Administrator Samantha Power at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Incoming USAID Mission Director for Central Asia Lawrence Hardy

Speeches Shim

Friday, September 10, 2021


ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thanks, Karen, for your leadership of the Bureau and for always ushering in our Mission Directors with style and grace.

Mr. Ambassador, it’s really great to have you with us as well. I really appreciate your presence and hearing a little bit about your vision for continued cooperation, growth, and partnership across Central Asia.

Lawrence, congratulations. Big day. Not the first of these big days for you, but nonetheless, each is special in its own way, and this is an immensely important time for us to be sending one of our most experienced, seasoned professionals to this particular region.

Just last night, I had the pleasure of meeting Uzbek Ambassador Vakhabov and speaking at an event in celebration of Uzbekistan’s 30th year of independence––it’s of course the 30th year of independence across the region that Lawrence is deploying to. And it’s very, very exciting to think about what this next 30 years is going to entail. Moving out of this transitional phase where sovereignty and self-determination were so central to conceptions of political and economic development. Now, with that firmly established for each of the nations of this region, to think about what the journey to connectivity, prosperity, and freedom looks like, it’s a very exciting inflection point.

Our new Mission Director for USAID’s Central Asia Mission is perfectly suited to build on the progress that has been made in recent years in deepening the ties between the United States and the countries of the region. Lawrence was born and raised in America’s heartland, in Kansas City, Kansas. His interest in foreign affairs was sparked early, despite not hearing much about the rest of the world in Kansas local news. Lawrence quickly decided to pursue a career in the international arena as he headed east to attend Harvard around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. He then headed west for his MBA from the Haas School at Berkeley, where he was exposed to foreign affairs from a different perspective––trade and development in the Asia Pacific region. And in fact, it was a meeting with a USAID Mission Director that made Lawrence think that if he really wanted to make a lasting impact in a country’s path to development, he’d have to live abroad to understand the development challenges, the people, their history, and their culture. So he entered the foreign service with USAID. Somewhere along the way he also learned to speak Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, French, and Arabic.

Lawrence’s 28 year career with USAID has spanned the globe and demonstrated the most important work our Missions do, in true partnership with the people we serve. After September 11th, 20 years ago, Lawrence was tapped to reopen USAID’s Mission in Pakistan, where he helped establish key relationships with the government and started programs in health and basic education––key U.S. Government foreign policy priorities in their own right, but also of course help to counter violent extremism. He helped broaden curriculum in Madrassas to include math and science and to secure access to education for young girls who were previously denied the opportunity. When a peace agreement was reached in Colombia between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), Lawrence led USAID’s efforts to reintegrate thousands of military combatants into the country’s social and economic fabric.

As Mission Director in Brazil, Lawrence launched USAID’s first trilateral cooperation initiative—a partnership between Haiti, Mozambique, and Honduras––to support Brazil as they built their own international development agency and sought to grow the country’s technical expertise in agricultural development programs. This, I would note, is especially important as USAID’s Mission in Kazakhstan has just begun working with the government’s emerging development agency to establish their own foreign assistance program.

And during Lawrence’s tenure as Regional Mission Director for the Philippines, 12 Pacific Islands, and Mongolia, Lawrence took a whole-of-mission approach to develop activities that addressed livelihoods, social cohesion, health, water and sanitation, and education to populations affected and displaced by conflict between the government and pro-ISIS militants. Here, again, I should note that Lawrence’s experience is ready-made for the demands he’ll face at our Central Asia Mission.

One colleague shared the philosophy that grounded Lawrence’s approach: “One Mission. Although they served 14 countries, Lawrence always insisted that we were One Mission. A cohesive staff working toward a shared development objective to improve the lives of the people in the Pacific and Mongolia.” That belief in fielding one team was further demonstrated in how Lawrence valued and invested in our Foreign Service Nationals, or FSNs, locally-employed staff who are the heart and soul of the work we do abroad and drive so much of the impact that we are able to help achieve on the ground.

One FSN from the Philippines said of Lawrence’s leadership during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, “He made the health and safety of the FSNs the priority of the mission. His compassion, understanding, and consideration lifted one heavy burden from our shoulders during this challenging time.” Another who worked with Lawrence in the Philippines—“As the popular quote says, people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. Lawrence made the Filipino FSNs feel heard, valued, and empowered.”

Having dedicated decades of his life to the foreign service, Lawrence remains a valued mentor to new foreign service officers and those occupying new leadership positions. One of his mentees in USAID’s Management Bureau said, “I learned from Lawrence political-savvy governance skills, expert inter-agency engagement, and proficiency in implementing USAID business systems. He is an outstanding leader and a bridge builder.”

I’m grateful that, with Lawrence, USAID’s Central Asia Mission is getting a battle-tested leader who can help the Mission meet this important region’s growing demand for partnership in confronting development challenges. As Karen said a few minutes ago, the Central Asia Mission is integral to the implementation of the United States’ National Security Strategy for the region, requiring even greater cooperation to enhance connectivity and strengthen the region’s resilience to ever-more prominent and prevalent environmental shocks and security challenges.

While regional ties are strong and getting stronger, more work is needed to encourage cooperation around energy, water management, disease detection and treatment, and to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis and COVID-19. And because trafficking in persons persists in the region, the United States remains committed to addressing cross-border trafficking through USAID’s Central Asia Mission by collaborating with government and NGO stakeholders to enhance protective measures. Decades of commitment, partnership, and action yielded promising results this very year, with 4 out of 5 Central Asian countries taking important steps to address human trafficking.

Shakhnoza Khassanova is one of eight individuals honored in the State Department’s 2021 Trafficking In Persons report. She is the director of the Legal Center for Women’s Initiatives in Kazakhstan and has devoted the past 14 years of her life and career to anti-trafficking work. After the report was released––and this again, just previews the kind of programming that Lawrence will be instrumental in deepening–– Shakhnoza said, “thanks to USAID’s support for efforts to raise awareness about this important issue, the government of Kazakhstan is now considering a special law on combating trafficking that will address criminal prosecution of exploiters as well as those involved in the entire network of trafficking, a critical step towards the ultimate elimination of the problem.”

These are the kinds of results USAID drives through its partnerships. And Lawrence, with nearly three decades of development and diplomatic experience, knows how to keep that momentum going.

So Lawrence, you’ll have to wear many hats––supporter, advocate, organizer, service-provider, and partner. Luckily, this is not the first time you’ve been called to take on monumental challenges. As our beloved Assistant Administrator for Management, Colleen Allen said, “Lawrence is an outstanding development professional, but he is also a diplomat, willing to talk through difficult issues and persistent in achieving his goal in the end. He has a friendly disposition, perfect smile, and is one of the best dressed professionals in USAID and State for that matter. He uses all of this combined to his advantage!”

Congratulations, Lawrence, and thank you. Thank you for your decades of service. Thank you for taking on this charge at a time where so many of the world’s great challenges converge in this region, but also at a moment of such tremendous possibility for the region, and for the U.S. relationship with each of the countries that comprise it.

It is now my pleasure to administer the oath of office.

Last updated: June 09, 2022

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