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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks During the Kennedy Center Honors of 1998 for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, December 5, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, December 7, 1998
U.S. Department of State
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Thank you very, very much, thank you. (Applause.) Thanks, please. No, sit! Thank you very, very much. That makes me feel so good, thank you, I appreciate it.

I welcome you all here to the State Department. I would love to recognize all the important people here. I've never done such a great receiving line. I do a lot of receiving lines in my line of work, but this was a great one, and everybody is so welcomed, and there are many public officials here and many artists and many people from the media. There is one person, though, that I would like to thank for coming and that's the next Speaker, Bob Livingstone. (Applause).

Of the many events we host here, none is anticipated as eagerly as the Artist Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors. And that is because in the day to day work of diplomacy, we're used to encountering other sorts of artists. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, the arts they practice are those of deception, dissimulation, didactics, and delay. (Laughter.) None of which I can dance to or even hum along. (Laughter.)

As Secretary of State, I do feel an immediate kinship to people who must cope with temperaments of a symphony orchestra, the egos of a movie set, or the chaos of a Broadway musical. And I can certainly identify with the kind of schedule that leads an artist to write a song like, "On the Road Again." (Laughter.)

But there are many more tangible links between the arts and diplomacy and some quite important. We send Wonder Women comic books to warn of the dangers of land mines in Africa. We donate hours and hours of programming to replace hate filled propaganda on Bosnian television. Judy Collins is doing a wonderful job for the world's children as UNICEF's Ambassador of Goodwill; and I've just been talking to my dinner partner, Laurence Fishbourne, who's been working in Liberia for UNICEF.

And when I'm pressed about what it's like to be the first female Secretary of State, I'm always tempted to mention Xena the Warrior Princess. (Laughter and applause.)

More important, the genius of American art, like the freedom of our political institutions, sends a powerful signal of hope around the world. The people of every race and creed can live together and inspire each other. People can honor their ethnic and religious heritage without fear or harassment. People can speak their minds without fear of being picked up and carted off to jail. And people can amuse and entertain and uplift and even offend each other without fear of being silenced. This is the deeper message of American art in all its richness and variety on everything that it conveys. It's a message the world needs to hear and one that each of us here at home must always remember.

As Secretary of State, my job is to see that America's global leadership lives up to the best images of ourselves and that we are able to send to the world through our culture and art. Fortunately, I do have a lot of help from cultural ambassadors such as all of you here, the men and women we honor tonight. For everywhere you travel and everywhere a video can be seen or recording heard, you are eloquent envoys for a simple idea that the world doesn't have to be divided as long as we have common strivings and music and laughter to unite us.

A generation ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt reassured America that as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right. (Applause.)

So let me say tonight, that as long as Americans have the same freedoms, dreams, and drive that fed the genius of Bill Cosby, John Kandor, Fred Ebb, Willie Nelson, Andre Previn, and Shirley Temple Black, we will all be all right, and we will be strong and respected, and we will be a force for liberty and justice around the world.

And so it is in that spirit that I congratulate all the honorees for all that you have done and all that you will do, and I thank you all very, very much for your presence this evening. And I'm so glad you're here on such a beautiful Spring day. Thank you all for coming. (Laughter and applause.)

[End of Document]

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