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Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Nov 16 2010 at 6:30:55 GMT
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WHEELS UP

After spending the morning further exploring Christchurch and its environs, Secretary Clinton has just departed to continue her Asia Pacific trip. Dr. McWaine and I are standing on the tarmac with Minister Brownlee, Mayor Parker, and other dignitaries as the Secretary’s plane lifts off, happy that the Secretary was able to spend three days here in New Zealand, the longest stop on her journey.

She is now on her way west to Melbourne where she will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other officials for the annual AUSMIN ministerial meetings. Held regularly since 1985, AUSMIN is the principal forum for bilateral consultations between Australia and the United States.

The Secretary will then head home to Washington, with a final stop in American Samoa en route.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles. Click through for larger Photo.

The full journey: 12 stops, 13 days, and more than 31,000 miles.

From all accounts the Secretary thoroughly enjoyed her time in Aotearoa. She commented frequently on the warmth and openness of our Kiwi friends. She was impressed with the natural beauty and vibrant culture of the country. And she was pleased with the steps being taken to deepen and expand what is already a deep, abiding, values-based, strategic, and mutually beneficial bilateral collaboration.

We wish the Secretary safe travels and look forward to seeing her again soon.

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OFF TO CHRISTCHURCH

Secretary Clinton started her day today with a private discussion with a group of students who recently participated in the Embassy’s Connecting Young Leaders conference.  The Secretary has consistently demonstrated a deep and meaningful commitment to engaging youth as she travels, and she always enjoys her interactions with students.  This morning’s conversation was no exception.

The Secretary with our young friends (from left to right) Emily, Keoni, Mahani, Areti, Kieran, Edon, the Secretary, Hori, me, Sam, Horiana, Nick, Kate, and Andrew.

The Secretary with our young friends (from left to right) Emily, Keoni, Mahani, Areti, Kieran, Edon, the Secretary, Hori, me, Sam, Horiana, Nick, Kate, and Andrew.

The Secretary is also deeply committed to supporting the Department’s local and expat staff at our Embassies and Consulates abroad and, particularly, the spouses and children of our hard-working colleagues.  She specifically asked that this morning’s schedule include a meet-and-greet with our Mission New Zealand staff and families, and we had a wonderful, morale-boosting gathering with about 100 folks from our Wellington and Auckland extended family.

The Secretary greeting our Embassy and Consulate colleagues and families.

The Secretary greeting our Embassy and Consulate colleagues and families.

As a fitting close to our time in Wellington, we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, to pay our respects for the sacrifices made by the New Zealand military services in the ongoing struggle to preserve peace and security in the Pacific and around the world.

The Secretary conveyed to our good friend Dr. Wayne Mapp, New Zealand’s Minister of Defense (as well as Minister of Research, Science, and Technology), the gratitude and respect of the American People for New Zealand’s historical courage and commitment. Principles are not without cost, and Americans deeply appreciate the way Kiwis have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends through challenging times. The Secretary laid a wreath inside Memorial Hall and placed a red rose on the tomb outside the hall.

The Secretary and U.S. Lt. Gen. Paul J. Selva.

The Secretary and U.S. Lt. Gen. Paul J. Selva laying a wreath in Memorial Hall.

We then drove back to the airport to board the Secretary’s airplane for the short flight to Christchurch.  The skies were clear and blue most of the way, and the Secretary got an excellent view of the Southern Alps. In Christchurch we were met on the tarmac by Mayor Bob Parker and Minister for Economic Development Gerry Brownlee, along with Foreign Minister McCully (who had flown down with us). Our greeters were gracious and in good spirits despite being a bit damp from the steady drizzle.

Our first event in Canterbury was the presentation of a commemorative air navigation chart marking the flight path that the U.S. Antarctic Program has used for more than 50 years to reach the ice from its base in Christchurch. The Secretary spoke to a group of scientists, explorers, and other VIPs inside the American facility, not far from the LC-130 Hercules aircraft that are the workhorses of our Antarctic program.

Rob Fenwick (of Antarctica New  Zealand) and Art Brown (of U.S. Antarctic Program) showing the Secretary points of interest on the waystation chart.

Rob Fenwick (of Antarctica New Zealand) and Art Brown (of U.S. Antarctic Program) showing the Secretary points of interest on the waystation chart.

Our next stop was the centerpiece of the Christchurch itinerary, a town hall discussion with approximately 500 citizens at the city’s Town Hall and Convention Centre, along with more than 3,000 other citizens viewing a live stream on the internet.  After a brief welcome by Mayor Parker and an introduction by Dr. Therese Arsenau, the Secretary delivered remarks commending the resilience, strength, and skill of Cantabrians in responding to September’s massive earthquake and the many subsequent large aftershocks.

