AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's so great to have you all here on an early Sunday morning. And it's a real treat to have our Secretary of State John Kerry with us. He's been on an amazing schedule. He started this particular trip first in what -- Istanbul, then Jerusalem, Ramallah, then back up to London, and then to Seoul, Korea, here, and then in a few minutes, he'll be taking off for Japan. Then he goes back to the United States to testify before his former colleagues on the budget, and then at the end of the week you're off on another international trip. So we just don't know how you can maintain that pace and that stamina. But we're so glad that you're our leader.
For all of you kids here, Secretary Kerry -- I still want to call him Senator Kerry -- but he served in the United States Senate for almost 30 years -- for the last five years as the Chairman of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee. But he's here.
On his very first day when he was Secretary of State, he walked into the building with his diplomatic passport from the days when he was 11 years old, because his father was in the Foreign Service and he also had his diplomatic passport. And we've heard about the tale in which you went in to the Soviet sector of Berlin using your diplomatic passport, and they somehow let you in and let you back out. (Laughter.) Secretary Kerry, we're just so pleased to have you here. And we're so delighted and proud to have you as our leader.
Secretary Kerry is perhaps better prepared for this position than any other Secretary that we've had in a long, long time -- from day one. Because he served for 30 years in the United States Senate on the Foreign Relations Committee for almost 25 of those years, and Chairman of that committee for the last five, so he know all the issues that the State Department is dealing with and especially here in Beijing. And I have had the pleasure of knowing Senator Kerry since 2004. We spent a lot of time in Ohio. If we had spent just a little bit more time in Ohio, we might have been able to pull something off -- (laughter) -- and we would be referring to him by a totally different title. But ladies and gentlemen, it's our distinct honor and privilege to have the leader of our great State Department and just a very distinguished statesman and a great servant and patron the United States of America, Secretary John Kerry. (Applause.)
CHILD PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY KERRY: What? You've got something to say? (Laughter.)
CHILD PARTICIPANT: I went to Japan.
SECRETARY KERRY: Come here. Come here. You've got to tell me this. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
CHILD PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) tries to say that I was born in Japan.
CHILD PARTICIPANT: I was born in Japan.
SECRETARY KERRY: You were born in Japan? (Laughter.) (Applause.)
CHILD PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Is that your little brother?
CHILD PARTICIPANT: Yeah.
SECRETARY KERRY: It is?
CHILD PARTICIPANT: Yeah. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: He's got to put up on (inaudible). (Laughter.) Well, good morning, everybody. It's really a great pleasure for me to be here. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very, very much. Mona? Where's Mona here. Thank you. How about a big cheer, everybody? Ambassador Gary Locke. (Inaudible.) Thank you very, very much. (Applause.) And Bob Wayne (ph) your (inaudible) for what you do very, very much we appreciate it. And I think we ought to have, getting up in the morning on Sunday awarded for all of you. (Laughter.)
I'm just amazed you all came out here on a Sunday morning. And I know some of you even traveled -- not easy to travel. And I know you came some distance to come here this morning. So I'm very, very grateful to you all for doing that. Thank you very, very much. And I want you to know what a pleasure it is for me to be back here. The importance of the visit yesterday really can't be overstated. I don't want to overstate anything that we did or didn't do, et cetera. But this is a critical time and needless to say being able to speak directly with our Chinese counterparts and try to focus on some very critical issues is of major importance. And I want to thank every single one of you who had anything to do with helping to put the visit together. I know it's a big logistical challenge. So thank you, everybody who was part of that.
I also know this is a pretty complicated operation here. You guys have 2,094 employees representing 40 different agencies of our government -- various entities from disease control to the Congress department, Justice Department, and so on and so forth -- military. It's no small task. And what you're doing is representing the United States at one of the single-most important posts in the world today.
