Ambassador John Heffern’s Swearing In Ceremony Remarks

Thank you Deputy Secretary Burns for those kind remarks.  I also want to thank President Obama and Secretary Clinton for nominating me for this position and the Senate for confirming me.

I am excited to be here.  I am especially excited to have so many family members, including Kit, Kathy and Katie who came in from out of town, and many friends here to share this special occasion.

Serving the United States as a Foreign Service Officer is what I have always wanted to do.  Many people helped me make it here, but first and foremost is my wife Libby, without whom none of this would have been possible.  The fact that all five of our children have done so well in this life is a source of immense pride for Libby and me.

I have had some of the smartest and best bosses in the business:  Ivo Daalder, Nick Burns, Lynn Pascoe who is here today with his wife Diane, Cameron Hume, Toria Nuland, Sandy Vershbow.  All of you have made a huge contribution to my professional development.  And I thank you for it.  (More about you Lynn Pascoe in a minute.)

The Bureau, so ably led by Assistant Secretary Gordon and his team, is truly the best bureau around.  And my predecessor, Masha Yovanovitch, you are an inspiration for me and a hard act to follow.

Finally, thanks to you, Ambassador Markarian.  You have already taught me, Tatoul, a great deal about your country.  I look forward to working with you and your team both here and in Yerevan.

Deputy Secretary Burns noted my long-standing interest in being the U.S. Ambassador to China.  There is a specific reason for this.  My 88-year old mother, who unfortunately cannot be here with us today, is a naturalized American from India.  She married my father during WWII, after which they went to China together. I owe my interest in Asia and in the world to their many stories about China and India.  My father, now deceased, and my sister, Sandy, who also passed away recently, had a special interest in my FS career and would have loved to share this day with us.

So now for a Lynn Pascoe story.  Lynn recruited me from P staff (where I was working for the other Burns) and brought me to Jakarta as his DCM.  After a few country team meetings, he called me to his office for a chat.

“John,” he said.  “You’ve come to a long way to Jakarta from Washington.  You had a big job on that Seventh Floor.  I can see that you have that diplomacy by demarche mentality, he said.  Let me offer you another approach.  Let me tell you the instructions that I received  directly  from Secretary Rice.  She gave me one simple instruction.  She said, “Help Indonesia succeed.”

Help Indonesia succeed.  What a simple and straightforward instruction, both positive and powerful.

While no one so far has explicitly given me this same instruction for Armenia, everyone I have talked to in the Executive Branch, on the Hill, and in the American-Armenian community, shares this same positive approach.

We all want Armenia, such an important partner, with shared values and so much in common with us, to succeed.

So I am going to adopt this approach.  I want to do whatever I can to help Armenia succeed and to advance our mutual interests together.  There are at least three areas where we can contribute:

  1. Help Armenia overcome regional isolation via reconciliation with Turkey and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  2. Expand economic ties, via trade and investment, to improve opportunities for both Americans and Armenians.   and
  3. Finally, we can help Armenians prepare for national elections in 2012 and 2013, building on positive political moves earlier this year.

Before closing, let me tell you about the five Heffern children, who have thrived in the Foreign Service life.  Lisa did Peace Corps in Gambia and she and her husband, Ryan, want to teach overseas.  Lucy works on tropical rainforests in Indonesia.  Sarah has worked at National Geographic, the Smithsonian and now at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Woody recently completed a one year coral reef research cruise from Malta to Singapore, and Alley, still an engineering student at Virginia Tech, plans to join Engineers without Borders when she graduates.  So thanks Heffern kids for doing what you do.

Next week, Libby and I will be off to Armenia – a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia with a history and culture that lead back to antiquity.  As I have already said, I am very excited about this new opportunity and I look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead.  Thank you so much for sharing this day with Libby, with my family and with me.