In Saudi Arabia, find the time to mention American concerns over the prosecution of human rights campaigners, such as Mohammad Fahd al-Qahtani. You should also push the Gulf states on Bahrain's ongoing refusal to seriously engage with the fallout from its brutal campaign to repress a domestic uprising in 2011, which was extensively documented by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. They may think that the Bahrain crisis is over, but you should make it clear that the United States does not.
When you get to Egypt -- well, good luck. You will need to convey to President Mohamed Morsy that you want to build a productive working relationship with him, as a democratically elected leader -- while also clearly conveying U.S. concern over the country's ongoing instability, polarization, and human rights abuses. It will be a tricky task, but you would be wrong to send only one message or the other. You need to make clear that you can only work with the Egyptian leadership or support its bid for international economic assistance if it gives you something to work with. You should maintain firm support for the democratic process, but also speak out consistently and loudly when the government undermines democracy, violates human rights, or destabilizes the country's politics.
And the Egyptian opposition? You should urge them to participate in the parliamentary elections, even if they have already rebuffed American advice on this topic. Boycotts almost never work, and this one is likely to simply hand the Muslim Brotherhood an iron grip on the new parliament, which will overstate its level of support in the country.
Opposition leaders' announcement of a boycott is particularly disappointing because the election was perfectly teed up for them to make significant gains based on the simple message that the Brotherhood has failed to improve the economy, govern effectively, or stabilize the country. The Brotherhood has lost much of its ability to attract support or allies on its left, has antagonized the Salafis who might have made up a unified Islamic list, and has done little to capture the "stability" vote. So find out what specifically the opposition needs to get into the campaign without losing face, convince Morsy to give it to them, and then push hard for a fair race. For one, pressure Morsy to send the election law back to the Supreme Constitutional Court, which was not given the chance to rule on its legality following recent changes to the legislation. It's better for Egypt to do this before the election instead of risking that the parliament would be dissolved on technical grounds afterwards.
Last bit of advice: Engage broadly and widely with the public when you make all of these trips. Your predecessor was very good at this, and you should continue the practice. Don't fall into the easy habit of only meeting with top politicians and then holding a press conference. Make the effort on every trip to meet with and engage in real dialogue with as broad a cross-section of people as your embassy can assemble. It's a rule that should not only apply for your trips, but for embassy staff more broadly: Letting the bureaucrats lock our diplomats in a bunker due to security concerns is the very last way to honor the memory of slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens.
And keep your eye on the big picture. The road to being a great secretary of state begins with a strategic vision and concrete, realistic plans to achieve it. One of your most fundamental tasks will be to adapt U.S. policy even as the United States "right-sizes" its military and political presence in the Middle East over the next four years. So how can you use diplomacy to cushion any blows to American influence that might result, continue to protect vital American interests and promote core American values, and use the prospect of an American drawdown as leverage over otherwise recalcitrant allies?
This all depends on getting Syria and Egypt right -- oh, and also the Iranian nuclear issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Iraq, and Libya, and Tunisia, and Yemen, and... welcome to the Middle East, Mr. Secretary!