SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, John, thank you very, very much, and hello, everybody. It is wonderful to be with you virtually, and hopefully at some point soon in person. But thanks so much to our Charge D’affaires John Creamer – John, for your leadership and for that very kind introduction. I want to say thank you as well, to Yvonne Gonzales and Naomi Fellows, for their hard work as the control officers for this unique visit. I’m wondering exactly what kind of wheels up party you’re going to have, when I quote-unquote, “leave.” Maybe it’s a link-down party. We need to find some kind of new terminology for it. But I’m really grateful for all you’ve done to make this possible. And I really do wish I could be with you in person today, but I’m delighted that we’re pioneering virtual travel together.
With your help, we put together a strong itinerary for my first trip to Mexico as Secretary. We’ve got meetings with leaders across the Mexican Government, a virtual tour of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez port of entry. By the end of the week, I think we will have touched on many of the critical issues that the United States and Mexico deal with together: migration, security, economic growth, regional competitiveness, environmental sustainability. We could literally stretch this visit out for weeks and still have more issues to cover, because, as you know better than anyone, our relationship with Mexico is one of the most comprehensive we have in the world. And I very much agree with John, this really is one of the most important relationships we have with any country anywhere.
And that’s why I’m visiting Mexico during my very first trip as Secretary. The family, the cultural, the economic, the security, the political, the legal ties we have with Mexico are vast. And you, the women and men of Mission Mexico, are responsible for maintaining those ties every single day.
So I really wanted to just say one very simple thing at the outset, and that’s thank you. Whether you’re direct hire employees, locally employed staff, family members, whether you work for the State Department or for one of the many other U.S. Government agencies represented here from Treasury to the FDA to the DOJ, you are part of this mission. So thank you for serving the United States. And thank you for shaping and leading this complex diplomatic partnership, which is so vital to American interests, and maybe more than anything else, directly affects millions of American families, millions of American lives every day.
I have some sense from my past service that this work is often difficult. I know it takes sacrifice, and that’s in normal times. This past year has been particularly hard because of COVID-19. You’ve lost 21 colleagues to the virus, including contractors and local guards. That’s devastating. And I know that many more of you have gotten sick or seen loved ones get sick. So I want you to know that stopping this pandemic is our number one priority. Nothing matters more to me than your health and safety. That is job one. So I’m determined to do everything we can to make sure that all our Mission Mexico employees and eligible family members are vaccinated as soon as possible in every consulate across the country. I don’t think it’s a secret that there have been logistical challenges, but I want to tell you the administration is working fast, and we will give you as much information as we can as soon as we can as we make our vaccination plans and we execute on them.
We have to be partners in this every step of the way, and I’m determined that we move this as quickly as we possibly can. I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary work that you’ve done to keep this embassy functioning throughout the pandemic. Consulate General Monterrey managed to process more than a quarter million H-2 visas last year, and that in turn helps secure the U.S. food supply chain. Mission Mexico adjudicated more than 40 percent of all non-immigrant visas worldwide. That’s remarkable. Last time I was in Mexico as deputy secretary, I spent some time visiting with Consular Affairs, visiting with the American services folks, and I know what a remarkable job you’re doing every day, and again, in this pandemic, what was already a challenging task has become even more so.
You’ve ensured that critical manufacturing and service supply chains stayed operational. USAID kept its work going with farmers and communities in southern Mexico, helping them switch to more sustainable land management practices. And on the public diplomacy front, you continue to engage the Mexican public virtually. I know you do this work because you believe in it. It is more than a job; it is truly service. And I just want you to know that as Secretary, I will try to honor your service by doing all I can to support you.
I know that we have work to do as a department to rebuild trust, rebuild morale. We’ve got to do a better job listening to the women and men of State when formulating policy. We’ve got to invest in diversity and inclusion, and I know that’s a priority for this mission. More broadly, we’ve got to build a workplace culture of collegiality, teamwork, and respect. I am deeply committed to this work, and I want to be clear: It doesn’t just apply to the people at Main State. It applies to you and all your colleagues in embassies and consulates around the world. We are all part of this community, and I am incredibly proud to be your Secretary. So thank you again for helping make my first virtual trip to Mexico a success. I look forward to the day when I can be there in person, but mostly, thank you for your service to the United States.