Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at White House Fellows Association Gala Dinner
In Honor of General Wesley Clark, "Legacy of Leadership" Award
Washington, DC, October 1, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, October 2, 1999
U.S. Department of State
Thanks, Ron [Quincy], both for that flattering introduction and for helping to organize this wonderful reunion. For putting all of this together, you and Jackie [Blumenthal] deserve a big round of applause.
The White House Fellows program has an outstanding reputation here in Washington, in part because Fellows are often willing to take on the tough assignments that others might avoid.
I was reminded of this in Singapore this past summer, at the annual Regional Forum for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. At the dinner which concludes the Forum, the head of each national delegation is expected to perform a skit or song: two years ago, I did a spoof of Evita; last year I did a duet with the Russians we called The East-West Side Story. But this time, I had to skip the dinner, on short notice, in order to travel to the Balkans.
Fortunately, a former White House Fellow was part of our delegation. He agreed to stand in for me -- quite literally -- and performed an enthusiastic song-and-dance number, while wearing a dress, high heels and jewelry. I won't mention the Fellow's name because we still have not told his wife.
There are a number of names that I will mention, though, because over the years I've had the pleasure of working with many graduates of the Fellows program.
Tim Wirth did a magnificent job as the State Department's first-ever Under Secretary for Global Affairs. He played a vital role in helping us prepare for the challenges of the next century, including climate change and rapid population growth.
More recently, Dana Mead has been advising me on how we can work with business leaders to explain and gain support for American leadership abroad. Dana, like so many of you, has had great success in the private sector, while retaining a passionate commitment to public service.
And I rely heavily on Julia Taft, our Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration. Julia has been absolutely heroic in responding to the many humanitarian crises of the past few years -- from Central Africa to the Balkans to East Timor.
Tim, Dana, and Julia, like so many other White House Fellows, remind us that leadership is not an end in itself. It's what you do with it that counts, and they have done a lot to make our country safer and the world a better place.
And there is no better example of that kind of leadership than General Wesley K. Clark.
Wes is one of my personal heroes -- and not just because of the way he looks in a uniform.
General Clark has proven himself to be a diplomat of the highest order as well as an outstanding military commander and strategist.
In Dayton, he offered creative solutions -- and a mastery of detail -- to help bridge seemingly intractable differences; and he used a combination of charm and persistence to win the confidence of three leaders who had little if any trust in each other.
But for General Clark, that was just a warm-up. In Kosovo, he had what Italy's foreign minister correctly called "the most difficult task of them all" during NATO's first real military campaign.
In Kosovo, we asked the political and military leaders of nineteen nations to work together, and decide -- by consensus! -- on tactical as well as strategic decisions.
And we asked Wes Clark to lead and coordinate the entire effort.
I can testify that he did a tremendous job, from start to finish.
He is a man of wisdom and courage, who helped change history just a little bit. He has my personal admiration for everything he has done..
In short, General Clark is the embodiment of everything John Gardner hoped for when he created the White House Fellowships.
Wes has well-earned this award, and the lasting gratitude of our nation.
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