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Luncheon Remarks at Our Ocean Conference

Location: Washington, DC

Good afternoon, everybody. Please sit and quietly continue to eat, for heaven's sakes. (Laughter.) We don't want anybody starving on our watch here. Thank you for what I thought was a terrific start this morning. I caught some bits and pieces as I was in between calls and it really seemed engaged and engaging, and I'm grateful to everybody for their early seizure of the mantle of responsibility here on this.

I know you're all looking forward to hearing from our keynote speaker. I just want to take a moment to welcome everybody to the Ben Franklin Room of the State Department. I don't know how much how many of you know about Ben Franklin, a fascinating man. It is unknown to many people he actually was the first kite surfer. He used to -- (laughter) -- so help me God, he used to use this big kite he had to tow him across Boston Harbor. And he was always out in the harbor swimming robustly. He was very, very energetic, raised part of the time by an aunt down on Nantucket Island long before he became affiliated with Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and so forth. But he, today obviously, would have an extraordinarily hard time getting confirmed by the United States Senate if you know anything about him at all. (Laughter.)

It's a great, great honor for us to welcome, as our luncheon keynote speaker, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. I want to begin just by congratulating -- we have a chance to meet and talk for a little while here this morning privately, and one of the things we talked about was the fact that he is the, as I mentioned this morning, only head of state who's been to both the South Pole and the North Pole, the Antarctic and the Arctic. And we talked a lot about the Arctic and Antarctic because the United States assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year, and we're already beginning to think hard about that agenda, which will be even more critical given some of the things we're talking about here today. So I wanted to thank him for his leadership in making those two journeys, which are an important statement about his commitment.

The second thing I wanted to do was publicly congratulate him and Princess Charlene on their expecting their child sometime in December, I'm told. So we're all delighted with that news. (Applause.) I don't know if it's a boy or girl, but I know that this child is going to be born into a family of distinction with a long history of caring about the planet. And that's what brings us all here today.

Ben Franklin also was well known for his famous work, "Poor Richard's Almanac." There are a lot of wise words in that almanac, but particularly I want to underscore the importance of what he said when he said that "When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." Thankfully, when it comes to the issue of the ocean, we've all made a decision we're not going to wait that long. And Prince Albert obviously has not. He has spent his career doing whatever he can do to protect the ocean. Just six years ago when the Mediterranean Bluefin tuna stocks were in serious trouble because of uncontrolled fishing, Prince Albert was among the first people to bring the issue to the world stage and call for a solution to protect the species.

In 2009, when scientists first began to discover that carbon pollution was dramatically disturbing the chemistry of the ocean and causing it to acidify, Prince Albert brought together a group of 150 scientists from more than two dozen countries to alert policy makers around the world about the troubling findings. Thanks in part to his commitment and sense of urgency, last year the International Atomic Energy Agency established a new international coordination center in Monaco in order to better understand the global impacts of ocean acidification.

And today I am pleased to announce that the State Department will be making a $320,000 contribution to the center this year, and the Department of Energy will match that contribution with another 320 of its own for a total of $640,000 in order to help kick the acidification study into even higher gear. Together -- (applause) -- together this will bring our total contribution to the effort to date to almost a million dollars. And we have long considered Monaco a critical partner in the effort of protecting our ocean, thanks to Prince Albert's leadership, everything from acidification to marine protected areas. I think we can safely say together that the cooperation between our countries and between all of us together in this effort coming out of this conference will only grow.

So ladies and gentlemen, Prince Albert II of Monaco. (Applause.)

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