Administrator Samantha Power at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Kyrgyz Republic Mission Director Kaya Adams

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Ronald Reagan Building

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you, Craig, for kicking us off.

Salam and good evening to you all in Bishkek, and good morning to everyone joining us back here in Washington and throughout the U.S.

It is such a pleasure to be speaking with everyone today. I am so pleased that we can officially swear in Kaya Adams as our new Mission Director of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Thank you to Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, KG Moore, for your opening words. I am pleased to be sending you and Chargé Coulter our first permanent Mission Director in almost two years.

I also want to thank Keith Simmions for his incredible service as our Acting Mission Director. Keith, with more than forty years of experience in the foreign service and in international development through USAID, was the perfect person to take the reins during uncertain times and has proven himself as a consummate leader time and again.

While Keith is unable to join us today, the entire USAID family is grateful for his years of distinguished service and dedication to our country. We are wishing him well in the next chapter of life, and hope he can finally enjoy a much deserved retirement.

I’d like to welcome Kaya’s mother, Alice, who is joining us virtually. Both of Kaya’s parents had long careers as anthropology professors who collaborated together on research that took them all over the world.

I’d also like to welcome Kaya’s husband Steele, a veteran of the State Department and the United Nations, who like Kaya, also caught the travel bug.

Though together for nine years, they have not always been able to find Posts in the same country. But their love has always found a way to keep them together, and they have spent years ‘commuting’ to midpoints between their various Posts.

Thank you, Steele, we are happy to have you with us today and for supporting Kaya in what is always a family commitment.

Raised in South Carolina, Kaya and her parents were often traveling the world, going to France, England, the former Yugoslavia, and many other global destinations. However, their most frequented family vacation spot—of course—was the National Archives in D.C to look at census data.

A lot of families love going to the beach or the mountains, but not the Adamses, the National Archives was the place to be.

As fascinating as the archives were, I’m guessing it was mainly the global trips that fueled Kaya’s appetite for travel and inspired a love for studying languages.

Kaya also grew up surrounded by music, theater, and a family full of artists. From an early age, Kaya picked up more talents than most people develop in a lifetime.

Her mother is a gifted singer who taught Kaya how to harmonize like a pro. Her paternal grandmother taught her how to cross-stitch while her maternal grandmother taught her photography. And if that wasn’t enough, her aunt taught her how to quilt.

By the time Kaya was a teenager, she played the cello, sang in the school choir and was a member of a harmony group.

She can also speak three languages fluently––French, German and Russian––and proficiently speak three others––Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.

Outside of her passion for art and language, Kaya has a zeal for serving others that she discovered during a high school internship with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kaya was one of three staff members advocating for the fair legal representation of prisoners. She was directly responsible for reading and responding to the letters they received from inmates.

This experience introduced Kaya to systemic inequalities that sparked questions about justice and launched her career of service.

After earning her degree at Georgetown University, she interned with the Carter Center.

Sitting just a floor below President Carter’s office, Kaya and her colleagues would role-play Camp David scenarios to develop conflict resolution skills and negotiation tactics.

These lessons came in handy when she first joined the foreign service with USAID in 2002. Kaya started as a New Entry Professional, and at that time, the Agency was severely lacking conflict mitigation strategies. So, Kaya developed Agency-wide indicators for conflict-related programming that – remarkably – are still used today.

As Kaya has done many times since, she was, according to a colleague, channeling her inner bureaucratic ninja to solve a problem that few could fix. The colleague continued: “She is able to nimbly and deftly navigate the bureaucracy to move the needle on issues that will make lasting change in the lives of those USAID serves.”

So, Kaya is an artist, musician, linguist, and now, ninja. I’m not sure there is anything she can’t do.

Kaya’s many talents have made her an indispensable leader in the struggle for democracy. Her first foreign assignment as a USAID Foreign Service Officer landed her in Kazakhstan where she worked on conflict mitigation strategies for all of Central Asia.

She arrived during the Tulip Revolution when Kyrgyz citizens were protesting against corruption and authoritarian leaders, even while the country's neighbors were actively suppressing, silencing, and even killing peaceful protestors and human rights activists.

This push and pull in the fight for a free and democratic world is so deeply ingrained in our work here at USAID. There are times when we help facilitate a transparent election in a place that has never seen a semblance of democracy. Then, there are times when decades of work is unraveled by a turn toward autocracy.

After her first stint in Central Asia, Kaya eventually came back to Washington to serve on the National Security Council. There, Kaya helped transform a number of policies. She conducted a review of how sanctions would effect aid delivery to Somalia, she developed a strategy for dealing with terrorist organizations in Central Africa, and she even helped provide input about mineral rights for a bill that eventually became part of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Kaya was making quite a name for herself and her unmatched ability to get things done, one colleague said: “You can’t keep up with her, don’t even try, her brain works too fast for yours” and another said: “Kaya has an incredible mind, she’s always thinking. Whether it’s ways to make our programs more effective or better ways to collaborate, her mind is constantly thinking and exploring.”

Her mind was certainly put into action at her last posting as Deputy Mission Director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She oversaw lifesaving programming during multiple public health emergencies. She managed response teams during four Ebola outbreaks, helped implement PEPFAR initiatives, and distributed ventilators and mobilized emergency funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these compounding crises and ongoing conflict throughout the DRC, she worked with a slew of diverse private sector stakeholders to create protections for national parks.

And now, Kaya is officially stepping into the role as Mission Director of the Kyrgyz Republic at a critical time.

Like the rest of the world, the Kyrgyz Republic continues to grapple with the repercussions of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The shocks of this war have led to harsh inflationary pressure that is increasing the price of food, fuel and everyday commodities—reminiscent of the high prices, food shortages, and economic stagnation of Soviet rule. The war has also led to a depreciation of the Kyrgyz som that some suspect could trigger a recession just as the country was experiencing a brief recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apart from the war, the Kyrgyz people have recently experienced a decrease in the respect for democracy and human rights that is a major cause for concern.

The independence of the media and the ability for people to make their voices heard without fear of retribution are vital to a democracy.

These issues must be addressed, and we are lucky to be sending a new Mission Director who has so much experience in supporting democracy.

I am confident that Kaya will directly engage with partners across the Kyrgyz Republic to strengthen civil society and amplify voices throughout the country.

I have this confidence not only because Kaya has an unmatched expertise and knowledge, but Kaya’s ability to interact with people is what sets her apart.

Multiple colleagues talked about her willingness to listen and engage with others. One colleague said: “She demonstrates enormous knowledge on many topics, but what I appreciated was how intently she listens to you, she really walks with you as you think through issues.”

Another colleague said: “She’s human-centered, strategic, and above all, kind. She looks you right in the eye and asks you if you’ve given 1000% to this job because that’s what she’s giving.”

We will without a doubt be a better Agency and a better partner because Kaya will be representing us in the Kygrz Republic.

And I cannot wait to hear what new hobby you pick up during your time there.

Kaya thank you so much for serving our Agency, you have earned it and I look forward to everything you will do. Congratulations Kaya, and with that it is my pleasure to administer the Oath of Office.

Last updated: May 06, 2022

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