|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Richard Boucher, Department of State Spokesman
Remarks at the Inauguration Of The New Press Briefing Room
January 9, 2001, Washington, DC
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to everybody. We really have two parts to the event today. The first is the inauguration of the new briefing room; and the second is the actual function that we're here to do, which is what this room is for, and that's to answer questions. I get one minute on the schedule. I'll try to take less.
I think it is somehow inappropriate for me to be here. The idea of a new briefing room to replace our 30-year-old briefing room was discussed when I was here before, but frankly over time I've gotten so used to watching the ceiling tiles kind of descend from the old room that this somehow seems inappropriate.
It was really conceived by Mike McCurry in his days, and he turned over the project to Nick Burns who put it into planning. And finally, really most of the credit belongs to Jamie Rubin who made it actually happen and helped come up with the money and the opportunity to do this. So thanks to them.
But it is perfectly appropriate for me to turn this over now to the Secretary of State who has made it one of her major goals to communicate with the American people. It is my pleasure to introduce Secretary Albright.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Richard. All I can say is, "Wow." It's really phenomenal. Ambassador Boucher and honored guests and members of the press corps, welcome to this wonderful new facility. I am indeed very pleased to dedicate this new facility as the US Department of State Carl T. Rowan Briefing Room in honor of one of America's finest journalists, as well as a distinguished diplomat and former Director of the United States Information Agency.
Sadly, Carl Rowan, Sr., passed away last September, but we are very pleased to have his son and namesake with us this morning. And, Carl, you must be very proud of your father, and I hope that this facility will help ensure that his legacy of excellence and courage lives on.
The State Department press room is a place where we try to tell America's story to the world. The best of America is our people, and the best of our people can be seen in the life of Carl Rowan, Sr. He was raised in poverty and segregation in a home with no electricity or running water, but he made up for the lack of material advantages with brains, drive and guts. A valedictorian in high school, he found enough work and saved enough money to enroll in college.
Two years later, during World War II, he became one of America's first African-American officers in the US Navy, and like others of his generation, the GI Bill helped him to complete his schooling, after which he tried his hand at journalism -- with brilliance and success.
In 1961, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He then served a year as Ambassador to Finland, and in 1964 succeeded Edward R. Murrow as the Director of USIA.
In 1966, he returned to the news business where his mastery of the issues, dignified demeanor, and unwavering integrity made him an institution throughout this town and across our country.
Carl Rowan was a successful man who dedicated himself to helping others climb the upward path. He was a crusader for racial justice who pressed America to live up to our ideals, and he founded a scholarship program that has helped more than 3,000 local high school students to further their education. Carl Rowan was tough, fair, and smart as hell, and had a fabulous sense of humor. The Rowan Room will find a fitting home in the Truman Building, where plain speaking is always promised and sometimes even practiced.
To the press corps, let me say that I know how sentimental you all are and - (laughter) - how hard it must be to leave that old briefing room behind. And I appreciate your restraint in not ripping off the legs of the desks as mementos.
The Carl Rowan Room has many features the old briefing room did not, such as technology. It's a true leap into the 21st Century and will be far more user-friendly to those who rely on sound and pictures to tell a story as well as the written word. Although the setting will be different, the fundamental purpose of the State Department Briefing Room will, of course, not change. Because from this podium, the international principles, polices and purposes of America are conveyed to the press corps and, through all of you, to the world. This is where history is described as it unfolds day by day through dialogue between a free press and those entrusted with leading the Department of State.
As you know, I am very proud of the efforts the Clinton Administration has made in promoting democracy, and those efforts begin with the practice of democracy right here. And it's fitting that, from this day forward, this exercise in freedom will take place in a room honoring Carl Rowan, Sr., who devoted his own life to enlarging freedom for our citizens and friends around the world.
So, to this end, I would invite Carl Rowan, Jr., and Barry Schweid and Ambassador Boucher to join me in officially dedicating the Carl T. Rowan Briefing Room and declaring it open for the people's business.
(The seal was unveiled.)
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