THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO EMBASSY STAFF
Dom Pedro Hotel
12:10 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. First, I'm delighted to see you. I'm sorry we had to delay this a little bit, but we had the meeting with Prime Minister Barak. I want to thank, first, Gerry and Susan, my longtime friends. We went to college together. You can tell by looking at us, it was a very long time ago. (Laughter.) Susan worked for me many years in the White House, and I miss her terribly, but I'm glad that they're here together. And I'm glad -- we've got this whole McGowan bunch of kids here, proving that this is a pro-family administration. (Laughter.)
I've been told that the people in our embassy have produced 20 children in the last couple of years, so I want to thank you for that. I'll use that as an exhibit as I go around the world.
Obviously, I'm grateful to Secretary Albright and to Secretary Daley, and to National Security Advisor Berger and our whole group. We had a wonderful time here, and I want to say more about it in a minute. But I would like to say just a few words about the meeting I had with Prime Minister Barak this morning, because it is very important, and it's still early in America so if I say it to you, they'll all hear it today. (Laughter.)
First of all, he reaffirmed his intense commitment to reach an historic and complete agreement with the Palestinians, which I think is very important to settling all the issues and ending the conflict. I know from my own discussions with Chairman Arafat that he also shares this commitment and that he recognizes the real urgency of this moment to actually get back on the timetable and complete the work that has to be done.
I'm sending Secretary Albright to the Middle East next week to work with both leaders on narrowing the gaps that still remain between them. And I will soon meet with Chairman Arafat in Washington -- I'll do it as quickly as I can -- finish my trip here and meet my other obligations.
Both leaders know, from me and they know from their own experience, that they now have to be prepared to make an intense effort and to do things that they have not done in the past, with real courage and vision, if we're going to actually get a framework agreement that deals with the outstanding issues.
And I can only tell you that I'm still convinced that they have the courage, the vision and the ability to do this, and the United States will do everything we can to help them pass this milestone. And I know that your thoughts and prayers will be with them. This is tough work. If it were easy, somebody would have done it a long time ago. But, actually, it is within view now. They could do and I believe they will do it. And I'm going to do my best to help them do it.
Let me also now just thank all of you. I have had a wonderful time here. I had a good meeting with Prime Minister Guterres, in both his capacity as Prime Minister of this country and in Portugal's presidency of the European Union. I had a good meeting and a good dinner with the Portuguese President, Mr. Sampaio.
Hillary was here three years ago, and she came home raving about everything about Portugal -- literally raving about it. It was a couple of days before she sort of hit the ground. (Laughter.) And the one thing she said is, you've got to go to this restaurant where they make sea bass in salt -- (laughter) -- but there's no salt taste on the sea bass. I heard about this over and over again. I thought it was a joke, you know.
So last night, Gerry took us all -- we had a huge contingent -- we went to the Porta Santa Maria -- is that right? -- restaurant. It was too dark to see the ocean, but not too dark to see the sea bass in the salt. (Laughter.) So I can now go home and give a report that my wife did not exaggerate at all. It was the most interesting thing I ever did, I think.
And then something is happening -- as I move toward the end of my term, my staff has relaxed its requirement that I actually suffer a physical breakdown on every trip from work, and I actually got to go play golf yesterday. And I will never forget that; it was wonderful. So we got a lot of work done, we had a good time, and I'm very grateful to you for all you have done.
I also heard at the state dinner that wonderful Portuguese music called "fado". And I may never get over that. I've been asking everybody I can find to send me CDs. I'm going to promote fado music all over the world. (Laughter.) I have been sort of the single-handed ambassador for music coming out of northeast Brazil, but I think fado now has become my major passion in life. (Laughter.) So I'll do what I can to help.
I want to say just a few serious words to you. The people who represent the United States around the world, both the people of our foreign service, our Commerce Department, our military, the others who are associated with our missions, and the foreign nationals who work with us, almost never get any publicity. And usually -- once in a rare blue moon when they do get any publicity, it's because something bad happened. And all the rest of the time you never get the credit you deserve, day in and day out, for making the United States a good partner, a good friend, a good neighbor; for doing all the work that has to be done.
The relationship we have with this nation is strong, thanks in no small measure to the work you do day in and day out, that too often goes unrecognized. And in the seven and a half years I have been privileged to serve as President, every time I have gone to a foreign nation -- and I've been to more, apparently, than any other President; and Hillary, I think, has been to more nations than any other First Lady -- I've been told that it's unfair for me to say that because, given the break-up of the Soviet Union, we have more options than any previous First Couple has ever had -- (laughter) -- so, doubtless, my record will be broken some time by someone who likes to travel even more than I do and becomes President.
But I thought it was important for me to travel the world, and for us to try to make a better future out of the post-communist, post-Cold War world. So I've had the opportunity to see many things. And I just want you to know that I am profoundly grateful to you for what you do, and that I have done what I could, both in ceremonies like this and in speeches back home, to make sure that the American people know that they are getting more than their money's worth, far more than their money's worth, out of our diplomatic mission.
I have done what I could at every budget debate of the United States Congress to argue that a lot of our national security and our national interests are advanced by the diplomatic investments we make -- by the investments we make in our AID programs; by the investments we make in the Peace Corps; by the investments we make in our commerce missions. It's not just a matter of military investments. If we want to advance the national security interests of America, we have to be good neighbors, good friends, and good partners. And you represent all of that, and I am very, very, very grateful to you.
I also want to say that I'm grateful for the things you do here in this country that kind of are above and beyond the call of duty. The work you do with Portuguese families and Portuguese citizens, the things that you share with them, are very, very important to me.
So -- let me say I also have been told that there are three people who have been working here for over 40 years. And I think I should recognize them. Even if my Portuguese is not very good, I'll do my best. Graca Santos -- (applause) -- all I can say is, if you've been working here 43 years, you were obviously too young to go to work when you started. (Laughter.) And Joao and Teresa Venancio, who have been tending your garden all these years. Where are they? I'm glad you're here. (Applause.)
So I say to you, to you three and to all of you, and to your family and your children, obrigado. Thank you for what you have done for the United States. And I know you'll be very glad when we're all gone. (Laughter.) Have a good wheels-up party. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:22 P.M. (L)
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