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Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Meet and Greet with U.S. Embassy Personnel and Families

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Dakar, Senegal

U.S. Embassy

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  I wonder which music is that?  (Laughter.)  I’ve heard it before, but I don’t remember where.

But anyway, it’s my great pleasure.  I’m delighted to see you all here for this special occasion and to give a warm welcome to our guests this afternoon.  It’s indeed a pleasure for me and for all of us to welcome Secretary Antony Blinken, colleagues from Washington that you will see around, including among them our Assistant Secretary Molly Phee, who is over there (applause); a senior director at the White House for African Affairs, Dana Banks, who is here (applause); and my friend who tried to make me keep the Secretary on time, but I failed, is our chief of staff for the Secretary, Suzy George, who is somewhere.  (Applause.)  Oh, she’s over there.  Oh good that she’s far away; she’ll not be giving me the big eyes, then I can ignore the time here.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.

I’m really happy to welcome them to this, our beautiful embassy.  By the way, Secretary, this is located at what we call the Pointe – (in French) – la Pointe des Almadies, which is just here, and which is also known as the westernmost point of the African mainland.  So to Teams USA in Dakar and Bissau, I’m very proud to be working with you.  And indeed, I express my gratitude to you and your family members for all your work on behalf of the American people.  Our vision here has always been a safer and more prosperous United States of America, a safer and more prosperous Senegal, and a safer and more prosperous Guinea Bissau.

And our slogan – let me see where we remember – it’s one team, one mission.  As in one team.

AUDIENCE:  One mission.

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  There you go.  And we tell our Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean interlocutors (a) there is no Planet B – as in no Plan A, Plan B – no Planet B, (b) on this one planet that we have, talking about climate change, talking about prosperity, talking about everything, we are all in the same boat.  And what to do?  And therefore, if indeed we are in the same boat, we all need to row together in the same direction to produce results for the American people, the Senegalese people, and the Bissau-Guinean people

So let me hear it one more time.  One team.

AUDIENCE:  One mission.

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  Or in our language, in your language.  Hatchendo.

AUDIENCE:  Dorondo.

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  It’s not loud enough.  Hatchendo.

AUDIENCE:  Dorondo.

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  So as the saying goes, save the best for last.  So – and Secretary Blinken chose Dakar as his last stop for his first visit to the African continent.  Perhaps he heard about the Thiéboudienne, the delicious dumpling.  We just had some at the president’s – at the palace, and I saw him take a full plate.  (Laughter.)  I looked at this plate, I’m like, “What did you take home?”  And then maybe he heard about like teraanga.  I heard him also repeat that word, teraanga.  Or maybe he heard about something else.  Personally, I think that he learned that Youssou N’Dour released a new album this week and wanted to hear the true essence of Mbalax music before returning home.  And we heard that he likes music.  (Applause.)

(Music played.)

AMBASSADOR MUSHINGI:  Mr. Secretary, the microphone is yours.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s an impossible act to follow.  (Laughter.)  And I’m glad we heard some real music – (laughter) – because when we walked up here I was very concerned.  (Laughter.)

(In French.)  It is wonderful to experience firsthand the extraordinary hospitality and warmth of Senegal, of its people, of our colleagues, and it’s especially good to be with all of you.  Now I’m told, but I don’t know if this is right – but I’m told this may be your first post-pandemic, more or less post-pandemic gathering, so it’s great that everyone’s here in person outside together.  (Applause.)

And you have a great ambassador here.  (Cheers.)  And I should have said we have a great ambassador here.  (Cheers.)  Tuli, thank you for your four years of leadership here and for your many years of extraordinary service and leadership, service to the country.  We’re grateful for it.

And thank you to everyone here at Embassy Dakar for incredibly hard work over the last few years and especially, especially, for looking out for one another.  I know you’ve had virtual hails and farewells during COVID, you’ve got Locally Employed Staff Recognition Day in a few days, but let me start that by saying my own gratitude, my own recognition, for our locally employed team.  We could not do this without you.  You’re the lifeblood of this mission, the lifeblood of our missions everywhere in the world, and I thank you for it.  (Applause.)

Now, there are a few people I would like to mention and single out by name, and maybe they’re here.  Aminata Casse, there you are.  (Cheers.)  So you have done award-winning work recognized by President Macky Sall to improve Senegal’s firefighting capabilities.  Thank you for that (inaudible).  (Cheers.)

Tidiane Wone, are you here?  Where is Tidiane?  (Cheers.)  Ah, there you are.  Thank you for chairing the Locally Employed Staff Committee.  It means a lot.  We really appreciate that.  We appreciate your leadership.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And Ndeye Fatou Wilane, are you here?  (Cheers.)  Thank you for your wonderful work telling the story of Embassy Dakar, especially over the last year.  We really appreciate that as well.  (Applause.)

