|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Groundbreaking Ceremony for the United States Diplomacy Center
November 1, 2000, 21st Street Entrance, Harry S Truman Building
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Chris. Secretary Christopher, Senator Sarbanes, Senator Mathias, Senator Percy, Dana Murray, who is the voice on the Op Center phone so often, and colleagues past and present, honored guests, it is a great pleasure to have you all here this afternoon.
I believe that I speak for my distinguished predecessor, as well as for myself, in saying what a pleasure it is to appear at this future museum in person and not as an exhibit. (Laughter.) This is indeed a groundbreaking day, and it is both fully welcome and long overdue. For our country rightly honors its traditions in hundreds of historical and military museums, including shrines to everything from stamps and cars to cowboys and rock and roll. But America has not accorded a similar recognition to the immense contributions that diplomacy makes to our security and prosperity and freedom -- not, that is, until today.
And the United States Diplomacy Center will bring the deeds of our diplomats to life to the broader public. It will show the challenges that they face and the risks they run to advance America's interests and values around the world. And it will use state-of-the-art technology to illuminate and inform and inspire. It will appeal to people old enough to remember the League of Nations, and those not old enough to recall the collapse of the Berlin Wall. And it will not only commemorate the achievements of the past, but also attract support for the work of the present and the needs of the future.
Throughout my eight years representing our country, first at the United Nations and now as Secretary of State, I have tried to communicate clearly to the American people what we are doing in the world and why. After all, it is the American people's foreign policy that we are conducting. And in our democracy, no such policy will long succeed without their understanding and support.
That doesn't mean we should manage our international affairs according to opinion polls. Something can be popular for a while without being right for our country. In the long run, however, there is no firmer foundation for success than a citizenry that is engaged and informed about America's global role and our responsibilities. And that is why I am so excited about the United States Diplomacy Center, for this will be far more than a museum. It will be the finest vehicle for public education and outreach that our calling has ever known. And that is because of the innovative exhibits that will be mounted here and because of the vital national mission that is carried out here.
From the Treaty of Paris, which has now been mentioned, to the non-stop negotiations of our own era, the story of US diplomacy is one of a unique and free society emerging from isolation, crossing vast oceans, and assuming its rightful role on the world stage. It is the story of America first learning, then accepting, and then acting on its responsibilities.
And above all, it is a story of individuals, from Benjamin Franklin onward, who answered the call of their country and who have given their life and labor in service to its citizens. This story is more than fascinating; it's fundamental to America's present standing in the world. And now we can make it more familiar to our own people as well.
Millions of Americans may recall learning something in school about the Louisiana Purchase and Seward's Folly, but until now there has been no place for them to fully explore the diplomacy that shaped the growth of our country. The hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, Antietam and Vicksburg have long attracted visitors with an interest in the Civil War, but there has been no place for them to learn about the crucial role of diplomacy in keeping Great Britain from tipping the balance to the South in that terrible conflict.
Much more recently, anyone with a television could become well acquainted with America's military successes in the Gulf War and Kosovo, but the diplomatic coalition-building that lay the foundation for those successes remained largely hidden from view. Some of these contrasts are understandable. Even in this age of CNNs and NGOs and the Internet, much diplomacy must be conducted out of the public eye, and many of our successes consist of bad things averted, wars prevented, arms shipments interdicted, and acts of terror halted before they could get off the ground.
But much of what we do can and should be on display for the public. We must do a much better job of communicating with the American people, explaining how our accomplishments affect their lives, and how their support contributes to our successes. And that is the great mission of the United States Diplomacy Center, and one I am confident will be performed brilliantly. Because the story that we have to tell is compelling, and I am sure that it will tell it, and that we will tell it well, and find an audience that is as receptive and attentive as this one has been this afternoon.
So, I thank you very, very much. And, now, to the task at hand.
Shall we go over there?
(The Secretary picks up the hammer.)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Now, the last time that I did this was to christen a 500-foot destroyer that I pushed into the Kennebec River, and I hope that as I do this that the Harry S Truman Building does not slide into the Potomac.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Ready?
(Laughter and Applause.)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Now I am supposed to say, "This is a breakthrough for diplomacy and a great start." And I hope we are all here in 2004 to be able to enjoy it.
Thank you all very, very much.
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