Official Statements 2012
Swearing-in Remarks: Ambassador Richard Norland (July 26)
Justice Ginsburg, thank you so much for the honor of administering the oath and reminding us of its importance. In a few moments, I will tell you just what your presence means to me and to all of us. Deputy Secretary Burns, to have the most senior career Foreign Service Officer officiate today is a testament to your faith in our profession. I deeply appreciate all your support, and I know everyone in this room admires what you have brought to the conduct of American diplomacy. Teona Dvali, I don’t think the Ben Franklin room has ever been graced with such notes of beauty – thank you for performing today. Ambassador Yakobashvili, thank you for the hospitality that Yana and you have already extended to Mary and me; I look forward to working with you to advance U.S.-Georgia relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence here is an inspiration to me – and I hope, as well, to the people of Georgia. Ambassador Yakobashvili, these are just some of the many, many Friends of Georgia to be found here in the United States. Their presence here today is a symbol of the bonds that link our two nations in terms of common goals, values and aspirations for lasting peace and prosperity.
I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Obama to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and I want to thank him and Secretary Clinton for the confidence they have placed in me to carry out this assignment. I know I am succeeding a highly capable colleague in Ambassador John Bass, and other distinguished former U.S. Ambassadors to Georgia, several of whom I am happy to see here today. I look forward to working with our Deputy Chief of Mission, Bridget Brink, and all my American and Georgian colleagues at the U.S. Mission in Tbilisi, when we arrive in just a few short weeks, and I present my credentials to President Saakashvili. It is my great and good fortune that Trish Lara has agreed to serve with me again as my office manager in Georgia.
In the Georgian language, the country is known as “Sakartvelo.” “Sakartvelo” – it just rolls off the tongue, and all you have to do is say it and you can picture a land that lies at the heart of history, at the confluence of tectonic shifts of empire over the centuries. The Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Russians – Georgia has seen them all. Sitting astride the strategic pathways that link East and West, Georgia once again today is poised to serve as a kind of “fulcrum of history” as the West “pivots” toward Asia and the forces of commerce and culture change course and begin to sweep across the continents in a new direction.
It is not often that one has a chance to return as Ambassador to a country where one has served before. As a member of the CSCE monitoring mission in Georgia in 1993, I was witness to some of the country’s most troubled and desperate times. I remember being part of the diplomatic corps summoned by President Shevardnadze to embattled Sukhumi as rebel forces threatened the city, and I felt deeply saddened at our collective powerlessness to stop the violence.
Which makes it all the more amazing today to consider that I will be returning to a country that has practically rebuilt itself out of the ashes, a vibrant, still young democracy with many economic and political challenges ahead, but with a diverse and dynamic population determined to succeed. And this time I will be returning with Mary, who used to refer to me as her “imaginary husband” when I was in Kabul. I can’t wait to show her some of the places I visited before: the more than 2000-year old capital at Mtskheta, the serene isolated churches that dot the mountainous landscape (where I would light candles for Mary’s dying mother), maybe even the little village in the hills of Georgia’s South Ossetia region where I remember talking with a determined old woman eking out a tough existence on a tiny patch of land.
I feel as prepared for this assignment as any diplomat can be, thanks to the people in this room. Assistant Secretary Gordon’s team in the European Bureau, along with the experts in the Legislative Affairs Bureau, did a superb job of shepherding me through the confirmation process. Laura Hammond and KG Moore on the Georgia Desk have been indispensable. And a special thank you to the incomparable Sharon Hardy, for whom I believe this will be the ninth swearing-in this week alone.
The friends and former bosses and co-workers who are here today helped shape me as a diplomat, and I can’t thank you enough. You honed not only my love for the Foreign Service but also my respect for all colleagues here in the State Department, across the interagency community and in the business and NGO sectors as well. From distinguished diplomats of my dad’s generation, to ambassadors and mentors and our close friends, I have been blessed to be part of a profession that somehow cultivates the humanity in people even as it seeks to gently shape history.
Most recently, I had the honor of occupying George Kennan’s old office at the National War College across town at Ft. McNair. In fact, I am pleased to note the presence of Grace Kennan Warnecke, George Kennan’s eldest daughter; Grace, thank you so much for joining us here today. I am grateful to the Commandant, faculty and staff of the war college, which still stands for something that I know George Kennan believed in deeply: the importance of the partnership between diplomats and the military in understanding the relationship between politics and war if we are to keep the peace. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the sacrifices of brave Georgian and American troops who are fighting side by side in southern Afghanistan.
Thanks to my late father, Don Norland, my roots are in Iowa. I want to thank my Iowa relatives and friends, and indeed all our family who have come such a distance, for being here and for helping to keep me rooted in America despite so many years of living abroad. My Mom, at 92, is with my sister Kit, also a foreign service officer, and her diplomat-partner Angela at the Embassy in Vientiane, Laos – but they’ll be back later this year. My brother David and his family are here; the renegade who left the Foreign Service for the banking world and keeps me honest on the tennis court.
We have been so fortunate that our children Daniel and Kate, and more recently Daniel’s wife Jen, have been such willing and enthusiastic participants in the adventures we have shared. They are now embarked on their own careers, and they bring us great joy – but I will note that neither of our kids has joined the Foreign Service. Kate once proclaimed as a teen-ager “it might be fun to be a Foreign Service Officer…except for the State Department part…and the embassy part.” However, we became grand-parents this past year, and I’ve got my eye on Baby Ellie. Stay tuned.
Justice Ginsburg, I said I would come back to tell you why it means so much that you agreed to join us here today. It is not just that you are an internationalist – a judge who has lived in Sweden, travelled widely around the world, and believes deeply in the rule of law as a universal concept manifested in an infinite variety of judicial codes and practices. I bet very few here today know that before embarking on the international procedure project in Sweden in 1961, you learned to speak Swedish. That alone would be enough to endear you to a room full of diplomats. Even more importantly, you have pioneered equality for women, as a lawyer, a judge and a Supreme Court Justice, and as the spouse of another lawyer with whom you shared a truly equal partnership based on love and respect. I wish your late husband Marty could be here today, but I want you to know that everything you stand for as a jurist and as a person will underlie the mission that Mary and I together will be conducting in Georgia. The fact that Mary is also a women’s rights lawyer, and my indispensable partner in everything I am and everything I do, simply follows the path that you have marked with such intellectual fortitude and grace.
Justice Ginsburg, Bill, Ambassador Yakobashvili, Ms. Dvali, ladies and gentlemen, that’s it. Thank you again for being here. Plan to visit us in Georgia, a beautiful country with a remarkable past and a promising future. Good afternoon.