|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to Employees with introduction by Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott
Washington, D.C., January 27, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: You will also agree that I have the easiest job in the world, by which I mean, of course, introducing to you our new boss. Over the last fifty-four days, since President Clinton announced her nomination to the world in the Rose Garden, there has been a palpable sense of excitement in the corridors of this building.
I can report that there is also a lively sense of anticipation around the world. And just the right kind of anticipation. Last week I was in Moscow, where several of my hosts were at pains to assure me that their foreign minister, too, can be pretty tough in defending his country's interests. You obviously all appreciate Russian subtlety of nuance. The week before, I was in four Allied capitals, where quite simply they count on our Secretary of State for leadership. And they won't be disappointed, nor will we, who look to her for strength and clarity in her stewardship of this institution and of your profession.
In that connection, let me say a word on behalf of Pat Kennedy, Barbara Larkin, Rich Greene, Craig Johnstone, and the rest of us on the Seventh Floor who are trying to get more resources for the conduct of American foreign policy, and that means more money for the operating budget of the Department of State and its sibling agencies and for the quality of life and job satisfaction of all of you, here in the mother ship and in our posts abroad. We have for the last several months spoken about the need for a winter offensive: a determined escalation in our effort to persuade OMB, the Congress, and the American public for more support.
Well, we have in Secretary Albright a new, victory-minded, and victory-prone general to lead us in that good and winnable fight. She made that clear in her first conversation with the President, when he asked her to take this job; she made it clear in her first public statement as Secretary-designate; in her confirmation hearings; in her swearing-in ceremony last Thursday; and she did it again yesterday, twice, in her op-ed page piece in the Times and on Meet the Press. Now yesterday on television the Secretary took questions, and she'll be meeting with all of you in the fairly near future for some Q&A with an even friendlier audience. She will not be doing that today, because we all have work to get back to.
But I would like, by way of an introduction, to offer one final word. As we've been told ad nauseam in the commentary over the past week, the beginning of a second term of a Presidency is traditionally, and perhaps appropriately, marked by a certain morning-after, down-to-earth, furrowed-brow, roll-up-our-sleeves realism about the difficulties that we face. Sober is in; euphoric is out. Now I wouldn't want to violate the spirit of the season, nor, I'm sure would any of you. So let's stipulate that the tasks that lie ahead of us are plenty daunting. Inevitably, we will go through some rough moments together. I wouldn't even rule out the possibilities that we'll make some mistakes-not you, Madam Secretary, but perhaps your deputy. But without in any way detracting from the seriousness of the enterprise or from the difficulty of the challenges that we face or from the seriousness of this event, I can, as someone who has known the Secretary for many years and has worked very closely with her for the last four, make one prediction about the experience that we're going to have working for her. I make this prediction with total confidence, and with total stone-cold sobriety. Friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the U.S. Foreign and Civil Service, this is going to be fun, starting right now I suspect. Madam Secretary-
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I never ever in my life thought I would be standing here talking to all of you, and describing how much fun we're going to have and how important it is that we all work together and how deeply grateful I am to the Deputy Secretary, or the former ad interim Secretary of State, who is the backbone and the strength that is really there for the Seventh Floor and for all of you. And I think, as Strobe has explained, we've been friends a long time, we've worked together a lot, and never more than we have or will. So I'm deeply grateful to you.
I am very, very glad to have this opportunity to meet with you today, and I will be doing much more of this in the future. But I wanted especially just to have a kind of formal introduction here today, and then spend more time, again, when we can really have some discussions.
The first phone call I made when I arrived at my desk was to Mr. Warren Christopher, who is now back in California, dealing unfortunately with a broken wrist, which is getting better, and the rigors of adjustment to life in California. I do consider it a great honor to have been asked to succeed him. As I said after the ceremony the other day, we begin this new term with the wind at our backs. And that is really thanks to the amazing work of Secretary Christopher and, obviously, Strobe Talbott and all of you. I'm very grateful for that.
I thought this afternoon that we would talk briefly about my intentions, priorities, and ways of doing business. From the outset, let me say, as some of you know, I don't shilly-shally much. I don't say "one the one hand/on the other hand." I'm not that kind of a person. I am an advocate. I believe that America is strong because we have the world's most productive economy, the world's most versatile and powerful military, and the world's finest diplomacy. If we are to remain strong, we need all three.
But today the third pillar is threatened, not so much by hostility as by ignorance. What we do here in this building and around the world is not always understood. There are those who question the very relevance of diplomacy in an era characterized by instant communication and no single overriding threat to American interests. The result has been a sharp decline in funding, a reduction in our overseas presence, a severe test of our morale, and a battle cry among some on Capitol Hill that we have only begun to shrink.
To such attitudes and policies we have a compelling response, and we must state it. For it is not too much to say that upon successful American diplomacy depends the future of the world. And it is no accident that the world is safer now than it was three or four or five years ago. It is no accident that nuclear weapons no longer target our homes; no accident that the Middle East continues to move toward peace; no accident that the carnage in Bosnia has come to an end; no accident that North Korea's nuclear program has been frozen; no accident that democracy, which had been stolen from the people of Haiti, has been returned; no accident that Saddam Hussein remains in a strategic box; no accident that agreements have been forged to ban nuclear tests and to eliminate chemical weapons from the face of the earth. And it is no accident that trade pacts have helped millions of Americans to find good new jobs.
