Ambassador Hamamoto’s Remarks at 240th US Marine Corps Birthday Ball

Ambassador Hamamoto at Marine BallAs prepared for delivery
Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto 

On behalf of the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, I am incredibly honored to wish the United States Marine Corps my personal congratulations on your 240th birthday.

You realize that this is older than our Constitution – actually, older than our nation’s independence!  There is no question that the United States was built with the help of the Marines.  And today, the Marine Corps is still defending our nation,  whenever and wherever necessary, with its trademark warrior spirit and will to win.

That’s perhaps the first thing many of you think of when you meet a Marine in uniform.  You think of security.  And all of us here at U.S. Mission Geneva – like at every single one of America’s outposts – know firsthand that we couldn’t do what we do anywhere in today’s world without the safety that these Marines provide.

Marines, don’t think for one second that as I walk by Post One each morning and hear your heartfelt “Good morning, Ma’am” that I take you for granted.

Particularly given the current state of the world, I take comfort in the fact that, day in and day out, you are watching over our Mission, and I commend you for your professionalism and valor.

When I look at this incredible group of eight young men and one young woman in their dress blues, I also see a different story — a story of commitment.  I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these Marines personally, and I’ve learned that for them “service” is not just a word – it’s a way of life!

Our Marines here in Geneva volunteer at a local hospice.  They also help Boy Scouts earn their “Citizenship in the Nation” merit badge. And because they know that to help others you first have to help yourself, they are investing in their education and in their trade.

Two Marines started college this year. Two others have completed their apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor – a rigorous program requiring more than 4,000 hours of work that will make them and the entire Marine Security Guard Detachment better and stronger.

That’s commitment!  And speaking of “commitment,” two of our Marines got engaged this year! I would like to offer my congratulations – on making that special commitment – and I wish you and your fiancés all the best.

It is very encouraging to see that the dedication and hard work  of our Marines is paying off.

I’m proud to report that five of our Marines were promoted this year. In fact, one of the promotion ceremonies was performed by Secretary Kerry himself, who took time out of his demanding schedule during the Iran nuclear negotiations a few months ago to pay tribute to our Marines.

It was a beautiful day in Montreux…right by the lake… and it exemplifies the deep appreciation the American people have for the Marine Corps, all the way to the top of our government.

And to complete the picture, it should come as no surprise that these Marines engage fully with the entire Mission community. Our Community Liaison Officer had this to say: “I appreciate their community service, and their willingness to participate in our community events, like Easter parties, 4th of July, and Halloween.  When the Marines say they will take something on, you can depend on them to complete the job and their enthusiasm is contagious.” I couldn’t have said it better.

And that is exactly the same message Secretary Kerry had for the Marines just last week aboard the USS San Antonio.  “One of the things I have always known throughout my years in the United States Senate and elsewhere,” Secretary Kerry said, “is that if you have to get the job done, the first people you go to are the United States Marine Corps.”

And for the kids at our Mission, you can bet that having a U.S. Marine paint bunny whiskers on their cheeks before the annual Easter egg hunt at the Marine house is a thrill they will never forget!

Before closing, I have to confess that I was a little nervous about this ceremony tonight, not wanting to mess anything up, so this morning I googled “Marine Ball Etiquette.”

I first read:  “The gown should be below the knee” – so for a second…all was fine.

But then I read on: “Do not wear a cocktail dress.  The less skin you show the better.  It’s a formal.”  Oops!  Sorry about that!

The instructions continued: “We have a beautiful ceremony.  It is not ok to talk, get up, or hoot and holler during the ceremony.  Give respect to the ceremony.  Be quiet and respectful.” Hmmm, I was thinking…I knew the Marines were serious…Guess I’d better behave myself tonight.

But finally, you’ll be happy to hear, I came to the best part:  “Once the ceremony is over, it is OK to have fun!”   OOH-RAH!!!

So, let’s all follow orders and have fun tonight to celebrate our Marine’s 240th birthday and how fortunate we are to have them at our Mission!

Marines, tonight we want to thank you for getting the job done all these years and for remaining faithful – in honor of your motto – to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to your country, no matter what.

Thank you, Nathan, Brannan, Ryan, Gerrod, Joseph, Vicky, Michael, Tyler, and Forrest.

You come to us from all over the United States –from Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Despite coming from different backgrounds and walks of life –through working here together –you have created a family away from home.

Thank you to all the Marines back home and around the world who — like you, and for 240 years –have consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty.

We are very proud and extremely grateful for everything that you do. Happy Birthday Marines! And Semper Fidelis!

It is now my privilege to introduce Ambassador William Lacy Swing. A six-time ambassador, Bill is one of the great legends of the U.S. Foreign Service.  His first diplomatic post was in South Africa at the height of apartheid in 1963, the year Nelson Mandela was sent to prison.  Twenty-six years later, he would become ambassador to South Africa just months before Mandela was freed. I think it’s fair to say that Bill’s diplomatic career reads like a history book – from post-colonial Africa to the end of the Cold War. He brought this wealth of experience with him to the International Organization for Migration here in Geneva, where – as a second-term Director General – Bill has worked tirelessly to help manage one of today’s most pressing, complex and sensitive challenges. He is a special man, and I am so honored to call him my friend.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ambassador William Lacy Swing.