She then answered questions from the audience for more than an hour.  I have always been impressed with Secretary Clinton’s enthusiasm for such free-wheeling exchanges.  I don’t know many other leaders who are so consistently willing to step in front of public audiences and engage in real conversation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Christchurch Town Hall event.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Christchurch Town Hall event.

After the town hall event, the Secretary sat for interviews with television journalists and then proceeded to a reception for U.S. exporters hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Centre of Contemporary Art.  AmCham chairman Mark Fitz-Gerald introduced the Secretary, who then spoke about the Administration’s National Export Initiative, the TransPacific Partnership, and the importance of encouraging free trade.  Guests enjoyed refreshments and the work of artist Kristin Hollis on display in the gallery.

With Mark Fitz-Gerald at the export and trade reception.

With Mark Fitz-Gerald at the export and trade reception.

We quite deliberately left Friday evening free so that the Secretary could quietly explore Christchurch at her leisure and as she wished.  We provided a long list of options, and, despite the rain, I know that she was sighted out and about after we left the AmCham reception.

Assistant Secretary Campbell, other members of the traveling party, Dr. McWaine, and I broke away to join Minister McCully for a night of rugby at the Final of the NPC (National Provincial Championship).  Also enjoying the Minister’s hospitality were Minister Gerry Brownlee, Dr. Brook Barrington, and other Kiwi friends.  Mayor Parker and his lovely partner Jo dropped by for awhile, and my colleague Bob and I reciprocated by dropping by the Mayor’s box for a drink at the half.  A spirited battle through often torrential rain and wind ended with Canterbury up over Waikato 33 to 13.

In another fitting end to another hectic and productive day, we enjoyed dazzling Guy Fawkes Day fireworks from the stadium and on our drive back to the hotel.  All in all, the afternoon and evening were a marvelous introduction to the Mainland for Secretary Clinton and our other visitors.

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A BUSY DAY IN WELLINGTON

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Dr. McWaine, and I welcomed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Wellington this morning at the crack of dawn. Deplaning vigorously after her long flight from Papua New Guinea, the Secretary jumped right into a busy schedule of internal and Ministerial meetings … after a private impromptu walk around town which turned commuters’ heads.

The Secretary's Asia-Pacific trip thus far. Click through for larger Photo.

The Secretary's Asia-Pacific trip thus far.

Secretary Clinton and her traveling party were welcomed to Parliament with a pōwhiri and greetings from Maōri elders. The Secretary was greatly impressed with the warrior challenge, the performance of all the participants in the ceremony, and the graciousness with which she was received.  She referred to the ceremony repeatedly throughout the day’s subsequent meetings and events.

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I was delighted to learn this morning that the State Department is honoring Dr. Hua Jiang of China as “State Alumni Member of the Month” for November because of his leadership and work to combat HIV/AIDS in China.

Dr. Hua Jiang.  Click through for image source.

Dr. Hua Jiang.

The impressive Dr. Hua is a health advocate, medical doctor, and surgeon in southwest China.  He is an “alumnus” because he participated in one of the Department’s C (IVLP) projects in 2005 which was focused on HIV/AIDS services in the United States and the role of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in responding to the AIDS crisis.

Through his medical and community work, Dr. Hua has become one of the foremost leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS in China.  Upon returning from his IVLP visit to the U.S., he implemented new ideas and approaches for the betterment of his community in southwest China.  Under his leadership, Aibai Chengdu LGBT Youth Center has built a corps of more than 200 volunteers working on issues such as LGBT advocacy, HIV/AIDS intervention, mental health support, and other social services.

Dr. Hua is currently serving as the president of the IVLP’s Southwest China Alumni Association, an organization that brings together exchange alumni to network and share information.  Combining his enthusiasm for bilateral exchanges with his desire to promote well-run non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China, he launched an effort to highlight NGO work among the local alumni network and to teach rules of order.  Working with other alumni leaders, he plans events and field trips that allow alumni to learn about NGOs and to strengthen their network.

In many ways Dr. Hua is Exhibit A for the importance of substantive people-to-people exchanges in advancing understanding, building friendships, and seeding the kind of community organizations upon which robust civil society depends.  He regularly meets with visiting scholars and officials to discuss health care and leadership issues, thus sharing his knowledge of China and, in return, gaining knowledge to apply in his work.  He also invites visiting U.S. professors, Fulbright scholars, and others to meet members of his organization and to lecture in China.

Again, congratulations to a smart, compassionate, and courageous advocate, for this modest but meaningful acknowledgment of all the good work that he does.

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