Remarks by Acting Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller at Flag Ceremony for Ambassador Laura Kennedy

Acting Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller and Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy
Acting Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller and Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy

Remarks by Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Flag Ceremony / Ambassador Laura E. Kennedy
Friday, July 12, 4:30 p.m.

Thank you, Deputy Secretary Burns and Director General Thomas-Greenfield, for helping us honor Ambassador Laura Kennedy and recognize her illustrious lifetime career achievements, and distinguished service as a career diplomat representing our great nation here and abroad.  It is especially good to see Laura’s husband, John, who also was a U.S. diplomat, and her sons Patrick and Martin, here with us today; they are an important part of her career success!   The commitment of the whole Kennedy-Feeney family – and I am certainly including Patrick and Martin as vital members of this team in addition to John and Laura – to serving the United States for the last 30 years has been an example to us all.

Ambassador Kennedy has served the Department in many capacities, and one of her first positions was touring the former Soviet Union as an “Agriculture USA” exhibit guide.  This is something we both have in common.  From personal experience, I can tell you that in this position, she was required to field questions that previously would have been unimaginable to her as a U.S. citizen.  Most questions were also in no way related to the exhibit for which she was responsible.  In spite of such challenges, within just a few short weeks on the job, Laura’s ability to field questions from her audiences was regarded as performance art at its finest.  Her selfless dedication was also illustrated during this tour.

In more recent years, and at my urging, Ambassador Kennedy served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament.  I am pleased that during her diplomatic assignment to the CD, I had the privilege to work closely with her.  I’ve seen first-hand, both within the CD and in many related meetings and conferences outside the CD, how her dedication and contributions have advanced U.S. foreign policy objectives.  Her creativity, finesse, and skillful diplomacy have been remarkable and instrumental in forging new and stronger U.S. relationships that span the globe.

During her time as our CD Ambassador, she played a key leadership role in laying the groundwork, planning, and liaising with foreign counterparts in developing the P5 Conference Process and P5 Plus engagement.  A number of our meetings took place in Geneva, and Laura graciously organized and hosted working dinners – and me – many times in her Geneva residence.

         While Laura served as Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, she concurrently served as the U.S. Special Representative for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), a capacity which helped foster a nexus between global health and security in pursuit of our interests in both areas.  Laura recognized – and more importantly helped others to recognize – that biosecurity is strengthened by making and reinforcing connections among different communities – including science and academia – within and across national boundaries and about synergies among organizations like the World Health Organization and the BWC Implementation Support Unit.

Laura led the U.S. delegation to the Seventh BWC Review Conference, and secured agreement on an ambitious agenda based on the priorities set out by Secretary Clinton in her address to the RevCon – no easy task.   Now, most of us know Laura as outgoing, cheerful, and positive, but she’s an experienced multilateral negotiator, and she knows when to play hardball.   As a tireless and effective advocate for expanding the membership of the BWC, her work with foreign governments and fellow U.S. ambassadors around the globe has resulted in an impressive string of accessions and ratifications during her tenure – four so far in 2013 alone.

Her multiple concurrent positions attest to her indefatigable spirit and dedication.  Her accomplishments as U.S. Ambassador to the CD, U.S. Special Representative for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and throughout her career have benefited our nation and advanced international security.

Laura, it is with complete, sincere, and heartfelt gratitude that I thank you, for a lifetime full of invaluable contributions to the United States Department of State, your country, and the advancement of international security.  It is with deep appreciation that I bestow a superior honor award for your distinguished service.  The award reads:

Ambassador Kennedy’s distinguished contributions in 2013 reflect a lifetime of significant achievements to her nation’s benefit, and bring great credit upon herself, the United States Department of State, and the United States Government.”   

Laura, congratulations on your superlative leadership and service to the Department and to our country.  On behalf of the T staff and your many friends and colleagues here at State Department and beyond, I believe I speak for all of us when I say you will truly be missed.  We count on bringing you back from time-to-time, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.  Thank you.