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Reception Remarks at Our Ocean Conference

Location: Washington, DC

Thank you very much. I remind all of you that Winston Churchill said the only reason people give a standing ovation is they desperately need an excuse to shift their underwear. (Laughter.) He really -- he said that, I promise you. But I know you had a much more noble cause in mind. (Laughter.)

Anyway, I was really baffled standing up here for a moment. I'm staring at this elephant. I kept looking around for the donkey. I can't find the donkey in here. (Laughter.) Let's rectify that, don't you think? (Applause.) I'm an equal stuffed animal opportunity guy. (Laughter.)

I walked into the hold room back here where I had a chance to say hi to Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen and His Serene Highness and others, and at least they had the goodness to put us in a room where the sign above it said "mammals," so I felt right at home.

Wayne, thank you very much for not just your kind introduction, but thank you for making this extraordinary national asset of ours, this museum, available to this group, which has come together to fight for the preservation, if not survival, of our oceans. And we are deeply, deeply grateful -- very grateful to you, to Kirk Johnson, the director of the Natural History Museum, for hosting us here tonight in this remarkable place.

I also -- thank you. (Applause.) I also want to say a special thank you in absentia to Roger and Vicki Sant. So many of you know Roger and Vicki. They have been truly our patrons of all of our initiatives with respect to the ocean. And they couldn't be here tonight, but their daughter Shari is here, and I wish everybody would say thank you for what they have done to contribute so much to this museum's ability to be able to give millions of visitors a year a better understanding of our relationship with the ocean. Shari, please take back to your parents our gratitude. I don't know where she is, somewhere here. (Applause.) Thank you.

We're in for a great treat tonight. I'm not going to give a speech about the oceans, et cetera, but we are going to do a few special things. And one of them is master chef Barton Seaver has developed a terrific menu of entirely sustainable seafood for all of us to devour. And I understand that he first became interested in sustainable seafood years ago when he spent time in a small village on the coast of Morocco. And he learned about generations-old fishing methods that the locals were using, and he saw firsthand how they linked the local economy of that entire region to the ocean. This is what made him realize that sustainability is not only an ecological imperative, but it's a humanitarian one. And he will tell you a little bit more about that and the food that we will be eating tonight in a few moments.

We're also going to hear from Ted Danson. Ted reminded me a few minutes ago we met 25 years ago, I think he said. I thought it was slightly less. (Laughter.) But that's okay. I'll accept it. And we were talking about the oceans way back then. It was when he was beginning his efforts on the oceans, and he's a long-termer, long-timer at this effort.

We also got to know each other because Cheers was not too many blocks away from where I hung out in Boston. And on one occasion, I was walking by at night heading home. And the producers, they were shooting this scene outside, and I think Norm and someone were out there. I can't remember who else -- Cliff. I think Norm and Cliff were in the thing or something. But anyway, they stopped me on the way and they said, Senator, we got to put you in this thing. So we literally ad-libbed this thing on the spur of the moment. And they were hanging out outside and they had me walk up and they said, hey, can we get your autograph? And I started to sign the autograph very proud and peacocked because I was being asked for an autograph. And then they start talking to each other and say, God, we really liked that weather report you did the other day on the news. It was so terrific. (Laughter.) And then I said, who do you think I am? And they said, you're so-and-so, the local weatherman. And I said, no, I'm Senator Kerry. And they both shrug and walk away. (Laughter.) So it was a great lesson in humility, and the residuals have gone to a charity for years. But thank you, Ted, for helping me to support the charity. I'm very appreciative. (Applause.)

Ted has had, as everybody here knows, an extraordinary career. And he started out with his work to create the Oceans Campaign in 1987, and has provided consistent leadership. He provides leadership in Oceana to this day, and his deep interest in what has brought all of us together has made an impact, and we're grateful to him.

Right now, though, it's my privilege -- let me just say one quick word. I really want to thank again -- I said it earlier, but I think Cathy Novelli and our team have done an absolutely superb job of putting this together. (Applause.) And tomorrow we will not only have more vibrant discussion and I think the kind of interactivity and visual presentations that have been made have really sort of excited people and given us a reminder of what this is all about, and I wish every person in the nation could stop cold and see and hear all of it. But our job is to continue to do that over the course of these next months and years. But tomorrow it's important we really come together to do the action agenda. If we don't leave here with a sense of a plan and direction, shame on us, and I think we can do that.

I want to welcome someone who has been a friend and partner in the State Department's effort to champion ocean conservation at the international level, and that is the Foreign Minister of New Zealand Murray McCully. (Applause.) Murray and I have done a duet here in Washington before. We've had a chance to see each other along the way here and there, but I called him because I knew that as the steward of an island nation in the Pacific, he really has as good an understanding about this as anybody around. And like other island nations, New Zealand is obviously on the frontlines of climate change and the other challenges that are facing the marine world.

Murray has spent a career pushing for safeguards to preserve the ocean and to preserve the many species that are really unique to New Zealand's waters. And he and I have worked closely on the environmental priorities that we share, including our efforts to move forward a proposal that would establish the world's largest marine protected area in Antarctica's Ross Sea. And we will continue to do that. (Applause.) I am really delighted that he made the long trek here to Washington so he could be with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome with me my colleague, my counterpart, the Foreign Minister of New Zealand Murray McCully. (Applause.)

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