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Condoleezza Rice: Welcome Remarks to Employees

Welcome Remarks to Employees

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
C Street Lobby
Washington, DC
January 27, 2005

(8:20 a.m. EST)


(Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, this is a little different welcome than the first time that I came to work at the State Department. Now, that may surprise some of you, but I was, in 1977, an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. (Laughter and applause.) Now, there's a lesson in that: Be good to your interns. (Laughter.)

I want to thank you for this really, really warm welcome. I first want to start by just saying how much I admire and appreciate the leadership of Secretary Colin Powell over the last four years. I've just spoken with him to tell him that. (Applause.)

We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us. This is a really remarkable time in our country's history. The President has set forth a really bold agenda for American foreign policy and the State Department has got to be in the lead in this period in which diplomacy will be so important to solidifying the gains of the last few years and to pressing forward an agenda for a freer and more prosperous world. I can't think of a better call than to say that America will stand for freedom and for liberty, that America will stand with those who want their aspirations met for liberty and freedom. And I'm going to look and the President's going to look to this Department to lead that effort, and not just to implement policy, but we're going to need ideas, intellectual capital. I need your ideas. My door will be open. Please, understand that this is a time when the history is calling us. And I just look forward to working with each and every one of you toward that end.

The President has laid out a bold agenda and he expects a lot of us. I want you to know, too, that I'm going to be committed to you, the men and women of the Foreign Service, the Civil Service and our Foreign Service Nationals abroad; and you, in turn, will be committed, and we, in turn, will be committed, to carrying out that bold agenda.

I know that this is a profession that demands a lot. It demands a lot from your families, it demands a lot from you, and sometimes it demands the ultimate sacrifice. And I want to start by recognizing that I know that there are memorial plaques here in this hall that commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we'll always remember what they did for this country as we go about trying to carry out this extraordinary agenda before us.

I want you to know, too, that I will be committed to making certain that we have the tools that we need to carry out this agenda. I believe in training and I believe in education, continuing education, of this diplomatic corps. And I hope to see over the next several years an even more diverse diplomatic corps, because one of the wonderful things about America is that we are one America made up of people from all backgrounds and all ethnicities and all religions. It's an extraordinary thing that we really have forged one out of many, and we are going to be a diplomatic corps that embodies that diversity, because it's an extremely important lesson in a world where difference is still a license to kill.

This is a great time for America. It's a great time for the international system. We have allies who we need to unite in this great cause ahead of us, and I look forward to working with you to do that.

Now, I want to close with a kind of personal recollection as I start here, and that is that the last time I was in government was actually 1989 to 1991. And that, too, was an extraordinary time. I was lucky enough to be the White House Soviet Specialist at the end of the Cold War. It doesn't get much better than that. And I got to participate in German unification and the liberation of Eastern Europe and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.

But, you know, I realized that I was just harvesting good decisions that had been made in 1946 and 1947 and 1948, a lot of those decisions spurred by good work done by this building, the men and women of the State Department. And those were days when it must have seemed that freedom's march was not assured. You think about it. In 1947, civil wars in Greece and Turkey; and in 1948, the permanent division of Germany, thanks to the Berlin crisis; and in 1949, the Soviet Union explodes a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule and the Chinese communists win.

It must not have looked like freedom's march was assured, but they somehow pulled themselves together, people like Truman and Acheson and Marshall and, of course, on Capitol Hill, Senator Vandenberg. And they created a policy and a set of institutions that gave us a lasting peace. While no one might have been able, at that time, to imagine a democratic Germany or a democratic Japan, when President Bush now sits across from Chancellor Schroeder or from Prime Minister Koizumi, he sits across not just from a friend, but a democratic friend.

I know that there are those who wonder whether democracy can take hold in the rocky soil of the West Bank or in Iraq or in Afghanistan. I believe that we, as Americans, who know how hard the path to democracy is, have to believe that it can. And we have to make it so that we work with those who want to achieve those aspirations so that, one day, a future President is sitting across from the democratic president or prime minister of many a Middle Eastern country, of many a country that has not yet known democracy.

That's our charge. That's our calling. I know that you will work hard on behalf of it and so will I. And now, I'll go try to find my office, if you don't mind. Thank you. (Laughter.)

(Applause.)

2005/89

Released on January 27, 2005

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