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In Recognition of Excellence in a Time of Change

Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
USAID 2006-07 Awards Ceremony
Washington, DC
April 16, 2007

Thank you for your welcome and thank you all for coming today. It gives me great pleasure to host this year’s Award ceremony and to recognize the remarkable accomplishments of this Agency and its extraordinary people.

When I stood here on my first day as USAID’s 14th Administrator and our nation’s first Director of Foreign Assistance, I challenged all of us to always keep foremost in our minds why we are here. I called upon us all to put our energies into finding new and more effective ways to work together—and not just with one another and the traditional development community, but with all of those who share our vision of development that brings about lasting change.

As I look around the room, I see many people who clearly have been doing just that. You have indeed laid the groundwork to attain results that will be USAID's enduring legacy of our time. I am proud to serve with you, and I am appreciative of the work you do each day on behalf of our country and the neediest people around the globe.

Before we proceed with today’s events, I want to thank you for your forbearance with regard to our need to reschedule this event from January to today. As you know, just prior to this event in January, I was asked to join Secretary Rice in leading the U.S. delegation to the Lebanon Donors’ Conference in Paris.

On the one hand, I was pleased to accompany the Secretary and play a role in ensuring that the people of Lebanon and our international colleagues fully understand the generous and courageous contributions of the US Government to the aspirations of the Lebanese people, led in many important ways by our USAID team in Beirut.

At the same time, I wanted to personally extend my thanks and appreciation to all of our award winners and I simply couldn’t be in both places at once. For this reason, we postponed the Awards Ceremony until I could preside personally. And indeed it is an extraordinary honor to be with you today and to have this opportunity to thank you in person.

Since President Harry Truman’s famous “Point Four” inaugural address in 1949, the United States has been committed to sharing its wealth and expertise with those countries struggling to advance on the scale of human progress. USAID has been at the center of that effort, making enormous contributions to the advancement of good governance, social and economic prosperity, and a more peaceful world.

This Agency—personified in today’s award recipients—has unleashed reservoirs of untapped human potential around the globe and made enormous strides in alleviating suffering and chronic instability. These advancements would not be possible without the unrivaled depth of experience and expertise that exists at USAID.

The success of our Agency is directly attributable to you – the committed and dedicated USAID employees who work so hard, and often risk so much, in the service of our country.

As you know, during the past five years, the United States has more than doubled its Official Development Assistance. That increase reflects the expanded interest in foreign assistance as a core element of our nation’s foreign and national security policy. It reflects the arrival of new institutions like the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. And it reflects the post-September 11 recognition that our own future is inextricably linked to stability—or instability—in countries thousands of miles from our shores.

Despite the enormous expansion of civil society and private investment flows to the developing world, our government’s commitment to human progress has continued to grow. But, as I have said before, these vastly increased resources have also come with a new emphasis on the accompanying responsibilities – a greater focus on performance, results, accountability.

Ultimately, we must define success as the ability of a nation receiving assistance from the United States to graduate from the need for traditional development assistance and become a full partner in international peace and prosperity.

What we are undertaking today—both as an agency and across the U.S. government—is nothing short of the greatest foreign assistance reform effort in three decades. To that end, I want to especially thank those individuals who have played a key role in the reform effort.

Since we established the Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance over a year ago, over 100 USAID staff have given their time, energy, and expertise to stand up this office. Will those staff from PPC and elsewhere in USAID who have worked or do now work in the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance please rise?

Please join me in thanking these individuals for their dedication, professionalism, hard work, and perseverance. 

Next, I would like to recognize members of the Working Groups, whose recommendations I began sharing with you last week.

Their work will pave the way for a revitalized and retooled Agency dedicated to advancing human progress in the poorest, least stable countries around the globe. These individuals worked tirelessly to provide bold recommendations on ways to improve the Agency, refine its core mission, and ensure our resources are aimed at supporting efforts in the field.

As you know, there were four Working Groups: Focus, Structures, Delegations of Authority, and Human Resources.

Will members of the four Working Groups please rise?

As you look around the room, you’ll see that some of our Agency’s most capable and dedicated leaders have been involved in this important effort. Among other things, the Working Groups have taken to the task of defining what—in light of all the changes and complex factors surrounding foreign assistance—this agency’s role should be in the 21st century.

Although we have more analytical work to do and much consultation with the Congress and other stakeholders is still required, the overall direction USAID should take is clear. USAID’s focus must be to bring sustainable, positive change to the poorest, least stable countries, through world-class field Missions operating in those countries. And, in order to accomplish this goal, we will target resources toward increased impact in countries where instability, poverty, and poor government capacity most impede human and national progress.

Over the next weeks and months, we will continue rolling out many of the recommendations that came out of the Working Groups. I ask you for your support and your participation in this important effort.

I also want to recognize Ambassador Jordan and her team for their efforts to ensure that our Agency’s resources are aligned with its key objectives and overall Mission. In addition to serving as Agency Counselor, and Acting Assistant Administrator of the Management Bureau, Ambassador Jordan has also provided exemplary leadership of the Executive Diversity Council. Her work with the Council has contributed to the development of a workplace that fosters diversity and inclusiveness. As many of you may know, Ambassador Jordan was recently given the Pioneer Award, a prestigious award for outstanding contributions in international development by people of color.

Ambassador Jordan, please rise to receive our deepest appreciation and profound gratitude for all that you do.

I also want to acknowledge the accomplishments of Mark Ward, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East, and Alonzo Fulgham, the Chief Operating Officer of the Agency. Mark was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Service to America Medal or SAMMIE Award.  The SAMMIE is a national award open to all career civilian employees of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government. Mark received the “international affairs” medal for leading a dedicated team of USAID professionals in Washington and overseas in the U.S. foreign recovery and reconstruction efforts after the Asia tsunami in December 2004 and the South Asia earthquake in October 2005. Alonzo was a finalist for this award and was recognized for his tireless efforts in Afghanistan to help build a free society. 

I would also like to thank the many USAID professionals who assisted in these efforts, which made such an impact on these areas, and enabled Mark and Alonzo directly, and USAID indirectly, to be recognized for our contributions.

And lastly, it is with a heavy heart that I’d like to take a moment to remember those who have given their lives in the service of the Agency and the nation over the past year. Our work inherently takes us to some of the most dangerous and volatile parts of the world. The brave and committed USAID employees who have lost their lives in fulfilling our mission abroad deserve our unbending respect and admiration.

We expressed our grief openly, when our colleagues, Deputy Mission Director Margaret Alexander and Foreign Service National Dr. Bijnan Acharya, perished in Nepal last fall. We also mourned two of our dedicated local employees

in Baghdad, Mr. Hussein Abed Ibraheem and Mr. Ali Mossa. And, in February of this year, we mourned another Foreign Service National who gave his life in Baghdad, but whose name I have again been asked not to discuss because of security concerns regarding his family.

Please take a moment of silence to remember these brave people, and all of the USAID employees who have died in the service of this country – not only this year but in years past.

And now, let me congratulate in advance all of today’s Award Winners.

You have earned the appreciation of your colleagues, your Administrator, the American people – and most of all, those around they world for whom your efforts have created a better life.

It is indeed an honor for all of us to be your colleagues. Thank you very much.

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