My First Day at the Podium

Posted by Ian Kelly
May 11, 2009
First Daily Press Briefing for Spokesman Ian Kelly

About the Author: Ian Kelly serves as the State Department Spokesman and Acting Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs.

Today I stood at the podium of the State Department’s Carl T. Rowan Press Briefing Room for my first time as the Department Spokesman. After 24 years as a public diplomacy professional, I find it most exciting to be in a position in which I can help shape the message and communicate what the United States is seeking to achieve through diplomacy.

It is critical to help Americans understand the importance of diplomacy and foreign affairs. The State Department’s daily press briefings are an important part of that process. I look forward to working with the journalists who attend our daily press briefings and report on the State Department. Journalists have a very important job, and I will remain committed to the work they do.

As I stood at the podium today, I was immediately humbled by the task before me. It is a great honor to represent Secretary Clinton and my State Department colleagues and to communicate U.S. foreign policy to America and the world.

My second thought was that this job is tough, perhaps more so than I had realized. Robert Wood and Gordon Duguid who have served as Acting Spokesman and Acting Deputy Spokesman have made it look easy during this period of transition. I thank them for their work and will continue to rely upon their counsel.

My job, of course, is much easier when the Secretary has authorized me to speak on her behalf. I am grateful for the confidence Secretary Clinton has shown in me and was very appreciative that she took the time out of her schedule today to introduce me. I was particularly glad that Secretary Clinton mentioned in her introduction that I am a “long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.” If nothing else, my years following the Cubs have taught me patience.

The Cubs won yesterday. I made it through my first press briefing. Not bad for the first week, so far.

Comments

Comments

Stacy
|
Massachusetts, USA
May 11, 2009

Stacy in Massachusetts writes:

You are a lucky man to be the official spokesperson for the Secretary of State.

Looking forward to your press briefings.

As for being a Cubs fan, well- since it's your first day, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt...

Shenny
|
California, USA
May 11, 2009

Shenny in California writes:

Welcome aboard Ian! First saw you on CSPAN and looked you up (i.e. Google). Too bad CSPAN cut the news conference short!

Terry
|
Connecticut, USA
May 12, 2009

Terry in Connecticut writes:

It has been awhile since i posted here but welcome aboard Mr. Kelly. Looking foward to your daily briefings on the State Dept. website. Thanks Mr. Woods for your great briefings.

Donald
|
Virginia, USA
May 12, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

Welome Aboard!!!

May the Seas be calm and the wind blow your career into full speed ahead with this new position at the State Department. Look foward to the briefings. Ensure your sails are up and guide the ship on course! If you see a Pirate make the laddy walk the plank....Arg...Arg...Arg...!

Good Luck!

Molly
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 12, 2009

Molly in Washington, DC writes:

Cheers, Mr. Kelly, and good luck!

ek
|
New Hampshire, USA
May 12, 2009

E.K. in New Hampshire writes:

Mr.Kelly,

I'm sorry I missed your introduction with Secretary Clinton. It's good to see your smiling face. You must be a good man for the job if Sec.Clinton chose you. Maybe I'll catch this on C-Span?

May you never get your mords wixed.

All the best,
ek

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 12, 2009

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

Yours is certainly not an easy job but vital. I'm glad to read of your commitment to the journalists and the jobs they do. Best wishes and good luck, Mr. Kelly.

Patrick
|
Maryland, USA
May 13, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Hi, Everyone & :)

I like Ian's "Daily Press Briefings" they are pretty good.

He's not Robert, but i think i can get use to watching him do the daily briefings. I have watch his two briefings and like the way he answers the questions they have asked him, even Matt's early morning news question LOL.

I hope Robert likes his new Job, and maybe he can make aGuest Appearance every once in a yell.

I look foward to watching your Daily Briefing Ian .

Thanks for posting with the news. Cya...Ian...

marc
|
Wisconsin, USA
May 13, 2009

Marc in Wisconsin writes:

Congratulations, Ian. Knowing that Secretary Clinton has someone of your caliber representing her has increased my respect for her.

Masood
|
California, USA
May 14, 2009

Masood in California writes:

Hello Ian --

Congratulations on starting as a spokesman and acting assistant secretary of public affairs with state department!

Recently Russian Foreign Minister in his remarks mentioned that he discussed in detail all issues starting with bilateral relations in a meeting with Secretary Clinton.

