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An Historic Time to Join USAID

Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
NEP and IDI Orientation Class Graduation Ceremony
Washington, DC
March 7, 2007

Thank you, Dave (Eckerson). Good afternoon, everyone. Let me be the first to congratulate you on surviving the USAID recruitment process and completing the Foreign Service Officer Orientation class. Joining the USAID Foreign Service is a very competitive process with high education, experience and endurance standards. I understand that many of you have had to endure numerous rounds of clearances and long periods of waiting to join a NEP and IDI class.

I commend you for making a career in the Foreign Service of USAID a priority in your life. Because its really not a job or a career, but a way of life. NEPs and IDIs are the present and future of the Agency as they now occupy over 50 % of our positions overseas.

You are joining an agency that, perhaps more than any other agency of our government, embodies the generosity, compassion, and decency of the American people.

As some of you may have heard me say before, we are seeing unprecedented attention being given to foreign assistance and to the alleviation of poverty right now; probably more so than ever in history. TV and movie stars are joining forces with academics, NGOs and the government to raise awareness about poverty issues. Corporate philanthropy dedicated to poverty alleviation is at an all-time high. College campuses across the United States are uniting to address humanitarian crises.

As the next generation of USAID, you have a tremendous opportunity to be on the front lines of addressing the biggest challenges we face as a global community. It is also a time of historic reform in the agency, which we believe will lead to greater effectiveness in the delivery of the foreign assistance resources entrusted to us by the American people.

You all have an exciting and challenging role to play in the success of these reforms and the effectiveness of our country’s foreign assistance. In the field, you will play a key role in developing and implementing USG foreign assistance strategies on the ground, where it really counts.

To do this you will need to work cooperatively, looking across agency contributions to ensure that country strategies and programs are mutually supportive and coordinated for maximum impact and sustainability.

As the new Foreign Service of the new USAID, we are all counting on you, certainly, to look beyond a sector or program to ensure that our foreign assistance resources are in fact focused on the people we seek to assist—on them, not us.

Our goal is to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. In other words, our mission is to help the countries we work with graduate from a relationship defined by dependence on traditional development assistance to one marked by full partnership in the community of nations.

Diminishing “ungoverned spaces” by helping countries progress is vital to our own national security. Foreign assistance makes the United States safer.

Our task is not easy and you will be called on to serve in the most remote and economically disadvantaged areas of the world. At some point in your career, you may even work in a war zone separated from your families for periods of time. You will face many personal and professional hardships, to be sure.

However, as I am sure you know from your own overseas experience, the opportunity to make a profound lasting and sustainable difference in the lives of the people we work with around the world makes the many hardships worthwhile.

Your dedication and professionalism will also make a positive difference in support of our own national security and the achievement of transformational diplomacy.

As you leave orientation and begin your career, I encourage you to remain engaged in shaping this Agency’s future. I expect you to take full advantage of the opportunity that this training time presents to learn and practice the new planning, programming, implementing and measuring models of the Agency.

Having spent some time with you over lunch, I am also encouraged that the future of the Agency is in good, enthusiastic, and motivated hands. I encourage you to put forward ideas about how best to address the challenges that confront us as an Agency.

Together, we can help drive the kind of sustainable change that will improve the lives of those we serve. Thank you for what you are about to do, be safe and Godspeed.

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