The White House
Remarks by Vice President Pence at Swearing-In Ceremony of Carlos Trujillo as U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
May 2, 2018
The Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
4:04 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon. And on behalf of President Trump and the First Family, it’s my privilege to say, welcome to the White House. And welcome to the swearing-in of the 20th United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Trujillo. (Applause.)
Before I begin, let me just speak a few words from my heart about a tragic incident that occurred earlier today. I wanted to take a moment to address the crash involving the Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 that went down outside Savannah, Georgia. First responders are on the scene. We will continue to monitor developments.
But allow me to express the deepest sympathies of the First Family and my family, to all the families of these brave Americans, and to all the courageous airmen who serve with them in the Puerto Rico National Guard. You are all on our hearts and will remain in our prayers.
And thank you all for being here for this special occasion. And, Carlos, I’d like to begin today by welcoming your wonderful family, without whom I’m sure you would not be standing here today. So join me in welcoming our new ambassador’s wife Carmen, and Carlos, Isabella, Juan Pablo, and Felipe. Give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
And Isabella just proved that she is the daughter of a new United States Ambassador, because she just named all 45 Presidents. (Laughter.) Wonderful job. I’m very proud of you. I also want to recognize all the members for your extended family who are here with us today. I know how proud they are.
Under President Donald Trump, the Western Hemisphere is a key priority for the United States of America because the security and prosperity of our region directly affects the security and the prosperity of the American people. And our new Ambassador, Carlos Trujillo — the President has chosen a principled leader who we know will ably represent the United States and our interests at the Organization of American States.
Carlos, you bring to this new role a wealth of experience and a proven record of service to this nation. Growing up in Florida, the son of Cuban parents, you’ve seen firsthand how the fortunes of our neighbors across the wider region influence our own nation.
Your hometown of Miami, known as the Gateway to the Americas, is in every sense a melting pot of different cultures and traditions. It reflects the rich tapestry of the Western Hemisphere. For the better part of a decade, you served the good people of your city and state. Graduated from law school. You spent four years as Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office. From there, you founded your own legal practice. But in 2010, you stepped up once more to represent your hometown, and you’ve served with distinction in the Florida House of Representatives ever since.
From the first time he met you, President Trump recognized your leadership and for the past few months, as a reflection of that, you’ve served as a special advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. And now you’ve taken a much larger role — a role that’s vitally important to the life our nation, in our hemisphere, and in the world.
The Organization of American States, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding only two days ago, brings together the United States and essentially every nation from across the Western Hemisphere. In this forum, it will be your responsibility to represent our nation and to forge stronger partnerships in the pursuit of America’s interests.
This is of vital importance to our administration. Two weeks ago, you and I first met in Lima, Peru at the 8th Summit of the Americas, where I spoke to the members of the Organization of American States about the United States’ priorities for the region. I’ll be reiterating that message, alongside you once again, at OAS headquarters this coming Monday.
Under President Trump, as you know, Carlos, the United States seeks to forge stronger and more balanced trade relationships across the region. We believe the spread of prosperity beyond our borders benefits our people and benefits our hemisphere.
We’ve already made good progress in recent months with many of our allies across the region, and we look forward to working with you to continue to advance America’s economic interests.
We also seek to strengthen our security partnerships in the Western Hemisphere. The interconnected dangers of illegal drugs, illegal migration, human trafficking, rising crime increasingly threaten the wellbeing of our people.
And so we are committed, and it will be much of your task, to work with our allies across the region to root out corruption — the corruption that spreads misery and instability and compromises the values of this hemisphere of freedom.
And finally, the United States is committed to see to it that this is a hemisphere of freedom. As you know, the Charter of the Organization of American States reads, “The historic mission of America is to offer…a land of liberty.” The Western Hemisphere has made great progress toward this goal. But as we all know, we still have much work to do.
In recent weeks, the government of Nicaragua has brutally repressed its own people by raising their voices in peaceful protest.
In Cuba, the Castro name may be fading, but its legacy of tyranny lives on and hangs over that country like a cloud, darkening the future of all who call that island home.
And in Venezuela, under the rule of the dictator Nicolás Maduro, a once-flourishing democracy has disintegrated into dictatorship. And what was once perhaps the most prosperous nation in South America has become one of its poorest.
In light of these many challenges, President Trump has made our nation’s policy clear. We will stand with all who yearn for liberty and we will stand up to their oppressors. (Applause.)
Carlos, you were along with me at the Summit of the Americas when the President had me, just a few short weeks ago, communicate his vision for achieving our goal of a hemisphere of freedom. And we know that that vision that will guide your work, as you take on the responsibilities to represent the United States at the Organization of American States.
And President Trump and I have full confidence that, given your integrity and given your leadership and given your abilities, that you’ll do just that, and advance the interests of America, and the interests of freedom, and the prosperity and security of our people.
