William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 14, 2012

Thank you. It is truly an honor for me to be here, surrounded by so many outstanding colleagues.

Let me start by recognizing the donors who are here today—the Cobbs, Frank Loy, and Gwenn Gebhard—whose generosity allows us to truly reward our honorees for their outstanding work—as well as the families of Ambassador Robert Frasure and Barbara Watson, in whose names we are presenting awards. I would also like to offer a special thanks to Mrs. Rita Salzman and her family, who so kindly doubled their support this year for the Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance.

I also want to take a moment to recognize all the families that are here today. My wife Lisa and I met in A-100 three decades ago. We have lived our lives together in the Foreign Service and have raised two wonderful daughters, so I am keenly aware of the sacrifices that you and other Foreign Service families make. We work long hours, we serve far from our homes and our friends, and at times, we put our lives at risk. It’s a demanding lifestyle—not just for us, but for our families. And without your support, patience, and understanding, no one of us would be here.

I feel humbled to be standing here amongst 32 of our very best in the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Foreign Service National corps. You represent diplomacy at its finest and demonstrate that great diplomats can do much more than hold their own at the negotiating table. Great diplomats are innovative, they’re intrepid, and they’re endlessly dedicated. They work beyond embassy walls. They help create jobs and promote trade. And they venture out to the most war-torn corners of the world to act as enduring forces for peace.

I wish I had the time to tell each of your stories, but in order to keep this brief and so that you can move on to the more important work at hand—receiving your awards—I’ll share just three examples that I think illustrate what great diplomats like you are capable of.

Recent events have provided a tragic reminder to us that our highest priority is the safety of our men and women serving overseas. No one knows this better than Gail Cooper, the Office Management Specialist for the Regional Security Office at our Mission in Sarajevo. Last October, as our Embassy in Sarajevo suffered a brief attack, Gail sprung into action and served as a one-person ops center for the post. She worked with Washington and others involved to give regular updates on the situation, coordinated outreach to make sure embassy personnel were safe and accounted for, and eased the fears of understandably concerned family members. In a chaotic and frightening time, Gail was an island of calm. So today, we’re recognizing Gail as the office Management Specialist of the Year, not only for her superior office management abilities, but also for her leadership in the midst of a crisis.

Joshua Glazeroff, Consul General New Delhi, is compassionate and perceptive -- a combination of qualities that make him a consular officer of the highest caliber. A few months ago, when a gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Josh took charge to help the friends and relatives of those who were slain travel to the U.S. to grieve for their loved ones. Josh was put in an extremely difficult position—he had to strike the balance between helping make a tragic situation a little less painful without making the visa process any less rigorous—and he pulled it off. Today we recognize Josh’s outstanding contributions with the Barbara M. Watson Award for Consular Excellence.

Farah Naz joined Embassy Islamabad more than 25 years ago as an administrative assistant in the Health Unit. Today, she supervises a staff of 56 at the Embassy’s Warehouse—and she’s the first woman to ever serve in that role. Last year, Farah was at the helm of a massive transition that involved moving warehouse operations from one facility on the compound to two separate facilities, off-campus. To make it happen, Farah coordinated with local police, crane and moving vendors, the Regional Security Office, a local guard force, and other agencies to move fifty 20-foot shipping containers filled with goods worth over $53 million from one side of town to the other. And she did it efficiently, cost-effectively, and with a calm, confident smile. Today, we are recognizing Farah’s decades of hard work and dedication as FSN of the year for the Bureau of South and Central Asia.

Our posts around the world have a larger than life mission. They work every day to help transform societies, promote stability, and bring democracy and prosperity to the far reaches of the world. The degree to which we’re able to deliver on this promise is only as good as our people. And the stories of every awardee in this room today prove that we’re making that promise a reality, because our people are exceptional.

So on behalf of the President, the Secretary, and all your colleagues and admirers here in Washington and around the world, I thank you for a job extraordinarily well done. The contributions of the Department have never been more vital to the well-being of the United States and to hopes for peace and prosperity around the world. And you continue to make us proud every day.

Thank you.