Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Former Secretary of State James Baker Host the Launch of the Diplomacy Center
SECRETARY BAKER: Thank you very much, Bill, for those generous words, and thank you as well for your superb, extremely superb service to our country. And I know that Secretary Clinton would join me in that comment.
I also want to thank Pat Kennedy. Pat Kennedy was here way back in the dark ages when I was here. (Laughter.) He’s been here ever since. He’s done a remarkable job for this Department, and particularly for his country. And Elizabeth Bagley; and let me tell you something. Without Elizabeth Bagley, there would be no Diplomacy Center. She’s been absolutely critical and instrumental to its creation and to its future. And I want to say a word, too, to all of you out there who are supporting this center. Thank you for what you’re doing. Without you, there would be no Diplomacy Center.
Since the days of our founding, we have been very blessed here in this country by the practice of adroit diplomacy. It was successful diplomacy, after all, that allowed us to strike the Treaty of Paris, the picture of which is over there on the other side of this hall. It was diplomacy that made possible the Louisiana Purchase. It was diplomacy that formulated and implemented the Marshall Plan. It was diplomacy that made sure – practiced under all presidents from Truman to George H.W. Bush – that made sure that the Cold War ended with a whimper and not a bang. Throughout our history, our nation has been strengthened and protected through strong, diplomatic alliances and agreements.
Diplomats such as Ben Franklin, John Jay, Dean Acheson have all played roles that are every bit as important to our nation’s security and well-being as the roles played by generals such as Winfield Scott and John Pershing and Norman Schwarzkopf. So I think it is very fitting that this Diplomacy Center is being built, because it will tell, as both Elizabeth and Bill Burns said, the amazing stories of the brave men and women who have served on the front lines of American diplomacy. Although too often overlooked, their tales of heroism really are inspiring.
But this center is going to do something else as well, something equally important. It’s going to explain why diplomacy matters to every single citizen. Diplomats negotiate everything from peace treaties to international trade pacts to agreements that keep our air clean. As a former American ambassador once said, “Foreign policy can raise or lower the cost of your home mortgage, it can give you a job, or it can take that job away. Foreign policy can affect the air you breathe. Foreign policy can determine the future of American security, and it can determine the fate of American ideals.”
The lessons that this center will teach are particularly important for all Americans to know and to understand. America’s might cannot be properly exercised without the support of citizens who appreciate our nation’s role in the world and its relationship with other countries, because that’s simply how our democracy works.
One lesson that this center will hopefully teach, I hope, is that it is important to talk to your adversaries. You don’t make peace, after all, with your friends. You make peace with your enemies. The diplomat’s role in establishing effective lines of communication with hostile nations is a critical component of our safety just as it was, frankly, during the entire 46 years of the Cold War when we maintained an embassy in Moscow.
Of course, diplomacy is best practiced with a mailed fist. All you diplomats out there know that. It’s nice to have the 101st Airborne in your pocket when you’re negotiating. (Laughter.) And so we have to always maintain a strong military. But America’s security and foreign policy interests are best advanced when we use all of the tools at our disposal, and of course diplomacy is one of the most important and most effective.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I personally look forward to the grand opening of this U.S. Diplomacy Center. It’s going to remind us of the great diplomats in our past, and it’s going to remind us of the importance of diplomacy to our future.
And now, it is an extreme pleasure for the 61st Secretary of State of the United States to introduce the very able 67th Secretary of State, who in a few days will join the small club of six former Secretaries of State. And let me say in introducing her: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your service to the nation. And by the way, welcome to the club. (Laughter, applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s so great. Oh, thank you all very much. Thank you. Well, Jim, I’m honored to be a member of that club with you, and I’m so grateful to you for your years of service to our country and especially today for your generous support of the U.S. Diplomacy Center. It is a real joy to have you and Susan and your family here with us.
And I want to thank everyone who is here this afternoon on a snowy day in Washington, because you have really made a commitment to do exactly what Jim Baker just said, to help us tell the story. Donors, staff, partners from across the government, the Foreign Affairs Museum Council, I thank you all.
It is exciting to see this project being launched, and there are many people who have really made a contribution. I thought that Secretary Baker’s comments need to be recorded and included somewhere in the Diplomacy Center. That was an excellent quick summary of exactly why we are here today. (Applause.) And I do think that it’s important to remind ourselves as we do this work that although we do occasionally get some notice – I’m thinking of the film, Argo, actually – (laughter). In fact, I’ve been told we have a few of the diplomats who lived through that harrowing experience in Iran and endured the entire hostage crisis with us today.
