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Armitage Remarks at the Secretary's Open Forum

Remarks at the Secretary's Open Forum

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State; Chuck Hagel, Senator Loy Henderson Auditorium, Department of State Washington, DC April 30, 2003

I'm going to make a few brief introductory remarks, and then we'll turn it over to the senator.

When I first started in this job a couple of years ago, I said at my confirmation hearing -- and Senator Hagel was there, so perhaps you'll remember -- but there are those who consider the art of diplomacy to be saying, "Nice doggie, nice doggie," until you can find a big stick. (Laughter.) Now, I made that observation back before I learned how to be a statesman. (Laughter.) Of course as you all know I'm much more subtle now. (Laughter.) In fact, now I would clarify that you don't need a stick at all. You just have to get the doggie back on his meds. (Laughter.)

Now, of course that was also back before September 11th, before the world changed. But today, as we look out at the horizon to see what too often looks like overwhelming problems and oppressive threats, we can also see one constant that has remained firmly in place, and that is the importance of diplomacy in the life of our nation. It is entirely reasonable that the American people would expect the Department of State to be effective in meeting the great challenges of the day, and so we are. With our help, Afghanistan today is governed by the most representative leadership in its history; children are back in school; women are out in public; and the basic infrastructure is being rebuilt. At the same time, we are helping to sustain a coalition of some 180 nations in the global fight against terrorism. Today a number of our colleagues are in Iraq helping to renew a country that has suffered from so many years of neglect, abuse and war. And just last week our team of negotiators returned from very delicate discussions with the North Koreans in Beijing.

Of course the fact is the American people not only expect us to deal with these pressing challenges of the moment; they also expect us to be effective in facing the great challenges of tomorrow. And so we are.

The work that goes on in this building every day is staggering in its scope: from stopping the devastating global spread of HIV/AIDS, to stemming global poverty, to supporting sustainable development around the globe. We are even developing a new tool for dealing with such issues in a comprehensive fashion, the Millennium Challenge Account. Not only that, but we are constantly working to improve our nation's relations -- political, social, security and economic -- with all the other nations of the world.

Now, the scale and the complexity of these challenges requires a specialized and a highly skilled work force. So to all of you who joined us here today, I want to thank you for the hard work you do every day. I want to encourage you to take pleasure in your service -- you have chosen a meaningful line of work at an extraordinary moment in the life of our nation. You should take great pride in the starring role you are playing in shaping a better future for Americans.

On the other hand, even with the most talented and dedicated work force, this department simply cannot build an effective foreign policy alone. Only through concerted efforts with our partners in the legislative branch can we even hope to address the challenges of today and the challenges of tomorrow. So I also want to remind and encourage everyone here to see your counterparts in Congress -- see them as your comrades in arms. It is that partnership that will carry us through these difficult days as we redefine how to best protect and advance the interests of the American people. And in that endeavor I can tell you this building, this service, has no better friend, no finer partner, than Senator Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel is a warrior. He's a statesman. He is a public servant of the highest caliber. He has proven his abilities in every walk of American life from the fields of battle where he earned the faith of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam, to the boardrooms in the private sector where he proved his skill as a businessman, to the halls of power in Washington where he has demonstrated his talent as both a legislator and an administrator. Indeed, he has earned the respect and the praise of his colleagues and his president; but, more to the point, he has earned the votes of the people of Nebraska, who returned him to office last year by the largest margin of victory ever in the state's history.

But Chuck Hagel's influence extends far beyond the people of the fine state of Nebraska. Indeed, all Americans benefit from his abiding interest and expertise in foreign policy. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and as chair of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, he is every single day shaping this nation's relations with the rest of the world. But what truly distinguishes Senator Hagel from his peers is his deep understanding of the burdens and the opportunities of this historic moment, when America stands alone in power and in prestige, as well as his ability to articulate this understanding in a way that resonates with the American public. Indeed, Secretary Powell and I both consider ourselves to be extraordinarily fortunate in having the benefit of both his good counsel and his warm and gracious friendship.

Senator Hagel recently said in a speech -- and, Chuck, I hope I'm not stealing one of your lines here -- "America's greatest leaders and most revered heroes, historic and contemporary, are distinguished by their courageous service." So, Senator, I can report to you that right now you have the honor of addressing a group of Americans who distinguish themselves every single day by their courageous service. And we in turn are most grateful to have the honor of hearing from you, one of America's greatest leaders and most revered heroes. Senator, thank you very much for joining us today. (Applause.) [End]

Released on May 6, 2003

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