John Kerry

Remarks on the Death of Anne Smedinghoff

delivered 7 April 2013, Consulate General Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey



I was thinking, just a little while ago when I was here, the first thing I did was walk into a memorial service at the Embassy for Mustafa Akarsu. And I learned then that his name stands for sort of flowing waters, or waters flowing over, and thereís that beautiful memorial now out in front of the Embassy. And he bravely gave his life, stepping up to prevent others from being harmed.

Yesterday in Afghanistan, we had a different stealing of a young life. And I think there are no words for anybody to describe the extraordinary harsh contradiction of a young 25-year-old woman with all of the future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy, of changing peopleís lives, of making a difference, having an impact, who was taking knowledge in books to deliver them to a school. And someone, somehow persuaded that taking her -- his life was a wiser course and somehow constructive, drives into their vehicle1 and we lose five lives -- two Foreign Service2, three military, large number wounded, one Foreign Service officer still in critical condition in the Kandahar hospital because theyíre trying to provide people with a future and with opportunity.

The folks who want to kill people, and thatís all they want to do, are scared of knowledge. And they want to shut the doors and they donít want people to make their choices about the future. For them, itís ďYou do things my way and if you donít, weíll throw acid in your face. Weíll put a bullet in your face,Ē to a young girl trying to learn. So this is a huge challenge for us. It is a confrontation with modernity, with possibilities, and everything that our country stands for, everything we stand for, is embodied in what Anne Smedinghoff stood for, a 25-year-old young woman, second tour of duty, been a vice consul in Caracas, Venezuela and then off to an exciting, challenging, unbelievable undertaking in one of the toughest places on earth.

I met her about two weeks ago. She was part of my team that was my control team when I was there, and I remember her -- vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the Ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capacity. So itís a grim reminder to all of us, though we didnít need any reminders, of how important and also how risky carrying the future is with people who want to resist, and just trying to provide opportunity to those young boys and girls and men and women in Afghanistan, so many of whom Iíve met, who believe in education and believe in the possibilities of opening a business and believe in the rights of women and the rights of everybody to be able to make choices.

So I think every single one of us can stand very, very proud of Anne and her cohorts as America stands very, very proud of each and every one of you. This is not easy work. Itís not easy being away from home. Itís not easy packing up, breaking ties to family and friends and coming over to represent your country. But the whole world is in a state of transition right now. It is important for us to be able to help to bring stability and rule of law and alternatives to this kind of nihilistic violence that simply destroys and steals lives without offering any other constructive purpose whatsoever.

So I think we can walk with pride. I think the extended Foreign Service family feels a lot of pain today. But we also feel pride. And itís my honor to be here with all of you to shake your hands, say hello to you, give everybody a hug, and letís share together the feelings of the Smedinghoff family, who I talked to yesterday in Pennsylvania. There is no more painful conversation in the world. And they were extraordinary and are strong, and I ask you all to pray for them and their friends and their family, and just keep your heads high and keep doing what you do, because weíre so proud of you.

Thank you very, very much.

1 Subsequent to this address, multiple news sources reported that Anne Smedinghoff was traveling by foot -- not in a convoy -- to a book-donation event with a group of individuals who lost their bearings while in transit.

2 Anne Smedinghoff was the only Foreign Service officer killed the attack in Zabul Province on April 6, 2013.  The other American civilian killed was employed by the Department of Defense.

Text and Footnote #2 Source:

Page Updated: 8/12/18

U.S Copyright Status: Text = Public domain.

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