Remarks at Ambassador Hachigian’s swearing-in ceremony

Nina Hachigian

United States Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Department of State

Washington, D.C.


Ambassador Hachigian:    Thank you, Wendy. I’m so happy you were able to swear me in.  Because I did the math, and it turns out that we’ve known each other for quite a while. It’s reassuring that you join Secretary Kerry at the helm of U.S. foreign policy at a complex time, to say the least.

And thank you, all of you, so much for being here and for always being there for me. I look around at the great friends, the mentors, former colleagues and future colleagues and my family— my husband Joe, brother Garo, and my father in law Robert. I am so lucky to have you. Without all of your advice, wisdom, counsel, friendship, I would not, could not be here. You’ve made me a better person,  hopefully a more effective diplomat and I will take all that with me as my family and I embark on this next exciting chapter. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to thank President Obama for placing his faith in me, as in many others here, to continue to carry out our rebalance to Asia.

At the UN last week, the President said “When nations find common ground, not simply based on power, but on principle, then we can make enormous progress.”

ASEAN is a perfect example of that truth. ASEAN formed in 1967, the year I was born, and, coincidentally, the same year Barack Obama moved to Indonesia as a young boy. In that year, five Southeast Asian nations came together to promote cooperation and regional stability.

In my lifetime, ASEAN has grown into a regional powerhouse of 10 countries representing over 600 million people. It is seeking to make progress on the toughest issues humanity faces—from climate change to children’s rights, and everything in between.

ASEAN’s ten member states are as diverse as they come. Major cosmopolitan cities shine alongside poor rural villages. All the world’s major religions converge in Southeast Asia. And yet these countries have chosen to bind themselves together. Not through power, but through principles. Through a dedication to non-violence, shared prosperity and to international rules and norms, principles we also hold dear.

Next year, ASEAN will come together even more closely as an economic community. ASEAN unity and integration are good for ASEAN, good for the United States, and good for the world. ASEAN integration means our exporters and investors will have more trade opportunities, to create more jobs here. A more cohesive ASEAN will be better able to tackle challenges that we share like trafficking and terrorism, and it will be able to play an even stronger stabilizing force in Asia where many big powers seek influence. It will be heard even more loudly on global issues of the day, as last week when it condemned ISIL’s violence.

President Obama and others here had the wisdom to appreciate what ASEAN was and what it could become. In 2008, Scot Marciel became the first Ambassador of ASEAN Affairs. In 2009, President Obama called for a permanent mission to ASEAN and in 2011, David Carden was confirmed as the first resident U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, the first such ambassador from any non-ASEAN country. I am grateful to have both Scot and David join us here today, humbled to be in their company and proud to pick up the torch from them.

There is so much potential to work on issues we all care about. Equitable economic growth that includes women, protecting the oceans and environment, maintaining peace and stability. My team and I will work to build even stronger ties to ASEAN—including among young people, those born after me into the ASEAN era. Together we will further our common goals of a unified, central ASEAN and a rules-based, peaceful order in Southeast Asia.

I’m so excited to begin. I hope to see many of you in Jakarta soon. Our guest room will be ready for you. In the meantime, keep the advice and ideas coming.

Thank you.