing.

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You know, crazy cowboy risk, that's another thing. And that's irresponsible. And so you know how you manage it. Important.

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You know, Marsh, I think a different kind of risk that you also talked about a little bit in your remarks. You know, has to do with the disconnect. I think all of us see between the kind of Washington establishment and card-carrying members, you know, like me anyway. And a lot of American citizens who are concerned about what they sometimes see to be overreach and overinvestment overseas and under investment at home. And that's contributed, I think, to the flame of the old bipartisan consensus that you talked about.

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Talk a little bit more about what can be done to rebuild that sense of shared purpose. Because I think you have, you know, an unusually powerful voice right now that helped do that.

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Well, it's it's it's a good question. And I wish I had a good answer for it. I have been stunned by the letters that I've received from American citizens with all sorts of messages. But kind of one prevailing theme was, I don't know what you guys did. That's really interesting.

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And their own commentary on, you know, what was good, what was that? And so that to me has actually been really powerful, because I think the American people want to know they want to know what we're doing, what they're what we're doing in their name. And they they I think if we explain what we do, whether it is consular services, providing American citizens services, providing visas for their relative from another country, helping with adoptions, whether it's commercial services, and we all get that.

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But it's important to help American businesses as they navigate foreign countries and with their investments and with their businesses overseas and with trade. But I think less understood, perhaps, is what we do on the political side. Why is it important that we have reporting officers at embassies? Surely we can get that information from CNN or from Fox News. And with all due respect to to to the media, which does a very important job, I think, of illuminating crises and what is going on in the world.

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There is a lot in our function. We maintain those longstanding relationships, those relationships of trust.

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Some of it is behind closed doors and it is very, very public. And you can't do that by remote control. You can't do that for very, very far away. And I think that most Americans would understand that intuitively, if we want to say took the time. But if we made it a priority to explain our story and it's something I'm thinking about, how do we do that in an effective way?

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As you look back over the first 34 years of public service, because I hope there'll be more. What are you proudest of professionally? You know, not to sound like a complete egomaniac, but a lot of. And now I have to say a humble sentence. So I will. But it is true, which is that we do it together. And so I am proud of many of the policy initiatives that we had of the time that we've implemented over the years.

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But actually, what I am proudest of is the people that I've met along the way. The and I've you know, as I mentioned before, everybody I've ever known who's been in touch with me over the last month and it's been wonderful. And so reaffirming and kind of it's a little like going to your own funeral. People like share about it. I don't mean to make fun, but they they share how you've touched them, what you're what you've done, how you've helped them, etc.

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. Sometimes I had no idea. I mean, sometimes it was in a setting like this where I hadn't even met the person.

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And so I think that's what I'm most proud of stuff because times change, initiatives flourish or they falter.

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But what endures are the people in the State Department, the people in other agencies and the people that we touch overseas as well. And so their work, that continuation is really important.

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I think it's going to be a little bit of a Grinch. Sorry. I would love to let this go on. And I could go on. It would be fantastic. But you talked about communicating and talking to the American people. I like to open it up to questions from our students and our public.

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Those that we serve. So students, there's a microphone up there. I have lights in my eyes, so I can't see very well. Yes. And I know there's one upstairs or not. But if you have any questions. Oh, I know you're showing students you're not that shy. She's all inspiring, but she doesn't bite. And there are Mike. Yeah. There's a oh, there's a Mike there. Hi. Are you trying to ask a question?

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All right. You get it. Thank you.

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I was talking to you first. Yes. People in our early 20s. We have not had those experiences. We've grown up in the wake of 9/11. Some of us don't even remember it. And I just want to know how you think that we as young students in this new world order can carry forward diplomacy of our age.

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Well, I think I think everybody has their own experiences of what forms them, whether it's their parents' experiences, where whether it's where they went to university, whether it is other things that have happened in their lives. And I think you are. You are a part of this era. And so one of the things that I have found so interesting when I've come back here and conversations with students is that there's a really different perspective than I have.

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And my colleagues of my of my age, you not only remember 9/11, we were even before them. And so I I think you have lots to offer. And one of the great things about today is that you don't have to wait to offer it. There is social media. There are so many different kinds of initiatives. And, you know, I was talking about the mckendree essays, students of all ages who have done amazing things in their lives to to make the world a better place.

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So I think that it's not really.

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If I may, you know, for her for me to say what what you would do, but what is what is the thing that you are most passionate about? And how do you want to turn that into your contribution, whether it's a national security or in some other area? Ashley, thank you. He's one of my students. Thank you so much, Ambassador, for being here today, where I know we're also honored to hear you speak. And I wanted to ask you something.

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Ambassador Bodin, in her opening remarks, said that diplomacy is more than doing well or doing good. It's doing right.

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And if I might be so bold, it seems that you, more than many people in this room would know that doing the right thing is not often doing the easy thing.

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And I was wondering what words of wisdom you would get give students like us entering the foreign service, as Ambassador Burns said, in such dignified, undignified times on how to maintain the dignity and courage to do what's to do well, good and right even, or perhaps especially when it is hard.

