George P. Shultz Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Secretary of State
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Well, it’s really a pleasure for me, personally, to be back and a real honor to take part in this dedication of this expansion, the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center. We’ve been looking forward to getting this scheduled and getting it done officially. So I am delighted that that day has come.
Many, many people contributed to this expansion from the architects and builders to the construction team and I thank everyone who created this beautiful and very useful space. Stephen Leeds, of course, oversaw this project from start to finish for the GSA. Under Secretary Kennedy found the money in a tight budget not only for new classrooms, but also for an expansion of the cafeteria, the visitor center, and the childcare facility. And of course, our own Dr. Ruth and all the FSI staff continued working during the construction, often working around the construction, to commit themselves as they do every single day to preventing – no obstacle to get in the way of their training of the smart, agile workforce that we need to fulfill our global mission. Providing high-quality, in-service training remains the charter purpose of the Foreign Service Institute.
But since FSI opened its doors over 60 years ago, quite a bit has changed. With the cutting edge technology that is now built into these rooms, FSI will provide first-rate training in language, leadership, trade craft, and technical skills that we need in the 21st century. Teachers instruct not only with whiteboards, but with SMART Boards. And I saw one demonstrated in an Arab language class when I was here last time. Students will connect wirelessly to the internet better than sometimes we can do in the State Department building. (Laughter.) Ken and I have this running debate about how difficult it is to get technology into old buildings and how difficult it is to use technology in many posts around the world. So I always have to remind him we have to keep looking for answers.
Officers will train in real time with colleagues stationed at posts worldwide through video conferencing. This is what we need throughout our government. I mean, to be honest, it’s not just State Department. Our whole government is behind the curve on using technology to increase interaction, expedite the work that we do. And I am delighted that FSI is leading the way. Now, just as important as the technology, is the physical space to accommodate the needs of our growing service. FSI once trained 3,000 students a year with a focus on orientation and language skills.
Today, of course, there are still the A-100 courses and the focus on language skills, but the curriculum has been widened in order to provide more of the education and training that is called for, including classes in public diplomacy and outreach, crisis response and stabilization, economic governance and democracy building, and preparation for high-stress assignments to the most difficult posts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. So now FSI provides this training to 60,000 students a year: Foreign Service, Civil Service, and locally employed staff. By adding nearly 100 classrooms, we will help ensure that FSI continues to provide the full training curriculum and the training experience. I mean, it’s not just what you learn in the classroom. It’s the interactions. It’s the space to be able to spend time and learn from each other, the mentoring that goes on.
And of course, today’s workforce is different from what was found 60 years ago. As late as the 1970s, women were required to resign from the Foreign Service when they married. Today, as part of this ceremony, we cut the ribbon on a major expansion of the in-house childcare center, which will make it easier for both mothers and fathers in the State Department to serve their country without sacrificing the commitment they should feel to their families.
So once again, congratulations to everyone who contributed to the successful completion of this project. To those of you who are members of FSI’s staff and training team or are students preparing for your new assignments at home or overseas, thank you for your dedication and your service. We are very proud of the men and women of the State Department and we’re very proud of the way that you represent the United States with strength and skill and, therefore, we will continue to support you in every way we can. It is a great honor for me to be the Secretary of State and have the opportunity that I do here in Washington as I travel to meet so many of our young officers.
And Ruth and I have talked about this. We are recruiting and training so many new contributors to America’s diplomatic and development efforts. And that really does call for all of us to be even more committed to good training because as the numbers go up, it may be tempting to say, “Well, we can’t possibly do all of this with so many more people.” But that’s one of the reasons why this expansion could not be more timely, because we not only can, we must provide the same high-level training that is adaptable to the situations we face and I have great confidence in the leadership and the staff, here at FSI, to do whatever is necessary to make sure that every man and woman who we send out from this training center is fully prepared to face the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
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