Schumer's Remarks On Patrick Gaspard, Obama Nomine As Ambassador To South Africa

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Senator Charles E. Schumer's July 24 remarks to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations nomination hearing, introducing Patrick Gaspard of New York to be Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa.

Gaspard, who is from New York City, is the son of Haitian parents and was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gaspard is currently the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee and has served as the acting political director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU International). In June, President Obama nominated Gaspard for South Africa Ambassador.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, I apologize for the interruption and thank you for your patience.   I will be chairing another committee hearing in a few minutes but wanted the opportunity to introduce Patrick Gaspard who will be appearing a little later in this hearing.

Before doing that, I would like to acknowledge Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished diplomatic career serving the United States around the globe.  She is an excellent candidate for the position of Assistant Secretary for Africa and I look forward to supporting her nomination when it comes before the full Senate.

It is my great privilege to introduce Mr. Patrick Gaspard, the nominee to be the next Ambassador to South Africa. Patrick was not born in New York but, like millions of others through the years, found his way to New York, and found in New York his hopes, his dreams, and a place to call home.

Mr. Gaspard’s long and distinguished career in public service leaves no doubt that he is well-qualified to take on this great task that awaits him if he is confirmed as the next United States Ambassador to South Africa. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Haitian parents.

Returning to the African continent will bring Patrick full circle. Patrick’s parents moved to what was then Zaire from their native Haiti following an appeal from Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba for French-speaking academics of African descent. Patrick then moved with his parents to New York City when he was just 3 years old.

He grew up in New York City’s Upper West Side, where he lived until he was 11 years old, before his parents moved to St. Albans in Southeast Queens. He is a product of one of New York City’s finest Public schools, Brooklyn Tech High School (Go Engineers!) before going on to attend Columbia University.

Patrick worked his way up New York City politics, playing a key role in helping David Dinkins become New York City’s first African American mayor in what was to become a historic campaign.

One of his signature achievements working for Mayor Dinkins, and particularly relevant to his nomination, was spearheading a trip to South Africa for the Mayor’s cabinet members to meet with Nelson Mandela in 1992, who two years later would go on to become South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

Patrick then went on to work for almost a decade as the Executive Vice President for politics and legislation for the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East labor union, the largest local union in America. In this capacity, he was a strong advocate for working class families and the over 300,000 members of 1199 SEIU.

In 2004 went on to become the National Field Director for America Coming Together, overseeing a paid staff of 8,000 people dedicated to getting out the vote in every single state.

Patrick has shown a remarkable dedication and involvement in our country’s electoral process, and his efforts to advance the cause of working class families led him to serve in 2006 as the acting Political Director for SEIU.

Then Senator Barack Obama recognized Patrick’s talent, and tried to lure him away from his position at the SEIU to join his campaign. Patrick resisted initially, not wanting to leave his family in New York but eventually caved and became Political Director for President Obama’s successful 2008 election campaign.

After the 2008 election, President Obama chose Patrick to become the White House Director of the Office of Political Affairs, a capacity where his responsibility was to provide the President with an “accurate assessment of the political dynamics affecting the work of his administration.”

I don’t need to remind anyone of the skill, experience, and sound judgment that an appointment of this caliber merits. Few have had as important a role as Patrick in helping move the President’s legislative priorities.

In January 2011, his outstanding work at the White House led him to his current position as Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee where he served under DNC Chairman Gov. Tim Kaine and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Patrick has dedicated his entire career in political life to helping advance the values of a better life and more opportunities for families across America, never losing sight of his core principles in making sure everyone in this country has access to education, healthcare, and a meaningful chance to make a living and provide for their family.

He is one of the most hardworking individuals I have ever met, and I am certain that he will be able to take our dynamic relationship with South Africa to new heights. South Africa is a strategic partner for the United States, and our countries are currently involved in widespread cooperation related to health, education, food security, law enforcement, trade, investment, energy, and nonproliferation.

wholeheartedly support Mr. Gaspard’s nomination to be the next Ambassador to South Africa, and I urge my colleagues to support his nomination as well.



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