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Youth, Students, and Educators: Remarks at the Department of State's 2018 National African-American History Month Event

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to join you today for the Department of State’s 2018 National African-American History Month program. African-American history is American history, and it is important that we recognize the many significant contributions and historical achievements of African Americans in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State was the very first cabinet agency created by our fledging government, reflecting the critical role foreign relations play in ensuring American security and prosperity. And African Americans have long played a key role – at the highest levels – in the Department’s success, going all the way back to Don Carlos Bassett, one of our nation’s first African-American diplomats, who served in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the early 19th century.

Since then the American people have benefitted from the invaluable public service of African-American diplomats, at all ranks and in all policy fields, including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and rising stars such as Derek Hogan, the current Deputy Executive Secretary and a member of Secretary Tillerson’s Impact Initiative team.

I want to thank the Blacks in Government’s Carl T. Rowan Chapter, the Thursday Luncheon Group, and the Department’s Office of Civil Rights for organizing today’s program. BIG-CTR and TLG are two of the Department’s 13 officially recognized employee affinity groups, with the Thursday Luncheon Group celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, making it the most senior of these Department groups.

They have been powerful drivers in promoting equality and tolerance within the Department, and throughout the entire Federal government, by reaching across offices, agencies, policy issues, service, and rank to press for progress. These organizations have enriched our foreign policy work and inspired the Department with their passion and professionalism, best witnessed through their vigorous support for diversity recruitment efforts at HBCUs through the Diplomats in Residence program and the Pickering and Rangel Fellowship programs. On behalf of Secretary of State Tillerson and the entire Department of State, I want to express our deep gratitude for your invaluable contributions to U.S. diplomacy over the years.

I also want to thank Congressman Bishop for generously taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in today’s program. I know that everyone here benefitted from his insights, and we are truly grateful to have had such a distinguished guest be part of our celebration.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic passing of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so I would like to end my remarks with one of his quotes: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Thank you.

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