Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Annual Reception for Donors to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms
Washington, DC, April 28, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, May 1, 2000
U.S. Department of State
Gail, thank you very much. You are very kind. And I think that without you it would be impossible to do anything, and you've done just a fantastic job in getting all these wonderful people to help us. Ambassador Kattan, Under Secretary Cohen, Ambassador French, welcome. And I also want to welcome Jane Muskie and her family back to the State Department. I would not be here if it weren't for Ed Muskie, so I'm very glad to see that they're here.
Most of all, I want to thank all of you who have helped to make the Diplomatic Reception Rooms a unique national treasure. I thank you for your generosity and your presence here tonight.
As I walk in through the Jefferson Room, admiring the newly-hung portrait of John Quincy Adams, I thought of all the visitors that I've hosted in these rooms. And there is no more pleasant or rewarding a part of my job because, thanks to you, these rooms give my guests a glimpse of the rich traditions of our Republic's youth. They depict liberty's birth, and America's rise from wilderness to greatness.
They also serve as an elegant backdrop for another fine art -- that of diplomacy. Consider, for example, a recent State luncheon I hosted here for the King and Queen of Spain. We had a very successful set of meetings during their visit, and discussing our mutual interests on a whole range of trans-Atlantic issues, and reinforcing the strong ties between our two countries.
Of course, the day-to-day work of diplomacy is not always so regal. In fact, it often involves contentious negotiations. But nothing makes it easier to break the diplomatic ice than to conduct important discussions in these very rooms.
How better to urge intractable parties towards peace than to point out the desk where Benjamin Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris? How better to demonstrate the value of friendship and trust than the portrait of Lafayette?
These depictions of our history don't just conjure up memories of a proud and glorious past; they remind the diplomats who work in these rooms of the enduring ideals which guide our policy. As President Kennedy once said, "Art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."
Let me share with you a powerful example of the role these rooms can play. Last August, we needed a venue with the appropriate privacy and dignity to observe the first anniversary of the tragic embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Our guests included many of the Americans injured, and family members of those who were killed.
We chose these rooms because the objects and images here remind us that our country was conceived both at great risk and for great purpose; and those who serve our nation, whether as soldiers or diplomats, or in some other capacity, are advancing principles of freedom and justice that will endure long after we are gone.
From the adjoining balcony that morning, we could all see the memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson, the white stone markers of Arlington, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, and the silent, etched stone of the Vietnam Memorial.
I think and hope that the guests we honored that day found a measure of comfort in knowing that their sacrifice has a place within a tradition of singular honor and meaning; and that although their pain is sharp, their loved ones are in the company of heroes.
These rooms remind us all, each day, of the story of America, and that we each have a role to play in it, whether as a public official or a citizen of the Republic.
And as we continue to face the challenges of a new century -- determined to keep America a force for freedom, peace, and prosperity around the world -- I want to thank you sincerely for the part that you are playing.
And on behalf of all those who care about these rooms, it is a personal privilege to express my gratitude for the contributions you have made both to America's artistic legacy and to the promotion of American interests and values abroad.
I think many of you who know me know that I love my job. Nothing is better than representing the United States. It is the highest honor, obviously, that anybody could be paid, and I am very grateful to President Clinton for having made that possible. And as I bring guests through here, I am so proud to have these rooms.
Before I have been at other receptions with all of you, but I've now lived in these rooms for almost four years, and they make the hugest difference. My office I love, and yesterday I had the Russian Foreign Minister here -- and he was just green with envy. He wanted to know about every part of this and was taking notes. And they are going to try to refurbish their foreign ministry -- there's no way, but it was just such a source of pride. And knowing how all of you have contributed to this, I hope you truly feel that you have contributed not only to people remembering our history, but to making history. I am so very, very grateful to each and every one of you for what you have done, and just know that we love it here.
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