|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Under Secretary of State Bonnie Cohen
Remarks at Reception Celebrating Establishment of the Secretary of State's Register of Culturally Significant Property
January 4, 2001, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
UNDER SECRETARY COHEN: Good morning, everybody. I am absolutely delighted that you are here. Secretary Albright, Ambassadors and Embassy representatives, friends from the White House Millennium Council and FAEP, Staff Members from the House and Senate committees that support us, my colleagues, especially Under Secretary Lieberman and Pat Kennedy and Patsy Thomason and a whole variety of people who have been involved in this.
This really is a pleasure. We are here to celebrate the career staff at FBO that has served as careful and concerned stewards of the best of the past, as represented by our Embassies in many countries around the globe. Often, these buildings in these countries are in countries that are in conflict or poverty, and the buildings themselves are important to their history and cultural heritage.
The Register of Culturally Significant Properties that we celebrate today shows America's respect for other cultures where we are often just a guest. Secretary Albright, whose four years have been marked by a real commitment to cultural preservation and who is also our head steward, will be our first speaker on this important subject.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Bonnie. "Steward" was not one of my thoughts, but anyway. (Laughter.)
And I would very much like to also thank you for everything that you have done to make this happen, and our architect, Patrick Collins, because I think that having this day be made possible by your work is really a great pleasure and a great honor.
Ambassador Vondra, who is from the Czech Republic, Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Dick Moe, a very old friend and good friend, distinguished guests and friends, I am very glad to welcome you to the Treaty Room of the Department of State.
I think moments like this, where we have the opportunity to celebrate the past in a setting that invokes the long and storied history of American diplomacy, serve as a reminder that we are all engaged in an enterprise far greater than our immediate concerns and preoccupations.
Last year, President Clinton called on Congress and every American, and I quote, "to mark the Millennium by saving America's treasures and inviting projects that save our history, promote our arts and humanities, and prepare our children for the 21st Century."
Here at the Department, we have recognized the vital role of culture and art in our diplomacy, and the need to preserve cultural artifacts of American history, even if they reside overseas. And I think that the work that we did before Christmas on cultural diplomacy is one of the highlights of our tenure here, and I am very, very pleased. And Under Secretary Lieberman has been a leader in that, along with Under Secretary Cohen, and I think it's something that I am very proud that we were able to do.
Over the past year, we have determined that the United States owns or holds long-term leases to more than 150 properties that are significant for historical, architectural or cultural reasons. And together, they represent and contain an extraordinary collection of fine and decorative art. And under the leadership of Under Secretary Cohen, we have begun to assemble and document our holdings.
In November, the Department established the Secretary's Register of Culturally Significant Property, and we hope the Register will highlight the value of these sites and give them greater visibility and protection as landmarks.
In December, the Secretary's Register was designated as a White House Millennium Council project, a fact that we celebrate today. And so let me cite just a couple of examples from among the seven inaugural entries in the Register, and this morning we are privileged to have the Ambassadors present who are familiar with both.
In Morocco, the Tangier Old Legation Building is the first foreign property ever acquired by the United States. It is located within ancient city walls, and it was a gift to the American people from Sultan Moulay Suliman in 1821. This compound contributed to the Allied military success in North Africa, and today it is a National Historic Landmark, as well as initial entry on our Register.
The second building I'd like to highlight is the Schoenborn Palace of the Prague Chancery. As you know, when it comes to things Czech, I'm completely objective and unbiased. (Laughter.)
But even if it weren't, this former home of Franz Kafka would be one of the enduring images of Prague, dating to 1718, when the famous Italian architect Santini oversaw its renovation. The view from the Schoenborn Palace has helped shape impressions of the city's character for generations, and the illuminated American flag flying from the Gloriette provided inspiration and hope during the Cold War, while symbolizing our historic ties. And I must say personally that one of my favorite pictures is of me in front of the flag with a view of Prague. (Laughter.)
These two buildings and all the properties in the Register are not just major landmarks; they are landmark additions to the architectural legacy of this country. Our commitment to maintain and protect them embodies a core American value, and that is preserving a legacy for the next generation while strengthening our relationships throughout the world.
In these properties, past and present are indeed joined, and their beauty reminds us and all who passed through them of the enduring ideals which guide our diplomacy. In the words of President Kennedy, "Art establishes the basic human truth, which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."
And as we face the challenges of the new century, determined to keep America a force for freedom, peace and prosperity, I want to thank all of you for joining us on this very special occasion. And I am grateful for our shared commitment to preserving history, a historic past, and the promotion of American interests and values around the world. And I am very, very glad to have this opportunity to thank you all for everything that you have done.
Thank you all very much.
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