Yesterday, Russia has made its national security strategy public. Security Strategy basically views U.S. and NATO as a major threat to global security and potentially to Russia as well.

Do you think something went wrong after Foreign Minister LAVROV meeting with Secretary Clinton?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 24, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ian Kelly--Hi Ian,

Welcome to the wonderful world of Dipnote!

I've been bugging Luke & staff for awhile to get some of the good questions that come up from the readership on a regular basis here to be incorperated into the daily briefing. Sean McCormack instigated Briefing 2.0 whereby video questions may be submitted. Being technologicly unable to do so (and not the only one), here's an alternative:

What would be nice is if you had the time to do a weekly blog summary of the issues raised in briefing, and let us provide followup. Perhaps you'll be kind enough to take the questions that come up and post the answer on the weekly blog entry itself, or if the mood strikes you, carry the question over into the actual briefing as a "write in" question from the public domain.

So I'm going to toss one out for you as a "test case", and see if it is in your pervue to answer.

I know your a busy fellow adjusting to your new position, but this I think is a critical question that begs an answer, and I hope you'll "take" this with all the seriousness in which it is asked, as if I was a member of the press corps.

"Does the U.S. Dept of State consider the deliberate starvation of the North Korean people by Kim ill Jong's government an act of genocide?"

Personally I believe it does, but I'd like an official opinion if my government is so inclined to give it on the record.

Thanks.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 14, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Ian,

Welcome to the wonderful world of Dipnote!

I've been bugging Luke & staff for awhile to get some of the good questions that come up from the readership on a regular basis here to be incorperated into the daily briefing. Sean McCormack instigated Briefing 2.0 whereby video questions may be submitted. Being technologicly unable to do so (and not the only one), here's an alternative:

What would be nice is if you had the time to do a weekly blog summary of the issues raised in briefing, and let us provide followup. Perhaps you'll be kind enough to take the questions that come up and post the answer on the weekly blog entry itself, or if the mood strikes you, carry the question over into the actual briefing as a "write in" question from the public domain.

So I'm going to toss one out for you as a "test case", and see if it is in your pervue to answer.

I know your a busy fellow adjusting to your new position, but this I think is a critical question that begs an answer, and I hope you'll "take" this with all the seriousness in which it is asked, as if I was a member of the press corps.

"Does the U.S. Dept of State consider the deliberate starvation of the North Korean people by Kim ill Jong's government an act of genocide?"

Personally I believe it does meet the criteria legally, but I'd like an official opinion if my government is so inclined to give it on the record.

Thanks.

EJ

Ian
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 16, 2009

Department Spokesman Ian Kelly writes:

@ Eric J. -- Your question about North Korea is a good one. Sounds like a question for the lawyers (I'm not one). As we say in the trade, I'll take it and get back to you...

@ Masood -- We have our differences with Russia -- we make no bones about that. For one thing, we don't see NATO (or the U.S.) as any kind of threat to Russia. Membership in NATO requires states to be democracies and have firm civilian control over the military -- factors that lead to regional stability. We think it's in Russia's interests to have stronger ties with NATO. We also welcome more cooperation via the NATO-Russia Council -- something they've indicated they want to do.

So we do have policy differences with Russia, but we will be transparent about them and discuss them openly.

Glad I was able to answer at least one question!

And hi Marc, and thanks to all of you for your best wishes!

Ian

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 16, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Thanks Ian, perhaps the answer will help aggregate a solution.

Aye, to the lawyers it is then...

I would just say that no one could rightly expect you to be all , know all...or provide instant answer to what requires due consideration.

Best regards,

EJ

John
|
Greece
May 17, 2009

John in Greece writes:

In other words: "Policy-Diplomacy/Law". However, what the frontiers are? Mr. Ian Kelly and Eric in NM gave us a great "pass" for discussion!

When and where policy-diplomacy stops and the Law "decides"? But also, when and where the Law stops, when Policy-Diplomacy is sure that the Law does not work?

According to "Kim's law", everything is fine... After all, he -- as a dictator -- makes the law, according to his needs! He is locally "innocent", according to his "law".

Nevertheless, is he internationally innocent, according to our western law codes?

And as long as this is not an issue of "common acceptable law", does this become an internationally political-diplomacy agenda, or a "law office" decision to be made?

Great question Eric!

