Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Press Availability with Senator Tim Kaine Aboard the USNS Comfort

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Norfolk, Virginia
February 10, 2023


SENATOR TIM KAINE: So let me now just introduce our UN ambassador, who is a longtime American diplomat who has focused on humanitarian issues throughout her career and represents the U.S. so well at the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much, Senator, and thank you so much for joining me on this visit. We appreciate your service so much.

Let me just say I have been wowed by this experience over the past few hours. President Biden said during his speech at the State of the Union that we needed to bring our leadership back to deal with the challenges of our times. This ship, the personnel on this ship, all of our women and men in uniform actually are on the front lines of meeting those challenges, and I am so extraordinarily proud to have spent this time here to hear about the extraordinary work that they do.

And so much goes into it. I always tell my staff I don’t want to get into the bowels of what they do. We were in the bowels of what they do. Captain Elliott, thank you so much for sharing that with us. Because what they do – they lead on diplomacy. I am on the front lines of diplomacy, but actually, I realize I’m not on the front lines of diplomacy. They are on the front lines of diplomacy, and I just come in with the wind after they have already won the battle. And I just want to take the opportunity to thank them for what they do as we face a number of challenges over the coming weeks and months, with the horrific earthquake that just happened in Türkiye, with the impact of the war in Ukraine. I am confident, now having seen these extraordinary men and women, that we are ready for those challenges.

So I just want to take the opportunity to thank them for their service, and to thank you again, Senator, for your service.

SENATOR KAINE: One more thing. I want to applaud Hampton Roads. I can’t resist with the ambassador here, who is a great Louisianan, but I want to plug Hampton Roads, Virginia. To come and see this mission – USS Comfort is based here – and this week the takedown of the balloon and the recovery effort of the balloon. All that’s being managed out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, by Navy and civilians and others. And it’s a truly amazing community, and when there’s challenges, so often it’s folks from Hampton Roads who are meeting those challenges. And I’m really excited to be here and to see this today.

MODERATOR: Any questions?

QUESTION: Yeah. So can you just talk about what you guys saw when you were walking around the ship? I mean, this is my first time being here, and even this is just, wow. So can you just talk a little bit about that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What I saw is an operation that is always ready for whatever challenges are being put in front of them, from being – it’s a hospital. I didn’t expect that. I thought I was going to be on a ship and see hospital beds spread around. This is actually an operating hospital. They provide services to civilians, but they’re also ready in time of need to provide services to our men and women in uniform who might be injured in battle. So, seeing what I have seen here, I am confident that they will always be ready to take care of people who are put in front of them.

SENATOR KAINE: I saw a lot of pride. The people who are doing this mission, they love this mission, and people are trying to get in to do this mission. The sophistication of the medicine that is provided and being able to do that in a way that makes an immediate difference in the lives of folks, but as the ambassador said, doing it in a way where you’re training so that in the event of a humanitarian disaster or a combat need, the medical personnel have got the reps in so they know exactly what to do under the most extreme circumstances. The folks who work on USS Comfort have a great sense of pride.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And I noticed every single person who briefed us, briefed us with a smile, and it just says to me they love their jobs and there’s no better job to have than one you love.

QUESTION: And besides the briefing, did you have a chance to talk with some sailors? Can you reveal a little bit of that conversation?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We did. Wherever I went, I wanted to know where they were from. I was actually – there was a purpose in that. I was looking for somebody from Louisiana. So far no one has said they were from Louis– Ah! We got one. (Laughter.)

So we talked about what they were doing. We got briefed by individual sailors on the kinds of work they are doing. I got briefed by a medic who supports doctors doing surgery. It’s – again, they do everything, and they all are really proud of what they do, and I’m proud of what they do.

QUESTION: And a U.S. senator and an ambassador – why is it so important that you be here today?

SENATOR KAINE: Well, I’m on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, and this is one of America’s leading diplomats. I mean, next to the Secretary of State, our ambassador really is our leading diplomat. And so here we are, diplomat, somebody who works on Armed Services; we’re on a Navy operation that is really more diplomacy than it is military.

The Seal of the President of the United States has an eagle on it and arrows in one claw and the olive branches of peace in the other, and President Truman switched the direction of the eagle so that the eagles are looking at diplomacy. Diplomacy first. Diplomacy first. We’re going to be strong and ready to fight and win if we need to, but diplomacy first. And this USS Comfort and the commitment that we made not only to the Comfort and Mercy but to the missions like Enduring Promise, where we continually promise, continually promise (inaudible), it’s an indication that we do lead with our diplomacy, and it’s important to underline that message (inaudible).

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And I deal regularly with humanitarian issues in New York, whether it’s dealing with the situation on the Turkish border with Syria. I was there last year to meet with humanitarian workers who are on the front lines of that. I’m worried today as I know that area was very severely affected by the earthquake. I was engaged when Haiti – when the earthquake happened, and the Comfort was there to respond to the Haitian earthquake.

So I want to know what they’re doing. I want to be able to raise the flag of pride in what they’re doing when I’m sitting behind the placard in the United Nations. And one of the things we talk about is (inaudible). This is (inaudible).

MODERATOR: Thank you. (Applause.)