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Well, I think that one of the things that really encourages me is that there are discussions about this now that maybe I was the sweep it FSI or something, but that didn't really happen. And actually, I work at FSI. It was a it's a great institution. It is. But I don't think that at least when I came into the foreign service. First of all, there was a foreign policy consensus across party lines and we knew what the enemy was and we knew what we were doing against it.

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And I think that, you know, first with with the breakup of the Soviet Union and then with 9/11 and then with more recent challenges, we don't have a consensus now. But I think that one of the positives of that might be that there are discussions about, you know, how do you how do you do the right thing? What do you do?

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And I think that one of the important things is to draw strength from, you know, not to sound completely like a Girl Scout, but that's kind of where we're at to draw strength from what you believe in, draw, draw strength from the Constitution, draw strength from your friends and family.

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When the first time I was in Ukraine, I was the number two at the embassy. And that was probably the biggest growth experience I ever had professionally, because every day I was just thrown a new challenge, no idea how to handle. And I mean, I would literally sit there at my desk and ask myself, you know, there are certain people I admire, including Bill and Tom, what would they do? And I would also ask myself, you know, the woman I admire most is my mother.

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What would my mother do? And, you know, the old New York Times test, if this got into the newspaper, would I be OK with it? I mean, it's not a very sophisticated test, but, you know, it is a test. So I I think, though, that what I found over this fall, that it was that at a certain point it is harder to do the wrong thing than the right. Thank you so much for being here, Ambassador.

[00:49:50.05]
I have a question relating to how the U.S. can carve out a foreign policy role in emerging nations. You know, as you were stationed in Mogadishu and you have experience with emerging nations like right now in foreign policy, there's a lot of consciousness about how the U.S. is carving out a role for itself, whether we're being neocolonialist whether we are oppressing countries.

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But, of course, there's a question of what role do we play when Russia and China are investing in emerging nations. What are your thoughts on how the U.S. can develop productive relationships with emerging nations and form the more equitable partnerships?

[00:50:26.08]
Yeah, that's a that's a really good question. I mean, I guess I believe in Bronnie diplomacy, one that gets out there, not just on the military side, not just in terms of our companies getting the best deals, although I certainly advocate for that, but also on the diplomatic side and on the value side. And the I mean, nation building kind of is a very freighted term. But, you know, countries often come to us and ask for assistance and sometimes they do it quietly.

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Sometimes they do it more publicly. And I'm not saying we get it right all the time, but at the end of the day, if if leaders come to you and say, how do we do this?

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If civil society members in that country are asking for advice and assistance.

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I think we should do I think we should help them. And I think we should help them for two reasons. First of all, because it's the right thing to do, because it would increase, I think, their prosperity and security and well-being. But secondly, it's in our interests to have allies and partners around the world. We never know where the next hot spot is going to be. And so, you know, as George Shultz said, you know, to be constantly tending the garden, to be talking with people in all parts of society, because one of the things I've also learned is you never know who's going to be president next rate talking about overseas.

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And so you need to keep those open lines of communication with with everybody because they'll teach you things. You'll have a better understanding and it just might be useful when a different party comes to power.

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So I probably know less about the theory and discussions that you're talking about with regard to emerging nations. But that's just my view, based on my experience with some of the countries have certain. What I'd like is for the next three weeks, as far as I can see, to ask your questions very quickly together and then that's going to be our wrap up. OK. Because we still have to actually give her an award for everything she's been doing. This is the trainer lecture at award.

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So we it had a little bit of time to actually give her her one.

[00:53:09.01]
I will be quick. Thank you for coming. I'm Jeff. I'm a senior in the School of Foreign Service. I want to ask you about recent events in Ukraine. You said that our relationship with our allies has to be based on on trust. Recent events, card events may have harmed that trust in Ukraine. Do you believe that it's possible to rebuild that relationship of trust in the near term, or are you worried that countries will get the message that, to coin a phrase, there's going to be political influence in foreign policy and that they should get used to it?

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Oh, yes. So when you're faced with fellow Americans who are skeptical of our presence abroad and possibly family members.

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What's the story that you reach to to convince those people that we need an act of diplomatic, civil society and military presence across the globe?

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Thank you. I will try and keep it short as well. Per your request, but I wanted to say thank you very much. I'm a graduate of the School of Foreign Service. And watching you over the past few months has been one of the few moments where I've really seen aspects of myself in my education out there in the world. And I've been proud to see someone do it in such a dignified way, regardless of how badly they were treated.

[00:54:27.09]
And in that vein, I wanted to hear from you about two pieces. One, would you say the hollowing out of the State Department that you mentioned? Is that. Is there any precedent for that? I don't recall really seeing that before and in that environment. What would you actually recommend for us to do? I sort of left my potential future in that area because of a fear of this sort of politicization of people that are really just trying to do their job and take care of their country.