Great answer Mr. Kelly!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 17, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John, I think Ian's going to have an interesting week ahead, by the looks of things.

Couple things that didn't get much press last week may have a lot of bearing on discussions this week, with the new Israeli PM in DC.

If I'm at all suprised , it not that my question was "taken", but that no one had asked it before now.

My advice to the press, if Ian would care to share it, is that more change has come about from a single strait-forward question, asked a opportune moment, to the right people, than all of the op-ed's ever written on a subject.

(offered as a facet of that dreaded public feedback I warned him about in my first post here.)

Hopefully as I said, the answer to mine will "aggregate" or bring a "coming together of minds" due to the nature of its gravity, and a solution to it be found thereby.

Opinions matter though too, especially when those in the trenches give them, IE:

http://foreign.senate.gov/

Under "Hearings" , Titled- The Middle East: The Road to Peace ( video linked ) Testimony of the Right Honorable Tony Blair, "Quartet" representitive.

In my opinion, Mr. Blair's articulate assesments and overview were by far some of the most comprehensive testimony regarding the two state solution available on public record.

Some very good questions were raised in committee, and were answered forthrightly.

Then there's this little item:

USUN PRESS RELEASE # 099#(09)
May 15, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
United States Mission to the United Nations
140 East 45th Street
New York, N.Y. 10017

Statement by the P-5, on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting, May 15, 2009

---
The Delegations of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America affirm our collective support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and welcome the progress and substantive discussion at this Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
Our Delegations reiterate our enduring and unequivocal commitment to work towards nuclear disarmament, an obligation shared by all NPT states parties. We welcome the decision by the U.S. and Russia to negotiate an agreement to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the recent emphasis on further steps, including promotion of entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and negotiation at the CD of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty within its agreed programme of work.

Our Delegations also agree that action is needed to reinforce the IAEA safeguards system and to ensure full compliance by states with their international obligations. The NPT reflects the right of all parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and also their obligations to safeguard against proliferation.

Our Delegations share the commitment to support the implementation of Article IV of the NPT and further develop proposals that promise to expand the peaceful use of nuclear energy in ways that reduce proliferation risk.

We note our commitment to use the opportunity of the 2010 Review Conference to preserve international confidence in the Treaty and to strengthen it in all its aspects. We urge all NPT states parties to share in this goal and join us working to ensure a successful and balanced review.

---end.

Noting the intent to "strengthen it in all its aspects", I think it would have instantly strenthened the NPT had the complete sentence read as follows:

"We note our commitment to use the opportunity of the 2010 Review Conference to preserve, FOSTER, AND INSPIRE international confidence in, AND ADHERANCE TO the Treaty, IN ORDER TO ASSURE COMPLETE INTERNATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION in all its aspects."

( modifications in BOLD)

"Law is logic." followed through with intent.

Ian K.
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 19, 2009

Department Spokesman Ian Kelly writes:

@ Eric J. -- In regards to your question, the United States remains concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people. For over a decade, North Korea has experienced chronic malnutrition and food shortages, which have been affected by natural disasters as well as agricultural and economic policy problems. The United States also remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea, and we will continue to press North Korea to improve its human rights record.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 22, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ian Kelly,

Thanks for your response Ian,

John in Greece pondered, "In other words: "Policy-Diplomacy/Law". However, what the frontiers are?"...

Are we pushing the envelope yet?

I appreciate the nature of the "deep concern" noted in the statement provided.

"Aid agencies have estimated that up to two million people have died since the mid-1990s as a result of acute food shortages caused by natural disasters and economic mismanagement.""According to a study published last year by the Food and Agricultural Organization, 13 million people in North Korea -- over half of the population -- suffered from malnutrition."

http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/north-korea/more-information-on-...

---
Seems Kim government has made a willful choice to build nukes instead of feed his people.

It is this perspective that caused me to wonder if this willful neglect for human life represents an act of genocide, given the numbers involved and the circumstance over time.

Policy being under review and all, hope folks find the perspective useful.

Take care,

EJ

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 26, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ian Kelly -- I've often heard it said that it is difficult to know what is going on inside North Korea. Words like "opaque", are often used, or have been in prior briefings down through the years.