China is a great power. It is now. Some people try to project into the future, it is the world's second largest economy already, and just by virtue of the numbers of people and the size and the rate of growth, it is inevitable that in the next years it will be the largest economy in the world. One of the most important things we want to do is make sure that we are sharing. The United States welcomes China's ability to be an important player, and we simply want to do things together in a way that makes sense for everybody. We're not looking for a competitor, we're not looking for an adversarial relationship. As you know in the work you do, we want to try to be partners. Every single one of you here -- and these aren't just words, I mean this -- every visa that you give you adds up. Sixty-five visas equal one job in the United States of America. And believe it or not, you gave out enough visas last year to create 20,000 jobs in the United States of America. (Applause.)
And you have proved -- it used to take 100 days to be able to provide and interview. Because of your efforts, not because we added people, but because you were creative, because you responded to our requests and Gary's leadership, I think we're now taking three, four days -- three days to be able to do an interview to get somebody a visa so that they can travel and come to the United States and create one of those jobs. Thank you. You all deserve a huge applause for yourselves. You really have. Spectacular work.
And I want to -- I was about to say that each of you is an ambassador in your own right. And I mean it. I can't tell you how many times when I was a senator I would go home and somebody would say to me, Hey senator, thank you so much for writing up that letter, that personal response to you wrote to me. And I would work very hard with my staff to make that our letters did have a personal touch to them. But the reality is that you can't do every one of them. So it makes all the difference in the world to people because every letter you respond to, every phone call that you pick up, every time you talk to somebody and have one of those interviews, you are perhaps the only contact that person will ever have with the government, or the most important moment they'll figure out that they care about me or they don't care about me. They respond to me or they don't. So I just want to say thank you on behalf of President Obama, on behalf of everybody in the State Department -- it's a huge family as you know -- thank you for working together across disciplines, across agencies, coming together as an enormous team.
Now I also know that sometimes if you're like a lot of people I've known in the Foreign Service or over the years the 30 years -- 29 years I was in the Senate -- sometimes I talked to people and they'd say I don't know if anyone's listening to us. Or I don't know if my work product is really getting through to them, making a difference. One of the things I really want to work to do as Secretary of State is make sure we try to break down some of the walls of bureaucracy and see if we can get more direct input, contact and giving people feel like what they're doing they know is feeding in and everybody's being listened to and part of the process.
But I really want to thank you for working in all of these different disciplines. We have -- I think it's something like 900 or so folks -- 700-800 folks who are direct hire by the United States. But that means we have an enormous number of local hires, of the Chinese to work with us, and third country folks who work with us, as well as civil servants, as well as people from those various departments. So whatever department (inaudible) wherever you come from, I want to thank you.
But I also want to share with you, when I -- Gary referred to the time when I was a little kid, when I first was a Foreign Service brat -- (laughter) -- no you guys are all great, don't worry about it. And I remember very, very vividly sort of making this transition from school and home into this new world and I didn't know really where I was in many ways. And everything was new -- the language, the culture, the food, the bedding, you name it, it was different. But I'll tell you as I look back on it, folks, I wouldn't have it any other way. Because the experience of being able to be exposed to other people, other cultures, learning history -- living history -- which is what you're doing -- will serve you for the rest of your lives no matter what you choose to do. It's a very special thing.
My final comment to you is, we live in an age where regrettably it's not without risks. So I want to thank you for being able to be on the front lines of diplomacy. Just the other day in Afghanistan, as all of you know, we tragically lost young Foreign Service officer who I, ironically, had met only a week and half, two weeks earlier because she was part of my control team when I visited Kabul, Afghanistan. Anne Smedinghoff was 25 years old. She was full of enthusiasm, full of energy, a wonderful young Foreign Service officer who wanted to change the world, and who did change things in the brief time that she was given to do it.
Every day that we get up, we get to go out and try to change the world. We get to take values -- the values of freedom, the values of opportunity, of respect and dignity, human rights -- and we get to offer those to other people and I can't think of a better way to wake up in the morning or a more challenging thing to work for than what we are privileged to do as Americans. So thank you for being part of the State Department family, and I want to get a chance to visit with all these kids and say hi and take some photos. God bless you all. Keep fighting, keep working. You keep my back and I'll have your back (inaudible). Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)