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 Home > News & Policies > February 2001

Remarks by the President to State Department Employees
The State Department
Washington. D.C.

1:28 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  It's an honor to be here with you.  And thank you all for that warm welcome.

As the Secretary mentioned, I'm focusing this week on Americans' national security.  And few are more important to that mission than the people of the State Department, both foreign service and civil service. Our gathering here will be seen by some 10,000 State Department personnel in the Washington area.  It will be seen by 37,000 committed men and women, including many foreign service national employees in 250 posts all over the world.

So to those in this room, those around the town, those across the world, thank you for what you do on behalf of the American people.  You do so much to sustain America's position in the world, and so much to foster freedom.  And for that, we are grateful.

In a few moments I'll go upstairs to witness the swearing-in of 38 new foreign service officers.  Our hope is that they draw strength and inspiration from your example, because you all are the finest diplomats in the world.

The flags that surround us here represent every country with whom the United States has diplomatic relations.  They are a powerful reminder that you are one department of our government that literally never sleeps. America's commitments and responsibilities span the world in every time zone.  Every day you fulfill those responsibilities with quiet excellence. You solve problems before they become headlines.  You resolve crises before a shot is fired.  And when tragedy or disaster strikes, you are often the first person on the scene.

The other markers that surround us speak even more directly of your devotion to duty.  They memorialize your colleagues who gave their lives to our country.  The earliest are from the 18th century, understanding your long record of service and the long march to freedom. Others are all too recent, bitter reminders of the dangerous times we live in, like the ones marked, Kenya.  I know the example of these American heroes inspires you, just as seeing you all here today inspires me.

It's sometimes said that State is the one federal department that has no domestic constituency.  Well, whoever said that is wrong.  Let me assure that between me and Secretary Powell, you do have a constituency. (Applause.)

Speaking of the Secretary, I chose him to be our Secretary of State because he is a leader whose dignity and integrity will add to the strength and authority of America around the world.  (Applause.)  He is the absolute right man for the job.  (Applause.)

The Secretary and I are counting on you, on your help, as we pursue a clear and consistent and decisive foreign policy.  A foreign policy that serves both our vital interests and our highest ideals.  Our goal is to turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace.  This requires America to remain engaged with the world and to project our strength with purpose and with humility.

America will set its own priorities, so that they're not set by our adversaries or the crisis of the moment.  We must work closely with our democratic friends and allies in Europe and Asia.  We must engage Russia and China with patience and principle and consistency.  We must build our trade relations across Africa and help nations that are adding to the freedom and stability of their continent.

And closer to home, we must work with our neighbors to build a Western Hemisphere of freedom and prosperity -- a hemisphere bound together by shared ideals and free trade, from the Arctic to the Andes to Cape Horn. Building this hemisphere of freedom will be a fundamental commitment of my administration.  Our future cannot be separated from the future of our neighbors in Canada and Latin America.  Our bonds of language and family and travel and trade are strong, and they serve us all well.

Some look south and see problems; not me.  I look south and see opportunities and potential.  When I travel to Quebec in April and meet with the other hemispheric leaders at the Summit of the Americas, I look forward to doing this.  I look forward to discussing how we can build a century of the Americas.  And I'll carry this message with me tomorrow when the Secretary and I go to Mexico for my first foreign trip as the President.

These are exciting times in Mexico, times of change and times of possibility.  Mexico has seen a new birth of freedom, and trade is creating hope and economic progress.  The door is open to a closer partnership with the United States.  But nothing about this new relationship is inevitable. Only through hard work will we get it right.

President Fox and I will get started at his ranch tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to hearing his ideas on expanding trade throughout the hemisphere, on safe and orderly migration, on expanding educational opportunity for all our children, and what we can do together to fight drug trafficking and other types of organized crime.

President Fox and I met as governors, and I look forward to renewing and deepening our friendship.  But I look forward even more to forging a deeper partnership between our two great nations -- a partnership characterized by cooperation and creativity and mutual respect.

I want to thank you all for welcoming me here today.  I'm glad the Secretary invited me.  I'm glad I responded positively.  (Laughter and applause.)  Oftentimes, those of us who hold high offices don't stop and say thank you as much as we should.  So, today I'm doing just that.  On behalf of the American people, thank you for the service to this great country, and God bless.  (Applause.)

END            1:36 P.M. EST