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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering
Address to the Fletcher School of Law on receipt of the International Service Award, Boston, Massachusetts, February 11, 1999

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Thank you very much. It is a great honor for me to receive this award from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and I am immensely grateful. They say that the first few decades of public service are the hardest. My decades at the State Department brought riches I would not have dreamed of in 1954 as a student at Fletcher -- nor would my wife, Alice. In those days, women had to resign at the altar -- an injustice that continued until the 1970's. But her service continued, nonetheless, on every continent, through every imaginable crisis of foreign affairs or natural calamity, and even through my unconventional idea of a vacation -- camping in deserts or trekking through unpopulated regions of the world. I am sorry that she could not join me here this evening. Tonight, as I accept this award for service, I would like to do so in her honor.

Thank you very much, and may I also thank Ambassador Chrobog for graciously opening his home to us.

This week Fletcher students are in Washington to focus on careers. Let me put in a plug. I can think of no career more intellectually challenging than the Foreign Service. Its rewards are manifold -- from the adventure of living abroad, to the deep satisfaction of serving this country. If you join us, you will find yourself in a position to help shape world events, whatever your field of interest. It is an endlessly fascinating opportunity, in which you will find that your Fletcher education keeps you one step ahead.

Now, I am told that despite the hour, you want to hear a word or two about foreign policy instead of enjoying the refreshments. I am not sure whether to consider that a commendable mark of your ambition or a quirky personality trait! Let me give you just an extremely brief overview of our objectives.

As we approach a new century, America is respected and at peace. Our economy is strong. American institutions and ideals beckon to millions around the world who have, or who aspire to, freedom. Our alliances are vigorous. Former adversaries are now our partners.

This state of affairs is no accident, and it will only be sustained in the same way that it was built -- by American leadership. Fifty years ago, George Kennan argued that "the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies." That one word -- "containment" -- became the bumper sticker of the Cold War. The world we live in today, however, is far too complicated to fit onto a bumper sticker. Our interests are too broad, our challenges too diverse.

Since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the enduring objectives of American foreign policy have been to ensure that America is safe, free and prosperous. Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, we have learned that we can best achieve these goals by leading a world that is itself becoming safer, freer and more prosperous -- a connection that will grow in importance in the next century.

In short, our purposes remain constant, but our world has changed.

We live in a world characterized by great power peace. None of the great powers deem any other as an immediate threat. There are greater incentives and lower barriers to cooperation than at any time in history.

We live in a world in where the greatest threats to peace and stability are often regionally rooted and often than not generated by conflicts within states.

We live in a world in which the greatest threat to U.S. security is the spread and possible use of weapons of mass destruction [WMD]. Our post-Cold War paradox is that while the threat of strategic nuclear war has receded, the danger of WMD use -- by states, groups, or even individuals -- has increased.

We live in a world where national well-being is increasingly influenced by cross-boarder flows of people, money, weapons, technology, toxins, and terror, drugs and disease. These problems are "global," but their impact is very local.

We live in a world whose rising forces are open societies and open markets, and where non-governmental actors play a growing role in resolving conflicts, designing policies, drafting treaties, and delivering aid and humanitarian relief.

The Cold War struggle between democracy and dictatorship has given way to a struggle between forces of integration and disintegration; and the Cold War challenge of managing a constant threat has given way to the challenge of managing constant dynamic and accelerating change.

Our challenge is not to devise some idealistic "new order" for ourselves and our world but to rededicate ourselves to our own best traditions.

From this single goal emerges a broad yet focused agenda for American action:

One thing we know about foreign policy in the next century is that we will be spending a great deal of time dealing with issues and crises that cannot now be predicted. While we must work for the best, we also must be prepared for the worst.

Crucial to both our preparedness and our effectiveness is the continued commitment to public service embodied in the award you have so generously shared with me. I am absolutely convinced that, in this world of instant communication, open borders, global companies, the old traditions of public service and commitment still fully apply.

They apply because we care about our neighbors at home and abroad. They apply because faith in humanity is required to build the future.

The responsibility for writing the next chapter in our nation's history rests in our hands. We must respond to new challenges by adapting to change, experimenting with new ideas, reaffirming core values, and helping one another.

The tradition of service is our inheritance to cherish, share, and promote in the new century. We are the custodians of a proud tradition of dedication to defend freedom, uphold the rule of law, protect our citizens and our friends and neighbors, and promote human rights. These are the principles that bring out the best in each of us; the best in our nation.

Towards these ends I pledge my own best efforts and express my gratitude to you all for your service and contributions.

Let me thank you all once again, Ambassador Chrobog for your hospitality, and Dean Galvin for the very special honor you have accorded me.

[End of Document]

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