None of this just happened. In each case, hard-nosed diplomatic work was required, work conducted not just by those whose pictures ended up in the newspapers, but by those who originated the ideas, conducted the research, attended the meetings, drafted the talking points, planned the strategy, and answered the summons to duty on holidays and weekends. The State Department is not about stars: it's about a team. So let me introduce myself to you with this pledge: from this day until the day I leave this office, I will devote the full measure of my energy and skill to working within this Administration, with Congress, and with the American people to obtain the resources we all need to serve our country and to do our job.
And I will do all I can to see that you, the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and foreign nationals who work for this Department, get the rewards and recognition you deserve. Let me stress this: as a student, professor, National Security Council official and diplomat, I have studied and participated in American policy all my life. In my pantheon of heroes and role models, those who have worked in this Department have great prominence. Time and again I have seen embassies, over-burdened and harassed, work double and triple overtime to get the job done-in fact, I've often been responsible for embassies' working overtime-and I am aware of the terrific sacrifices you often must make in terms of family, comfort, and as we were so tragically reminded in Bosnia a year and a half ago, risk of life. As Secretary, I will do all I can to see that consistent with the work that needs to be done, your needs and those of your families are addressed.
Over the decades, you have established and maintained a standard of excellence. During the next few years, we must work together, not only to continue that standard, but to raise it higher still. For years, I taught about the Soviet Union and Central Europe; for the good it does now, I might as well have been teaching archaeology. This Department as an institution, and each of us as individuals, must constantly learn and upgrade our skills. Training is a priority. Extending the boundaries of our knowledge to new areas is a priority. Learning about the new threats to our security and well-being, mastering new technologies, installing new technologies-all these are priorities.
To ensure excellence, we must also manage the resources of this Department as efficiently as possible. I'm not a fan of change just for the sake of change; moving little boxes around on a flow chart or requiring a new round of reports is not my style. Neither is micromanagement. On the other hand, I spent the last four years at the United Nations, arguing for reform through greater accountability, less duplication of effort, and a clear-eyed focus on results. Any institution that doesn't strive constantly to improve will constantly degrade. As Lewis Carroll says in Alice in Wonderland, "Sometimes it takes all the running you can do just to stay in the same place."
The management of this Department and our foreign policy institutions has improved in recent years, but must improve more. We need to work together to share ideas, rethink old habits, conduct intelligent experiments, and remember that our goal is not to spend time serving institutions, but to make our institutions serve the times.
We also have to send a message clear enough for all to understand. The foreign policy of the United States is not made in a dozen different offices in a dozen different agencies scattered around this town. It is made in the Oval Office, and it is made here at the State Department. That is our responsibility, and we will exercise that responsibility. If excellence is our standard, we must also improve our communications with the American people. They're the boss, and as I said earlier, if they don't like, understand and care about what we do, we will not have the resources to do anything very well for very long. Over the past couple of years, a first-class outreach program has been established, and we must maintain that and more. I, and I hope many of you, will be spending a lot of time in the weeks ahead explaining to the American people how our accomplishments affect their lives and how their support contributes to our success.
I particularly want to reach out to young people. I still remember, as a teenager in Colorado, starting and being active in international affairs clubs. As a matter of fact, I used to start an international relations club wherever I went, and made myself president. I intend to use the bully pulpit of my new office to spread the word that international affairs are not only relevant and interesting, but exciting and, in the vernacular of the young, "cool," maybe even "awesome."
As part of this effort, I hope we will strive in all our public communications for clarity and simplicity of language. We don't need to speak down to the American people, but we do need to speak sense to them. We have a good story to tell, but to the extent that story is encased in acronyms, jargon, generalities, and banalities, we handicap ourselves. As Mark Twain once said, "When in doubt about an adjective, leave it out." And as Cato the Elder once said, "Stick to the subject, and the words will come." Incidentally, when you leave here, you might note that the inspection certificate in your elevator does not refer to an elevator, but rather to a "vertical transportation unit."
Finally, you may notice that I don't exactly look like Secretary Christopher. In the last few days of being interviewed, I've been asked a lot of questions. The hardest one is, "How do you feel about being a woman Secretary of State?" And I have now thought of the answer: I've never been Secretary of State before, I have been a woman for almost sixty years, so we're now going to see how you put the two together. I do think that my nomination does show that the President of the United States is a deep believer that this country is a place where there is opportunity for all. I believe in diversity; I think we all benefit from it; it enriches the workplace and improves the work product. It is also central to what America is all about. We must always do our best to apply that principle in this Department and in this country, for it is America's message to the world that a society that makes that principle live will see its people reach their full potential as individuals and thereby realize its own as a community.
Now, I need to tell you and warn you, I'm not exactly hierarchical, and for people that worked with me while I was in New York, they know that. I make phone calls to people that are not directly below me. I reach out-sometimes you may like that, sometimes it might make you nervous. Please talk to me when you see me in the hall. We are all in this together, and I want very much to work with all of you as I can.
After I was designated for this job by the President, I called every living former Secretary of State, which is a fascinating experience in its own right. One of the most interesting observations was by George Shultz, who said that the Department is happiest when it is the busiest. If that is true, we should have a very happy next few years. Thank you all very much.
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