While it is understandably not in your job description to comment on intelligence matters, I thought you'd get a kick out of what can be learned through the public domain when a fellow sets out to do the compilation and research.

http://www.nkeconwatch.com/north-korea-uncovered-google-earth

I know this will be a very interesting week ahead with 'lil Kim acting like a three year old with a nuclear temper tantrum, so here's passing on to you a way to assuage the insatiable press corps when they want those kinds of details, by offering them some reference material they can reach out and touch (virtually).

This isn't just putting Google Earth to work in a creative way, you'll find this is very, very complete work of research in all aspects, complete with eye witness interviews of those that have escaped the Gulag. Their stories of survival are worth notice by the public.

For those that don't have Google Earth, you'll find a link to download the software on the page linked above. And then download the file on NK provided.

P.S. Give 'lil Kim my "love" please....

Thanks. Keep up the good work.

EJ

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 27, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Preamble

The undersigned, the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command, on the one hand, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and the Commander of the Chinese People's Volunteers, on the other hand, in the interest of stopping the Korean conflict, with its great toil of suffering and bloodshed on both sides, and with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved, do individually, collectively, and mutually agree to accept and to be bound and governed by the conditions and terms of armistice set forth in the following articles and paragraphs, which said conditions and terms are intended to be purely military in character and to pertain solely to the belligerents in Korea:

http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/k...agr072753.html
---

"Our revolutionary armed forces ... will regard" South Korea's participation "in the PSI as a declaration of war ..." the North's official news agency said.

Pyongyang also announced it was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

"The Korean Peninsula is bound to immediately return to a state of war from a legal point of view, and so our revolutionary armed forces will go over to corresponding military actions," North Korea said through its news agency.

-CNN

---
Article II of the armistice states:

...
13. In order to insure the stability of the military armistice so as to facilitate the attainment of a peaceful settlement through the holding by both sides of a political conference of a higher level, the Commanders of the opposing sides shall:

...

(e) Insure that personnel of their respective commands who violate any of the provisions of this armistice agreement are adequately punished.

---

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece, There are times when the threat of war must be met with the promise of war to invoke peace.

Case in point, behavior change of crazies that threaten peace such as Kim ill Jong may involve convincing him we are (all the other five parties involved in the 6 party talks) unanimous in declaring war upon North Korea, for violating the terms of the 50+ year old ceasefire that has been in place; The moment he attempts to conduct another nuclear test or missile launch, and that he has a brief window of opportunity to resume presence at the negotiating table, or the five will remove him from power regardless of any further threats or actions, as sufficiant causus belli exists already.

China most of all does not need a nuclear armed madman on its doorstep, and several million starving people next door.

China's stability and security could only be enhanced if a rational government existed in North Korea. Russia's too. So the combined weight of the will of nations is in the interest of all nations, if the correct methodology is applied.

Maybe then there would be a reasonable possibility of reunification among the Korea's people.

Posted on Mon May 11, 2009

http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entries/first_100_days/

....In my honest opinion, if the five other parties cannot see to it that the "concequences" of another nuclear test or missile launch would be so painful to Kim personally that he would not order its attempt, then indeed you cannot do more than "hope" he doesn't.

And whereas it concerns Kim's genocidal tendancies, treating his treatment of his own people as a separate issue is not solving the problem.

Folks think he's just running his mouth, but you know what?

Folks that threaten often get a case of terminal stupidity.

And then what up with that?

Folks all over the planet will be wondering why the Five parties didn't get a grip on this long before then.

Sooner rather than later please, this could get messy.

Posted on Wed May 13, 2009

---

As it regards the political will of nations to resolve the threat to peace and security by creating a consensus upon which to act in a concrete manner to implement the "consequences" of the actions of ethical infants;
However that becomes manifest, even if it requires the removal of the current leadership of North Korea, I do believe it can be done without war being the end result.

Folks are going to have to get creative, and think outside the box in order to resolve this.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 27, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ian Kelly -- If I may be so bold as to ask a follow-up...

General Omar Bradley once said, "Our's is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants, we know more about war than we do about peace, more about killing than about living."

Mine is a long-standing philosophical question:

At what point does the international community determine that the ethical infant's diapers need changing, as the smell of ill intent has become all too overwhelming and noxious to Humanity?

