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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Signing Ceremony With Patrick Swygert, President of Howard University
December 19, 2000, Treaty Room, Harry S Truman Building
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Congressman Rangel, thank you very much. I have been introduced by you before, and then you're kind of -- there's no way to follow it. I am very glad to have General Powell here. And since you're taking my job, maybe I can come take your place. (Laughter.)

I really am very proud to have Charlie Rangel as a friend. He has been so fabulous, and always a friendly face when I go up and testify and always somebody that is there. And my good friend Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been a friend forever. (Applause.) We have been professors together, we've fought good fights together. We'll do it again, Eleanor. (Laughter.)

And President Swygert, it is an honor to have you here. I loved coming to the campus and all the things that you have done for Howard and for American education and, as Marc said, for diplomacy. So it is really very nice to have you here.

And Marc Grossman is clearly the best the Foreign Service has to offer. (Applause.)

I am really delighted to join in the signing of this important new agreement between one of America's leading universities and the Department of State.

The purpose of this agreement is simple and clear. We want to increase the diversity of the workforce that represents America to the world.

And that was the priority when I began as Secretary of State four years ago. And we have worked very hard to achieve that purpose, but, frankly, the progress has been slow. And when I have met with all of you, I have always made that very clear, that it's been hard. And believe me, Charlie, they used to say women couldn't pass tests either. (Laughter.)

The purpose is to create a new partnership between the State Department and Howard University. And, together, what we are going to try to do is to encourage students at Howard to consider careers in the Foreign Service.

And to stimulate and nurture interest in world affairs, we at the Department will provide volunteers to participate at events at Howard.

We are going to respond positively to requests for help in mentoring and counseling. And we are going to invite faculty and students to attend seminars here, and conferences. And I think that will really help to have people see what fabulous students there are, and vice versa. I expect these efforts, in addition to special events, will be a winning proposition, really, for both the communities.

If the State Department is to promote and defend America's interests effectively, we have to create an environment that is going to attract the best. And our efforts at the Department really are being now led by Ambassador Grossman, who is waging a war for talent. And I think that there are a lot of able and dedicated administrators that are working with him, and this is something that we should support here. And I am really delighted that General Powell is going to do the same kinds of things that I have.

The issue here is, as we know, the job market is really competitive. And graduates of Howard are clearly highly skilled and much sought after. And when considering an array of options, what we want them to do is to look at us, and look in our direction. Because we believe that a career in the Foreign Service is truly rewarding. And Howard students have the opportunity to build on that proud tradition.

I have actually, Charlie, just come back from Africa. I went -- if I could just intersperse this. We always talk about all the terrible problems. I went to some of the good news stories of Africa. I went to South Africa and Mauritius and Botswana, and it's great. And I have to say, policy on Africa is not optional. We have to really have a strong policy towards Africa, and General Powell agrees with me on that.

The tradition of having people come here includes eight US ambassadors from the ranks of Howard alumni -- distinguished Americans like Ambassadors Horace Dawson and Ronald Palmer, who are with us today, and others who have represented our country, from Luxembourg to Liberia and from Botswana to Burma.

Today, Howard participates in a variety of joint programs such as the Diplomat-in-Residence, the exchange of Fulbright scholars, and the Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program -- in which the Department provides tuition for Howard students and enables them to prepare for careers in the Foreign Service.

And we hope that today's agreement will facilitate an even greater interaction between Howard and our own foreign policy practitioners.

I can't imagine a more historic moment for this initiative. If the Senate agrees -- and there's a lot of doubt here -- the first woman Secretary of State will soon be followed by the first African American Secretary of State. It's a close call, Colin. (Applause.)

And General Powell has rightly expressed his pride at having this distinction. And I join him in hoping that his appointment will serve as an inspiration to young people throughout the world about America.

But we still need your help in urging young people to think seriously about coming to be a part of our team here.

And, today, I ask you to keep our feet to the fire to do more, and to redouble your own efforts to persuade young people that a career in foreign policy is really cool -- or hip -- or whatever words they like to use. (Laughter.)

In closing, I really want to thank all of you today for your commitment and your presence here today. And with your help. I would like to say that no matter where I am, I am going to do everything that I can not only to support General Powell in various foreign policy issues, but in making sure that this Department represents the diversity of America and that we are able to be out there representing the best, because we are the best.

So thank you all very, very much.

(Applause.)

(The agreement is signed.)

(Applause.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Happy Holidays.

[End of Document]
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