It is with deep humility and respect that we gather here today to honor one of our own, Ragaei Abdelfattah.
To Ragaei’s family—his wife Angela, his two sons Omar and Ali, their mother Heba, and members of his family at home in Cairo—our prayers are with you. We are grateful for the sacrifices you made to support Ragaei in his life’s work. We know it was not easy.
We are honored to be joined by our colleagues from the White House, the Department of Defense, and the State Department, including Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
In his devotion to his family and his work, Ragaei represented the very best among us.
An architect and urban planner by training, he would stay up late in the evenings after a long day to work on his Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization—a pursuit that revealed his intellectual spirit as much as his work-ethic.
Hardly a friend or colleague remembers him without mentioning his warm smile that could capture a room, his patience in even the most frustrating situation, or the deep love and affection with which he spoke about his family and shared news of them.
They remember that he liked to walk slowly, so he could appreciate his surroundings, stopping to chat and wave to children.
They remember his dedication to his religion. How he fasted for Ramadan, even in the brutal heat of Afghanistan, breaking bread with his colleagues in the evening and sharing with them the beauty he found in Islam.
And they remember how passionately he wanted to make the world a better place.
After his first year in Afghanistan, Ragaei chose to extend for another because he felt strongly that his work was not finished. He was focused on several projects in eastern Afghanistan, including expanding access to electricity in a region ripe for commercial development.
In fact, within just the last few days, the construction of an electric sub-station in Jalalabad and a new transmission line were completed—projects that Ragaei worked very hard to bring to life.
These new developments have ushered in a cost-effective source of electricity for the second-largest city in eastern Afghanistan and the hundreds of businesses operating there.
Ragaei would not only have been pleased with that knowledge, but proud of how it was accomplished. Local communities, provincial governments, and the national government came together to get it done—just as Ragaei would have wanted.
To every project, Ragaei brought his customary composure and optimism. “A safe harbor in rough waters,” was how one close friend described him.
Our work brings us to the very frontlines of poverty and conflict in pursuit of a noble and compassionate mission—to fight for the least fortunate among us.
It is a mission that takes us to every corner of the world—sometimes far from our families, sometimes in harm’s way.
And sometimes it asks for the ultimate sacrifice.
This afternoon, it is my honor to award Ragaei Abdelfattah the Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service—which we will have the opportunity to present to his family in a moment.
Ragaei is only the fourth from our Agency to receive this prestigious presidential award, which recognizes those who have fallen in the line of duty. Named for our founding father who penned the Declaration of Independence and enshrined our nation’s commitment to liberty, it is an especially fitting honor for Ragaei.
We also place a memorial stone on the wall behind us to remember Ragaei’s sacrifice and honor his memory. He joins courageous men and women—heroes who gave their lives so that our vital mission could continue forward.
As we look across this overflowing room and think about Ragaei’s close friends in Afghanistan and around the world, we are confident that his fine example and cherished memory will continue to inspire others for a long time to come.
Last updated: February 12, 2014