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Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Reverend Jesse Jackson
At Swearing-in Ceremony for Reverend Jackson as Special Envoy to Africa
Washington, DC, October 10, 1997
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. I would like to welcome our guests from the White House, my colleagues from the Department and our other special guests to the swearing in of Reverend Jesse Jackson as Special Envoy for the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa. That is a long title for an important job to be filled at a key moment by an extraordinary individual.

I have known the Reverend Jackson for quite a number of years. Before I became a diplomat and had all my partisan instincts surgically removed, I attended political conventions.

And I have sat in the audience - as millions of others have sat in living rooms across our country - listening to this man weave out of mere words a quilt of reason, passion, memory and aspiration that has enabled our spirits to soar while guiding us across racial, ethnic, gender and social lines to a heightened sense of kinship with each other.

Reverend Jackson is a man of immense energy, experience, caring and commitment. I am pleased, and the President is pleased, to know that we will be able to count on his counsel as he works closely with me and with our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs here in the Department on matters of great and increasing importance to our nation and the world.

For there is a new tide rising in Africa. Although daunting problems of conflict, debt and poverty remain, in many nations difficult reforms are producing economic growth and progress towards democracy. The end of Cold War rivalries, the evolution of a new South Africa and the transparent bankruptcy of neo-colonial attitudes have combined to create new opportunities and models for political expression.

Across the continent, we see leaders determined to replace autocracy and strife with democracy and stability; to battle despair instead of domestic rivals or hostile neighbors; to transform nations that were once mired in stagnation into engines of growth; and to stand before the international community not as supplicants, but as full participants. In encouraging these trends, ours is a supporting role. We must listen carefully to what African leaders and citizens have to say about the challenges they face and the solutions they favor.

Reverend Jackson is ideally suited to help us as we proceed to build partnerships and establish dialogues to assist Africans as they move down the democratic road. He is, after all, well known to African leaders. He is deeply-respected by the African people. He has been a champion of human rights and human dignity throughout his career.

Reverend Jackson has also acquired a deep understanding of how our own democracy functions. In fact, he has probably been responsible for the registration of more American voters than any other single public figure in our history - with the exception of Susan B. Anthony.

The appointment we observe and celebrate today is a sign of this Administration's commitment to a new relationship, on improved terms, with a new Africa.

I look forward to my own visit to the continent, roughly two months from now. I look forward to benefiting from the insights of our new special envoy. And I look forward to a new era of steadily increasing democracy, human rights and good governance not only in Africa, but around the equator and from pole to pole.

Reverend Jackson, on behalf of President Clinton, and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, welcome to Foggy Bottom - welcome to the team.

REVEREND JACKSON: It was a moment of unusual joy and great satisfaction when I received the call from National Security Council Chief Sandy Berger on Wednesday, October 8, my birthday, who offered congratulations and greeted me as the Special Envoy for the President of the United States and Secretary of State to Africa. What joy, what privilege, what responsibility. I called my mother; we prayed.

It is quite a journey from Haynie Street in Greenville, South Carolina. A happy home, but an environment of such low expectations, where our family was denied the right to vote, even though my father was an honorably discharged veteran of the army. From that to an assignment by the President and Secretary of State, to in some small measure, to help shape our foreign policy by building bridges between the U.S. and Africa.

I want to express my thanks to Secretary Albright for her principled leadership, and for our relationship across the years, and especially for her support and encouragement for me to assume a relationship with the Department of State as a Special Envoy. I want to express thanks to the President for the confidence he has shown in me by appointing me to conduct previous foreign policy missions on behalf of his administration. Especially the role as Special Envoy to Africa. Africa, a continent with such vast people, potential and raw materials, with such rich history is so vital to world development and growth.

Through the years I have been able to develop a view of the world in part because of my kinship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Samuel Proctor, which led me to world travels and taught me abiding principles about our relationship to other countries, that guide my view to this day. The U.S. is so blessed and so powerful, and thus has the awesome responsibility to be a force for good in the world. I've sought to embrace the principles of international law, human rights, self-determination, economic justice, the golden rule of reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships and concern for the least of these as abiding principles relating to the world community.

I am especially delighted at this moment in history to work on behalf of our government, as it assumes a most morally correct and politically mature relationship with Africa. Africa has meant so much to the world. It helped to subsidize the development of our country and Europe. Through centuries of work without wages and exploitation of vast raw materials, the contribution of the peoples of Africa and its contribution of raw materials constituted a subsidy to the development of western civilization.

Now in this period of post-colonialism, President Clinton asserts the idea of Africa as a reciprocal trading partner - a continent of expanding democracies - a continent of hope and opportunity. This position is politically astute, morally correct and in our compelling national interest to fulfill. I look forward to being a part of an effort to build bridges of hope between the U.S. and Africa. A high degree of mutual respect and reciprocal trade will be to the lasting benefit of these two great continents.

We often see Africa through the lens of the western media as a series of failures, crises, basket-cases and unstable governments. The media must tell a truer, more representative story about Africa and our past, present and future relationships. Our political leadership must be aware of our compelling national interest in African and American joint venture of mutual development and growth. We are neighbors, not as far apart as the perception. For example, two friends can get on separate planes at Kennedy Airport - one going to Los Angeles and one to Senegal. They both arrive about the same time. We are geographically closer than perception. Africa is vast - you can put China, Europe, Argentina, Australia and India in Africa, with some land space left over. One-eighth of the human race is African. The U.S. has a trade surplus with Africa. We do more trade with Africa than with all former Eastern Block countries combined. The promise for growth and trade is vast.

On my last trip to Zimbabwe in July, the continent was still reverberating with appreciation over the trip of the First Lady Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton as they sought to expose the growth, beauty, development and the remaining challenges. We must not romanticize or underestimate the challenges in Africa after several centuries of rape and colonialism and oppression and denial. There is so much devastation and infrastructure destruction. And yet the good news, in spite of that, is that there are reasons for hope. Africa is rebounding with vitality and promise. It is producing world-class leadership - Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe who heads the OAU, and President Nelson Mandela are leading growing economies with multicultural, multiracial societies. They bring a quality of leadership to the world community that is healing and redemptive.

As we near the end of this millennium and look back over this century, many thought that the plight of Africa was forever doomed - reduced to Hollywood caricatures and stereotypes. But as the century ends, every African country has shaken the shackles of colonialism. They defeated power after power with their will to be free, the bearing of their souls, too often sacrificing the lives of the young and the innocent without dropping a single bomb. It has been a century of struggles, scars and victories. There is reason to be hopeful.

Now as we embark upon the mission to contribute to the resurgence and the expansion of democracies, human rights and economic development in Africa, we find that our national origin with Africa and our destiny are amazingly intertwined. We need each other. And if we work together with a shared commitment to humane priorities and shared democratic values, together we will be a force for good in the world of which this generation and the world can be justly proud.

I look forward to working with this team to Keep Hope Alive!

[End of Document]

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