Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton at Meeting With the Staff and Families of Embassy Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan–(ENEWSPF)–April 17, 2011.  

AMBASSADOR ROOS: I will be very brief. First of all, I want to welcome the families who have begun to come back. Welcome home. And the Secretary has been hearing throughout the entire day what a phenomenal job all of you have done to bring us to this point. (Applause.)

So, it is my distinct pleasure and honor to turn the microphone over to Secretary Clinton. Thank you so much for coming. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, John. Thank you. It is wonderful to see all of you. And I am especially honored to be here with you today. I want to thank all of you, not only those of you here in Tokyo, but our friends and colleagues at our consular offices throughout Japan. I am so proud of you, and I am so grateful for the extraordinary service that you have rendered to this country and to our relationship, and everything you have done since March 11th.

I want to thank the ambassador and Susie. Thank you both for your leadership, for your dedication to the team here and to offering all the help that we could provide to Japan. I want to thank the deputy chief of mission, both Jim and Anne. Thank you for everything that you have done.

It is a special privilege always for me to come to our embassies around the world as I am traveling, to express appreciation. But today it is an extraordinary opportunity to look at those of you who have led this mission and our response. Thank you for working day and night to care for U.S. citizens in the midst of this crisis. Thank you for coordinating a massive mobilization of assistance for one of our closest allies at their time of greatest need. Thank you for being the face of America at our best.

It is almost unimaginable, what Japan has gone through over the last five weeks. If you were to rewrite any of the manuals about what to do in a crisis, you would write about an earthquake, you might write about a tsunami. Now we will write about nuclear reactor crises. But all three, this multi-dimensional crisis of unprecedented scope, is something that no mission anywhere has ever had to cope with before.

I also know that, for some of you, the earthquake and the tsunami were personal. Some of you lost homes or possessions or belongings. They were not images on a screen for you, as they were for the rest of the world. This has happened in a country that you care so much about that truly is your home away from home. And I particularly want to say a word to all of our locally-employed staff. We are with you and with the Japanese people. We will do whatever we can to provide support to you in the weeks and months ahead. But we have every conviction that Japan will recover, will be stronger for having gone through this extraordinary time. And we will be with you as we have been during the weeks following the crisis.

Even before the earthquake, this mission was one of our most important in the world. And each of you has been instrumental in strengthening the friendship between our countries. You have continued working through everything. And I know that some of you walked miles to get here when the trains were not working. I know that you are living through rolling blackouts. And I know that you have carried out your duties with high spirits and focus. Everyone back in Washington is honored to have each of you as our colleagues.

I want to applaud all of the TDYers from other U.S. missions who dropped everything to come to Japan from Nigeria, Canada, and all other places across the world. I want to thank our USAID colleagues, who have been in the forefront of responding. I want to thank all of our other U.S. Government agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Energy Department, Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control. You were instrumental in helping all of us understand the complex situation at the nuclear reactors, and also helping our Japanese friends deal with this, as they had to make tough decisions. It is really a credit to our country that we have a government full of dedicated public servants, eager and ready to go where they are needed.

I also want to thank U.S. forces Japan, all the soldier, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have contributed to Operation Tomodachi. The stories that I have heard about what you have accomplished are simply remarkable. I talked today earlier at the foreign ministry about clearing the rubble at Sendai Airport, the work on the island of Oshima, just on and on. What you have done is so appreciated by the Japanese people.

And I also know that the — having your families back is a very big deal. And we were delighted to change the travel advisories on Friday to encourage Americans, once again, to travel to Japan, to do business here, and to be part of helping in any way we are able to do.

This has been a tough time, and I know it has been a challenge for our mission. But when I was saying to the deputy chief of mission how hard I know it was, he said, “Well, this is why I joined the foreign service.” And I am sure that everyone — foreign service, civil service, other parts of our government — feel the same way. This is why those of us who do public service do it, because we feel we can make a real difference. And hearing that makes me very proud to be your Secretary of State.

Now, the weeks ahead will be very busy. And we are going to have a lot to do to try to figure out the best way to assist the government and people of Japan. And I hope each of you will convey to your families how much we appreciate them. We are grateful for their service, as well. They answered phones, they fed our 24-hour task force volunteers, they helped organize orderly, authorized departure. They sent encouragement and reassurance from afar. And we are delighted that now so many of you can be reunited.

So, for me, it is an honor. I wanted to come as soon as I could, certainly to show our solidarity and sympathy with the Japanese people, but also to express my pride in everything that you have done and are doing.

So again, John, thank you for your leadership. Thanks for trying to improvise as we went to figure out what we could do next, and to get good, accurate information on which to make decisions. We were very much in your corner, and that is where we will remain.

So, thank you all very, very, much for serving this country that we all love, and for serving this relationship that we all value so much. Thank you. (Applause.)