But most of the time, the work that is done is not going to end up in a movie. It’s under the radar, so to speak. And as Pat Kennedy rightly said, many people still don’t fully understand what we do here at the State Department and at more than 275 posts around the world. Many Americans, especially children growing up, know about our military and what a great force for peace and stability it is. And the role that diplomats play in so much of what built our country, starting with Benjamin Franklin, since we are, of course, in the Ben Franklin room, is maybe taught in school, but it’s not as fully understood as we want it to be.
So that’s why this center is so important today. Now, the center and my commitment to it really began when I first learned about it, because I guess I missed that 1999 announcement and wasn’t aware of all the work that was being done to try to bring the center to fruition. And when I learned about it, I thought, “This needs to be a focus for all of us,” and got a briefing, as I often do, from Pat Kennedy, who has a great overview of what has been and is happening here at State, and learned more about the mission.
And then I asked Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley to once again take on a special project. She’d been the person driving our participation in building a pavilion at the Shanghai Expo after I made my first trip to Asia in February of ’09. And I was sitting at the bilat with all the Chinese delegation, which was a very large one, and one of the first things the Foreign Minister said, “Well, it is such a shame that the United States will not be represented at the Shanghai Expo.” And I’m sitting there, flipping through my notes, “the Shanghai what?” (Laughter.) Nobody had told me about the Shanghai Expo.
I said, “Well, yes, Minister, that is a challenge.” I’m sitting there thinking, “What is this about,” right? (Laughter.) He goes, “Yes, America will be the only country not represented.” So I got back to Washington, and I said, “What is the Shanghai Expo, and why are we not there?” And of course the reason is our government doesn’t support American participation. It has to be one of those public-private partnerships that this Diplomacy Center is. So I asked Ambassador Bagley to take on that responsibility, and we were pretty far behind all of the rest of the world, but we got it done. We had a great presentation there and were not left out.
I think that when we look at what the Foreign Service, what our diplomats and our development experts do around the world, we need to connect it to what happens here at home. People need to understand how an economic officer in Cambodia is helping to create jobs not only there, but in the United States; how helping women farmers in Africa sell more of their crop at markets makes the region the more stable and prosperous and gives us the opportunity to really expand our bilateral and regional relationships.
How we work to help others understand our commitment really does matter to the American people and people around the world. During the past four years, I have been very fortunate in being assisted by a great team of people. As I have focused on diplomacy and development alongside defense as pillars of our foreign policy and the strategic investments that we need to make, I know that every day nearly 70,000 people are getting up and going to work to do just that.
Now, what started as an idea and a handful of objects in a single file cabinet drawer back in 1997 has grown into what will be, as you can see, a beautiful pavilion and exhibition halls housing more than 6,000 artifacts, including items that date back to our earliest days as a nation. In fact – I know Mr. Franklin would approve – one of the original printings of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce that he helped negotiate with France in 1778 will have a permanent home in this collection, one of the first treaties we signed as a fledgling nation that helped America win our independence.
But this center is not just about the past. It captures the living work of American diplomacy and all the creative ways that our diplomats carry out their missions. Visitors to this center will get to experience for themselves what it’s like to be part of a diplomatic simulation, stepping into the shoes of a diplomat in Darfur, for example, trying to defuse a crisis. They can take a practice run at a mock Foreign Service exam. They can even poke around an exhibit called, “Inside the Secretary’s Day.” And, fair warning, it’s not all that glamorous, but it’ll give you an idea of what Jim and I and our other colleagues have done, and to learn for themselves how challenging, valuable, and rewarding diplomacy can be.
Now, we are fortunate to have leaders in this department who exemplify that every day. Deputy Secretary Tom Nides has championed our economic statecraft initiative, along with many other tasks as our Deputy Secretary for Resources and Management. And he also was instrumental in helping us reach this point. And Tom, I’m very appreciative to you. And Bill Burns, who really is our exemplar of what an American diplomat can and should be, has been an indispensable partner to me from the moment that I walked in the door. And I am very grateful to him for his expertise, his experience, and his wry, good humor at what often happens in the world we try to understand.
And so many others who I look out and see in this audience, diplomats of today and yesterday and, I hope, of tomorrow. I think it’s important for you to see this center as a mutual project that we want you to be involved in not just today, but going forward. It’s been one of the great honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID to understand even more than I did before what they do for us and oftentimes how unsung their contributions have been.
I said when I was before the Congress the other day that we’ve actually seen a spike in people wanting to take the exam for potential membership in Foreign Service. We’ve seen young people exhibit a great curiosity about what is happening in the Foreign Service. We will be launching next week a new education program that will go hand in hand with this center to try to explain not only to Americans, first and foremost, but to people around the world, why diplomacy is at the center of who we are as a nation.
So this is a project whose time has come and one we must see through. Like Jim Baker, I look forward to returning for the grand opening, the ribbon cutting. I hope it’s pretty soon and not too far off because we have a great story to tell. And we need to get about telling it. Thank you very much. (Applause.)