Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 8, 2021
QUESTION: Ambassador, welcome to The Sunday Show.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here.
QUESTION: So, you are leading the U.S. delegation to Tokyo for the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Why is it important to make this trip?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just say how proud I am that the President selected me to lead this trip to the closing ceremony. It is important that we be there for a number of reasons. One, President Biden and the First Lady wanted to make sure that we were there to cheer on the young people of America who are competing with such tremendous pride and commitment and grit. They are flying the flag and showing the competitiveness that is so important to the United States. And we want to be there at the closing ceremony to let them know how proud we are as Americans of what they have achieved.
I will also be meeting with the refugee team. I worked on refugee issues more than half of my career, and I was so proud when that team was established two years ago. So, I’m going to have the opportunity to also cheer them on as they represent the world, basically, because they are coming from countries where they have fled persecution, but yet it has not stopped them from participating.
QUESTION: And I was about to ask you – the refugee team – where do they come from? Do you have any idea how many countries? You said they come from all over the world. How many countries are represented within the refugee team?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t know the exact answer to that. I know that there are a number of African countries on the team, including several from South Sudan, a country that I have worked with and have been engaged with over the years. But, I’m thinking that there are probably about 20 countries represented.
QUESTION: So, Ambassador, you mentioned a moment ago that you’re going to Tokyo to cheer on – cheer on the young people, cheer on the young American athletes. If there’s one young American athlete everyone’s been talking about this entire Olympic Games, it’s Simone Biles. I would love to get your thoughts on Simone Biles and what you think of her decisions that she made about not competing, and picking and choosing when she was going to compete in these games.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am so proud of her. I hope I have the opportunity to meet her and pat her on the back and, if possible, even hug her. She is so strong. She represents the best that our country has to offer, and I think it took tremendous courage for her to make the decisions that she made at the Olympics. She made the best decision for her. She made the best decision for her team. And I think we should all pat her on the back and give her a high five as she moves on in her career.
QUESTION: Well, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, I’m also wondering how do you relate personally to Simone Biles? You’re in different spheres: she’s an athlete, you are a diplomat. But you’re both Black women in rarefied air. Wondering your personal reflections on what she’s been going through over these games.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: She reflects, again, the best that America has to offer, but also the best of the African-American community in her field of expertise. And I’m encouraged by her. I am given strength by seeing her actions and her behavior and the pride that she shows in her skills. And I’m learning from her, as well. I always tell young people you never stop learning. And while I’m old enough to be her grandmother, she has taught me so much about what it means to be strong in the presence of adversity.
QUESTION: You know, Ambassador, as I get older, I’m learning – I am learning those same lessons, as well. You know, earlier this week you spoke at the UN in favor of the creation of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent. What is that? And what’s its purpose?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It was a proud moment at the United Nations for us to move forward on this resolution that establishes a forum for addressing issues of race across the globe. And the United States was very, very proud to join with other countries to support this resolution. It’s going to give us a forum – it’s going to give us a platform – to address the issues of systemic racism that we have seen in almost every corner of the world.
QUESTION: Right, systemic racism, for the viewers, not just in the United States, but around the world. Ambassador, in the time we have left, I just want to ask you about Haiti. You led the U.S. delegation to the funeral of the slain – the assassinated – president of Haiti. And at the time, gunfire broke out and you had to cut your trip short. One, how are you doing after that particular experience? And two, what does – what did that tell you about the future stability of the Caribbean nation?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, again, I was really delighted to represent the President and lead the Presidential Delegation to the funeral of the president – it was bipartisan. We had Chairman Meeks and Representative Fortenberry on the delegation. And the purpose of the delegation was to send a message to the people of Haiti that they have not been forgotten, that the United States has their back, and that we support their efforts to move toward a more stable country that will allow them to have elections and support and vote for their leaders of the future. But what I saw when I was there was a tremendous amount of pain; a tremendous amount of discontent by ordinary people who want to see their government deliver on their futures. And it highlighted for me the importance of us being there, and the importance of us continuing to engage with the people of Haiti, with their leadership, urging and encouraging their leadership to make difficult choices, difficult decisions on moving forward. And also to highlight the fact that the United States has provided support in the investigation of the president’s assassination.
QUESTION: United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you very much for coming to The Sunday Show.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Jonathan.