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Tom Countryman’s Farewell,
Department of State,
January 31, 2017

Thank You! When I entered the State Department, I never intended to rise high enough to merit a retirement ceremony. And when it occurred to me that I had, I pictured instead an off-campus bacchanalia. But now we’re here, and it is altogether fitting and proper, and I thank you.

Some of you have asked if recent events have left me disgruntled. The answer is No; I am probably the most gruntled person in the room.

When Ambassador Robert Pelletreau retired 20 years ago, he said “The State Department doesn’t owe me anything. It has given me everything”. It is the same for me…

The Departent gave me and my family the opportunity to see the world, and not just as tourists. It allowed me to see the reunification of families divided by the Iron Curtain, and to see Israelis and Palestinians negotiate face to face. I saw—and contributed a little to—the restoration of democracy in Serbia. And for the last few years, it’s given me the chance to speak for the United States about a priority shared by eleven successive Presidents: reducing the risk of a nuclear holocaust…

What you do in this building tomorrow can mean another generation will live in a habitable world, can enjoy peace and liberty. If we are firm in our principles, steadfast in our ideals, and tireless in our determination to uphold our oath—to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic”—then for many generations, another American will stand in this spot with the same satisfaction and hope I feel today…

Our work is little understood by our fellow Americans, a fact that is sometimes exploited for political purpose. When I have the opportunity to speak to audiences across this amazing land, I explain “We do not have a Department of State—we do not have a foreign policy—because we love foreigners. We do it because we love Americans”.

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Among the senior officials who were asked to leave their State Department jobs recently was career diplomat Tom Countryman. Above are the farewell remarks he delivered (as prepared) at his retirement ceremony.

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