Good morning. It’s good to see all of you. Thank you for your kind welcome. I can’t tell you what an honor and relief it is to finally be here with you. And before we go any further, I have a debt of gratitude to a number of people that I would like to mention. First and foremost, President Trump and Secretary Tillerson for their trust and confidence. I must say, they are obviously open-minded. After all, Secretary Tillerson is from Texas, and I grew up in the shadow of Lambeau Field.
Second, I want to offer my very sincere thanks to Wade Warren for his leadership, during his time as Acting Administrator, during the many months of building a transition plan, and, of course, for his many years of service to the Agency. Wade, thank you. You’ve done a fabulous job, a really wonderful job. I also need to thank Don Gressett, Sonali Korde, Casey Redmon and my whole LPA staff for their great work during the confirmation process. More importantly for making me appear better and smarter than I really am.
All of you owe them a debt of gratitude or scorn. I’ll check back with you in a few months’ time. I also want to thank my family for their unfailing support. My wife, Sue, and our kids. Sue and my son, Alex, are here today.
But most important I want to thank all of you. Not just for your very kind welcome this morning, but really for all the outstanding work you’ve done over the years; work that has made USAID not only America’s lead development agency, but the world’s premier development agency. Joining this great team, especially at this moment in history, when your skills, experience, and ideas have never been in greater demand, well, it’s humbling for me in so many ways.
Now, I’m guessing you have lots of questions for me. You probably have even more questions about me. This morning I’d like to fall back on what we used to call in Congress a “point of personal privilege.” And I’m going to set most of those questions aside for this morning. Instead, I’d like to focus on just one question: What is it that you can expect from me?
Now, in coming days, I’ll make clear what I expect from all of you. But what can you expect from me? Well, first you can expect leadership that is honest with you. As we go along, if you ask me a question, I’ll do my very best to give you an honest, straight answer. It might not always be the answer you want to hear, but it will be an honest answer. Second, you can also expect leadership that believes in you. USAID is the world’s premier development agency, not because of where we are located, not because of who’s in the front office, but because of all of you, your skill and dedication, what you bring to your work each and every day.
Now, these 98 tiles here on the wall are obviously a reminder to all of us, not just of the courage and dedication of our wonderful team all around the world, but, sadly, also the high price that some have paid for doing their work, for lifting lives, and building communities. Just like all of you, I’ll never forget that we’re called upon to work in dangerous and difficult places and so many of you do that with bravery and courage and distinction.
You can expect leadership that listens to you. My political mentor, Tommy Thompson, always told me his father preached the same message. He used to say, “Tommy, you have two ears and one mouth, and if you use them in that proportion, you’ll be just fine.” Sounds like pretty good counsel to me. I want you to offer your opinion. I can’t say we’ll always agree, but I will always respect your point of view.
You also should expect leadership that challenges you. You’ll find in our sessions together, I like to test you. I even like to rattle you. In truth, I’m often playing devil’s advocate. But I want to make sure that you’ve thought things through. I don’t want the “company line.” I want your judgment. I want your opinion. I want to hear from you and all those experiences you’ve had, and those thoughts and ideas that you have. I want us to be an Agency built around continuous improvement, and inter-agency leadership. Each week, I want us to be just a little bit better than the week before, a little more effective, a little more innovative. The taxpayers deserve it. Our government partners deserve it. And our partners all around the world have come to expect it, and I think we excel.
Finally, in terms of what you can expect from me, I’d like all of you to refer to the statement that I provided to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, because, for me, it really summarizes what I hope we can strive for together.
I believe the purpose of foreign assistance should be ending its need to exist. Each of our programs should look forward to the day when we can end it. And around the world we should measure our work by how far each investment moves us closer to that day. Now, I’m under no illusions. In some places, that day is quite a ways off. But we could help our partners by prioritizing programs that show measurable impact, incentivize reform, diversify our partner base, foster local capacity-building, and mobilize their own domestic resources. In the area of humanitarian assistance, we will always stand with people when disaster strikes or crisis emerges.
But we’ll also call on others to do their part, and we’ll work relentlessly to ensure that we deliver assistance in the most effective, efficient manner possible–meeting their needs and also building resilience against future crises. In all areas, and in every way, we’ll focus our limited resources on what is working, and we’ll end what is not. Again, that’s what our taxpayers deserve, that’s what our government partners deserve, and that’s what our partners all around the world deserve.
Now, as I mentioned a few moments ago, I’m here with Sue and my son Alex. Sue and I began our journey in development 30 years ago this month serving as volunteer teachers in Kenya. And my work has taken me to projects on five continents. I’ve encountered USAID team members everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve always been impressed; I’ve often been inspired; and today as I join you, I’m honored. Together, I’m excited because I know we’re going to do great things. Thank you for your welcome. Let’s get at it. We have work to do. Thank you, everyone.