Under Secretary Joseph once offered this in response:

"As in Omar Bradley's time, the United States continues to offer the world ethical leadership, dedicated to partnerships that lead to lasting international peace and security, as well as to the development of democratic governments and the rule of law.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism will build on Secretary Rice's vision of transformational diplomacy by building consensus among partner nations regarding our most serious international security threat, and galvanize them to take concrete and sustained steps to defeat it."

Would you care to expand on the last administration's thoughts on the matter in context to this current administration's approach to these issues?

Thanks.

EJ

Ian
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 30, 2009

Department Spokesman Ian Kelly writes:

@ Eric -- I speak for the foreign policy of this administration, so I'll decline comparing it to that of the previous. North Korea's defiance of the international community is one of the more difficult issues we face. But we're not facing it alone -- on the contrary, rarely have we seen such solidarity anong the permanent members of the UN Security Council. South Korea and Japan have also called for a strong unified message. North Korea is starkly isolated. That's where are leverage is -- strong multilateral pressure. Ian

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 31, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ian Kelly, I fully understand your answer, my bad that I didn't articulate the question clearly. Wasn't trying to illicit a political comparison. I was wondering about the evolution of policy.

We could probably examine the continuity of U.S. policy towards nuclear issues over the years with an electron microscope and see no dicernable comparison to speak of when there is no discernable difference to be found in ethos, intent, or diplomacy throughout many administrations since a "very long letter" was written.

"As in Omar Bradley's time, the United States continues to offer the world ethical leadership, dedicated to partnerships that lead to lasting international peace and security, as well as to the development of democratic governments and the rule of law."

There's decades of U.S. foreign policy summed up in his statement and whether it's called "transformational diplomacy" or "smart power", ...I think it's probably safe to say that we have succeeded in "building consensus among partner nations regarding our most serious international security threat, and galvanize them to take concrete and sustained steps to defeat it."

So much so in fact that I have to wonder if I'm witness to a paradime shift in the making ,not in US policy, but in the global awareness aspect.

Thanks to the hard work of many a U.S. diplomat I'm sure.

Now we live life in an evolving context and I tried to boil down an essential philosophical question to semantic terms any parent can understand with the purpose of not getting caught up in politicaly loaded semantics like "behavior change" or "regime change" so folks could ponder it a bit on a "human condition" level rather than the political, and actually far beyond the policy level.

I have been encoraged by what I've seen in the way of some solid partnerships like PSI gaining new members constantly since inception and there's continuity of policy to be appreciated here I think in South Korea's joining.

As well we live in evolving circumstance and North Korea is certainly a fine example to be sure of cooperative multilateral diplomacy, which is evolving as I write this.

Even if it needs to be reassesed from time to time, the process has yielded positive results among the five parties (of the six) despite its having not yet met the initial basis for calling the process a "success", and the denuclearization of the peninsula has not been established in fact.

Correct me if this is wrong thinking, but I don't believe even five years ago while U.S. bilateral relation with Russia and China were improving, that we'd ever conceive then of what we're doing off of Somalia's coast today, and then add what? a dozen or so nations along with?

Where this international cooperation will go in time, I'm not sure anyone knows, but I was hoping you could give me your thoughts on the progress and direction, speaking in your honorable capacity.

Best Regards,

EJ

Mike
|
New York, USA
August 27, 2009

Mike in New York writes:

Your recent comment regarding Gaddafi's proposed visit to the U.S. in September:

"Our priority has been and will remain the families of the victims of this tragedy," Kelly told reporters. "We, of course, are sensitive to the concerns of the communities that might be affected by any travel arrangements made for the Libyan delegation."

You've got your priorities mixed up. Colonel Gaddafi is an admitted terrorist. He should be arrested and tried the minute his plane hits the tarmac.

Nike
|
Ukraine
September 16, 2009

Nike in the Ukraine writes:

I watched your speech and I think you copes with your new role in a good way. You're self-confident and besides a nice professional. Secretary Clinton has a wonderful team. I adore her as a personality and can't even imagine that her assistants may be unskilled. Wish you good luck!

Jim
|
Minnesota, USA
September 23, 2009

Jim in Minnesota writes:

Dear Ian,

I was surprised and delighted to see you on TV the other night. Congratulations on your new job at State. Needless to say, St. Olaf and I are very proud of you.

.

Latest Stories

November 21, 2014

The Case for Studying Abroad

Talk to Americans who studied abroad and chances are you will hear some version of the same story. "I understand… more

Pages