With your voice at the Organization of American States, with the leadership of President Donald Trump, with the support of the good people of this nation, and freedom-loving people all across this hemisphere, we know the best days for the new world are yet to come.
So now it is my privilege to administer the oath of office. So if you want to bring up this big, beautiful family; place your left hand on the Bible; and raise your right hand, we’ll do that right now.
(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce to you the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Ambassador Carlos Trujillo. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR TRUJILLO: Thank you, Vice President Pence. It’s truly an honor to be here before a lot of my friends and family today, and especially with you administering the oath. It really means a lot to me and a lot to my family. We really, really appreciate it. Thank you.
A good friend of mine once told me that elections have consequences. And I think there’s nothing — no story that’s really resonated with me more personally than that saying. And he happened to tell me that in about 2016.
And if you look back in 2016, the state of our country, it was the first time in the history of America in which people feared that their children would be worse off than themselves. And it’s something, as I raise my young family, I’ve really thought about. And I watched the presidential election cycle more than any one I’ve seen in the past, and seeing the campaign of President Trump and now Vice President Pence.
And it’s easy to forget where we were at that time in history. The economy was crashing, people lacked consumer confidence. And if you looked specifically at the Western Hemisphere, where we were, we were entering into a Iran deal that the majority of Americans rejected. We weren’t standing with the people of Venezuela. And our own President was down in Cuba shaking hands, eating hotdogs, and celebrating a baseball game with a dictator who tortured and imprisoned political prisoners and dissidents throughout many years.
And then the election happened, and America had a renewed faith. America had leaders that cared. And just seeing my grandparents, that are both present here today, they left that. Imagine being, towards the end of your life — and imagine all those people that left in refuge, whether they were Cuban or Venezuelan or any other part of the world, and really thinking, “Was all this struggle in vain? Is America really going to turn its back on human rights? Is America really going to turn its back on democracy?”
And right out of the gate, this new administration said, “Absolutely not. That’s not who America is, and that’s not what we will stand for.” And you look at the successes that we’ve had since then. As I was approached about applying to become an ambassador and — really, the largest professional honor I’ve had in my life — they asked me, you know, “Why would you do this? And why would you want to do it?”
And it’s not just being an ambassador. It’s being an ambassador for this administration. It’s being an ambassador that’s going to stand up for human rights; being an ambassador that’s going to stand up for democracy; being an ambassador that’s going to sit across the table, whether it’s at the OAS or anywhere else, and say that the American people will always stand on the side of justice and liberty. (Applause.)
And I can tell you, Vice President Pence, I’ve never felt more proud than sitting there in Lima — and as we’re sitting in the room, it’s a plenary of all these different leaders from all across the Western Hemisphere. And you hear people — Evo Morales and some of these people — just attacking American democratic values. And you see the Vice President of the United States come in and really set the message straight: We won’t stand for that. We will always, always stand on the side of human rights. We will always stand for democracy. We will always fight for those principles.
I was so proud. I couldn’t have been anymore honored to just be sitting there next to the Vice President of the United States, looking across the table and seeing the country that’s called Cuba, knowing the history of my family, knowing that my parents, my grandparents came here. My parents came at the same age as my children who are standing next to me. And knowing that, in just the one generation — one generation away — you could go from coming over on a plane with the shirt on your back, working your tail off, paying your taxes, honoring your country and God. And in just 40 or 50 years, my grandparents are living testament that your child, your grandchild, could be standing at this podium. That is only in America. (Applause.)
There’s a lot of people that have helped me throughout the way and I’d really want to thank my grandparents who are here today. It’s a real honor that they’re both here, living, watching this. My grandmother who’s at home and my other one who is in heaven. My parents, who are here, a lot of immediate friends and family. And when you have these small events — these intimate events — you really reflect on your life. And I think a lot of the people here are different chapters of my life.
Some of my closet friends since when I was child. Some of my friends that I made across the way in college. Some of — some people I went into business with and have become very good friends. Some people who I had the honor of serving in the Florida House with. Some people who were supporting me, and mentoring me, and coaching me, and encouraging me throughout my entire life. And some new friends that I’ve made in my limited time working here in the Western Hemisphere. But you’re all very, very special. And I know that I wouldn’t be half the person, half the husband, half the father, half the American that I am without your support. And I’m really, really appreciative for that.
And lastly, I want to thank my wife. I know when the opportunity presented itself, of moving to Washington, D.C. with four young children and not many schooling options or anything else, not one time did she tell me, “We can’t do that.” When she said, “You could serve your country and you could honor this administration. You could honor a country that has done so, so much for my family, in particular, and so much for Americans and people across the world.” It was never, “No.” It was, “When can we start?” So, Carmen — (Applause.) Carmen, thank you. None of this would be even worth — or possible without you. I really, really appreciate it.
And Vice President Pence, it’s really one of the biggest honors of my life to serve in your administration. I look forward to working diligently with that resolve and never wavering until Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Western Hemisphere is free and able to enjoy the liberties and democracies that we all celebrate.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.