[00:54:56.07]
Thank you very much. Thank you as well for coming today and for your service. I just wanted to ask you in I guess a similar vein as a couple of other questions that were asked for Americans who have started to see foreign policy as a zero sum game and is started to take on a mentality of America first. In that context, what would you say to those people to change their minds or to change their opinion to see that our foreign policy is not a zero sum game?

[00:55:33.03]
Thank you. Thanks a lot. I. These are all great questions. And again, I think I said before, I wish I had great answer hers. I think, you know, to to take the the first question first on Ukraine. I think that the Ukrainians are very interested in a strong and solid relationship with the United States. Ambassador Taylor has made the point consistently, and he is absolutely right that that our support is Ukraine's greatest strategic advantage.

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And the Ukrainians know that. And so they are interested in continuing a strong relationship with us.

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I mean, we all saw that Secretary Pompei was there recently, that that is a good thing. Our bilateral assistance continues. We have the embassy working there and humming along. But, you know, there's no question that there are are some strains there. And I'm particularly mindful that the president's wolinsky several months ago in an interview with Time magazine, he basically said, you know, I'm not I'm not relying on any country. You know, we need to go it alone.

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And, you know, the fact of the matter is that most countries, in fact, I would say all countries can't do it alone.

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I don't believe the US with all of our advantages. All of our power and resources can go it alone for long and be successful.

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That's why we have built up this network of alliances and partnerships in all areas, whether it's security, economy, political all over the world, because we understand that.

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So Ukraine, I think, understands that as well. And I think we'll continue to reach out to the United States. And thankfully, as I mentioned before, there continues to be a bipartisan consensus about supporting Ukraine and supporting Ukraine vigorously. And I think that's important for Ukraine. And I think it is vital for us and our interests because the Russians are testing us there and we need to pass that test in terms, of course. Now, I can't read my own writing.

[00:57:58.01]
The hollowing out of the state. I mean, I guess what I would say there is that the State Department has had its highs and its lows over over the decades. You know, I think of McCarthyism as a particular blow. And that is obviously not not a an era that we would ever, ever want to revisit.

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But I think that the way that one ensures that the State Department becomes the vigorous department that it needs to be in order to advance our interests is.

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I didn't work there or to work on those issues to support it, because, as I said before, we can throw up our hands and sort of give up and say that, you know, it's all too hard and depressing, which it may be. But I think the only the only thing we can do really is to roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work, because I think this country needs a robust foreign policy. It needs diplomats that are ready and capable.

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And we just need to go forth.

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And so I would encourage you perhaps to rethink the decision of whether you want to put yourself to the side, because, again, just echoing Teddy Roosevelt's men and woman in the arena. I think we all need to get in there and fight for what we believe in in terms of foreign policy is a zero sum game. Obviously, I I believe that we can kind of have that kind of foreign policy, but.

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And we have certainly had it in previous centuries, not just the United States, but other countries as well. But I'm not sure that it got us to a more secure or more prosperous place.

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And that is why the the really innovative measures that Marshall and Kennan undertook were so incredible, because I think not only those two individuals, but the allies realized that if we had the same kind of peace after World War 2 as we had after World War 1 and Vici, that we were gonna get the same results all over again. And so very courageously, they took the step of pouring money into Europe and, you know, and Japan and Korea as well.

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And we can see the results where those countries were rebuilt.

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First of all, the longest peace ever in the history of Europe, number one.

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Secondly, many of these countries now are are I mean, all of them comparatively are prosperous, democratic and strong allies of the United States.

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That was such a good investment back in the day in 1948 and in the years thereafter.

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I mean, it was visionary. And so, you know, I think when we think about zero sum, we could have put Germany and Japan back in a box. We could have somehow monitored all of that. But the result probably would not be the kind of world that we see today. So I'm not really a big believer in Zero-Sum. I think that we need to work together with like minded allies, perhaps not on every single issue. And in the end, that's better not only for them, but for us.

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And that's certainly what I think all of us have dedicated our careers to. And I hope many of you will as well. Thank you all. I think if I actually do take one one word from this this remarkable hour and a half plus that we've had, it was you have a choice. And I think that was the most powerful. You know, you can be pessimist. You can be an optimist. You have a choice. So thank you.

[01:02:34.00]
We did say this was an award. And I know that in the middle of everything else that's been going on over the last couple of months, which would be enough to keep everybody either busy or with the covers over their head.

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But you're also renovating your house and you have recently retired and are thinking about your your next life.

[01:03:00.07]
Hopefully, as a continuing non-resident fellow at ISB, wanted to give you something that you could use in your newly renovated house, something that would help you in your reflections on what you've been doing and what you might go be doing going forward. And so the award is if you're actually sitting in a.

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I didn't think of that coming. Thank you. And actually, you know, the small typo, your name's on the back. Oh, we're gonna fix a typo. Actually, that means it's very authentic because it's an original item because your name is. But anyway, letter I said in the beginning that we were so proud of you and what you represent and who you are. And this has been the most remarkable afternoon that I think anybody has had in a very, very long time.

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You have done Trainer Proud. You have done SFE proud. You've done the service proud. And you have majors done yourself very proud. So thank you very much.