And finally, Adama Sembene, are you here?

STAFF:  She’s not here.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No?  Alioune Mody Ndiaye, are you here?  Well, let me simply say for both of them, 32 years of service.  (Cheers.)  That’s extraordinary and we are so grateful to have you as colleagues.  Please extend my appreciation to them.  (Applause.)

So we’ve had 60 years of diplomatic partnership, diplomatic relations with Senegal, and we just went through the multipurpose room with photos of every American president going back to President Kennedy with the leaders of Senegal.  And today I had a chance to see the incredible diversity and the strength of our relationship with Senegal.

We had, as the ambassador will tell you and will no doubt relate, a really wonderful visit working with our colleagues, including with President Sall, with the foreign minister, a commercial diplomacy event with the minister of the economy and American companies that are working on investments here in Senegal, very inspiring roundtable discussions with women technology and business leaders, a tour just now of the Institut Pasteur de Dakar, where we’re seeing cutting-edge work being done on vaccines now for yellow fever and eventually for COVID and other pandemics.

And that gets me to one thing I wanted to share with you.  I know that for people in this mission as well as for our missions around the world, this has been over the last couple of years a very difficult journey because of COVID-19.  And I know that you’ve recently emerged from a difficult third wave.  But I want to say thank you because you’ve kept going, you’ve supported each other, and you’ve helped Senegal’s COVID-19 response.

Now, I don’t know if they’re here, but Dr. Jay Lee and Omer Pasi, where are you?  (Cheers.)  You and your medical team have kept this mission safe with vaccines.  You provided accurate and timely information to all of our people.  I can’t thank you enough for doing that.

And Fama Gueye, are you here?  (Cheers.)  I understand you kept everyone connected.  And especially in challenging times like COVID-19, keeping people connected – thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Inaudible.)  (Applause.)

To those of you who helped facilitate the provision of vaccines to Senegal – more than a million so far – you’ve made a huge difference.  You have literally, literally saved lives.  Some of you helped to build up Senegal’s health systems, and those of you who helped ramp up vaccine manufacturing at Institut Pasteur, again, you’re making a real difference in people’s lives.

The other thing I want to talk about briefly is the work that we’re doing, that you’re doing, on commercial diplomacy, on investing in the future of this country and the future of our relationship.  We’ve got more American companies doing business here in Senegal than ever before, and that is only going to grow thanks to your work.  We’ve got the first direct Dakar-New York flight, and this embassy is hard at work driving more commercial diplomacy.  We signed a number of Memorandum of Understanding today with four leading companies that will help invest and grow and strengthen the infrastructure here in Senegal, and that’s going to make a difference in people’s lives too.

And they represent what I know Tuli likes to call the American model, deals that represent good jobs for the United States and for the people of Senegal.  So thank you very much to the economic team, the business team, for pushing that.

A couple other things to mention.  To all of you, you’re doing outstanding work representing our country here in Dakar.  We need to do our part at the State Department to make sure that this is the best workplace that it can be.  Last month, I put out a modernization agenda for the department, something we just launched.  And there are a few things that we’re going to try and do over the next couple of years.  We’re going to work to build our capacity and expertise in new areas, because so much of what you’re called upon to do in dealing with climate change, in dealing with pandemics, in building our economic relationships, so much of that depends on new skills that we want to make sure the department develops and that you develop.

We want to make sure that new voices are brought to the fore in thinking about and innovating in our policy, and we have new ways to do that.  We want to make sure that not only are we building but we’re retaining a diverse workforce, and that means addressing some of the quality of life and work-life balance issues that I know so many of you have.  We’re modernizing our tech, our communications, our analytical capabilities, and we’re going to be reinvigorating in-person diplomacy and public engagement because that’s at the heart of what you do, that’s at the heart of what we do.

The bottom line is this:  We want the department, this department that we share, to be as effective as it can be in the world, and we want you to have the tools and the support that you need to do your job as well as you can.

So as I said yesterday in Nigeria, we are looking to strengthen our partnerships across Africa, including here in Senegal, because this continent will make the difference on so many challenges and opportunities of our time.  You know this so well:  Over the next 25 or 30 years, one in four people on Planet Earth will be African.  Africa is part of our common future, and I want to make sure it’s part of our common present.  That’s what we’re going to be doing over the next couple of years.

And the work you’re doing here in Senegal is a vital piece of that effort.  So whether you started at the embassy last week or whether you’re into your third decade of service; whether you’re Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, a family member, a contractor; whether you’re here with one of the other agencies that work together as part of our family, I really just wanted to come by and say very simply thank you.  Thank you for the great work that you do on behalf of the United States.  Thank you for the great work that you do bringing Senegal and the United States together.  Thank you for your service to the American people.  I’m grateful for it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

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