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Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Farewell Remarks at U.S. Department of State
January 19, 2001, Washington, DC
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. I always knew this day would come, and I thought I would dread it because I love this job and working with all of you so very, very much. But I find instead that the sadness is overwhelmed by pride, not in what I've been able to do, but in what we have all been able to do to together.
Tomorrow, for me, a new life begins. I will have to relearn how to drive -- (laughter) -- place phone calls -- (laughter) -- and plan my own day. And for most of you, foreign policy will remain a full-time job. In that I envy you, but my purpose today is to thank you. The past four years have gone by more rapidly than I could have ever imagined, but there are some images and events that even a frenetic schedule cannot erase.
For example, on the Orioles opening day I threw out the first ball, which flew like the Pentagon's description of an air crash -- uncontrolled descent into terrain. (Laughter.)
At ASEAN, I sang for my supper, including a duet with Foreign Minister Primakov that made many nostalgic for the Cold War. (Laughter.)
A magazine honored me as one of the world's 25 most intriguing people -- alongside a cloned sheep. (Laughter.)
And I will forever cherish the memory of being picketed in Seattle by people dressed up as butterflies and turtles. (Laughter.)
Of course there were truly uplifting moments as well, brought about by your hard work:
Standing on a podium in front of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and welcoming Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO.
Listening to Israeli, Palestinian and Arab youngsters talk of their shared desire to grow up in dignity, free from terror and fear.
Hearing refugees from Kosovo chant, "USA, USA," knowing that because we had acted they would soon be able to return to their villages.
Visiting Pyongyang to explore the possibilities of reconciliation along the Cold War's final border.
And watching the Yugoslav people toss Milosevic out on his ear. (Applause.)
I will of course remember the leaders with whom I deliberated in fancy rooms, but the faces etched most clearly in my mind are those encountered in refugee camps, hospitals, schools and clinics; amputees from Sierra Leone, too young even to know what they had lost; widows of those massacred in Srebrenica, seeking justice; girls from Afghanistan whom the Taliban had driven from their homes; mothers with AIDS pleading for assurance that their children would be cared for after they are gone.
I have been called the most powerful woman in the world, but I have on occasion lacked even the power of speech, because although we have crossed the threshold into a new century, there are still too many questions for which we have no answers.
I have recently been rereading Dean Acheson's book, "Present at the Creation." Together, you and I have been present at the transition from one era to the next. Like our predecessors, we have had a responsibility to build or adapt institutions that would enhance security, prosperity and freedom for generations to come.
In this, we have made a really good beginning, from NATO enlargement and paying our UN bills, to strengthening regional institutions in Africa, Asia and our own hemisphere.
We have spent much of our time on the critical and traditional issues of security and prosperity, war and peace. But we have spent some of our time on virtually every issue under the sun.
As globalization broadens, so does the scope of America's interests overseas, and therefore our foreign policy as well. I had never expected when I took this job to find myself talking so much about bananas, biotechnology and the impacts of global climate change. But I have, and I know that Secretary-Designate Powell can expect more of the same.
And incidentally, I think it says something very good about America that the first female Secretary of State is about to be succeeded by our first African American Secretary of State. (Applause.)
I am confident that General Powell will be a superb Secretary, and I am pleased that the transition has gone so well. And I am grateful that we live in a country where the parties and the personalities may change, but the principles that guide our republic do not.
I have told General Powell that he can count on my support, especially when it comes to backing the State Department as an institution. I am pleased that these past four years we have increased resources for the Department by 17 percent in real terms. This, too, is only a beginning.
In this hall are the people who make this building function, who keep the logs, write the checks, train the talent, procure the equipment and enable us to communicate with each other and the world. Here and at our overseas posts are the men and women who constitute America's first line of defense. Each of you deserve -- because you have earned -- the full backing of the American people.
I will leave this Department believing that its greatest strength is its capacity to function brilliantly when the stakes are highest and the pressure is on. That is when our regional and functional Bureaus pull together most effectively. It is when the various components of policy, from the military to the economic to the environmental to the humanitarian, are best coordinated. It is when distinctions between foreign and civil service melt away and public diplomacy is a full partner.
But the truth is that this Department does a magnificent job every day. I know because I have seen you at work in embassy compounds that look like they were designed by Joseph Stalin -- (laughter) -- although perhaps built before his time. I have seen one US Ambassador reduced to washing her dishes in a bathtub. I have seen many of you pass every test of performance and conditions that would fail any test of what is acceptable.
And my admiration stems not simply from what and I and others have asked you to do, but rather from what you and your families have chosen to do, far beyond the dictates of duty. Time and again, I have seen you and your husbands, wives and children give freely of yourselves to comfort the ill, teach the illiterate, aid the impoverished and give a desperate cause hope. I have seen you share your knowledge and enthusiasm for democracy with those striving to build a better life in larger freedom. I have seen you win friends for America simply by virtue of your presence and warmth. And I have stood, with head bowed, at memorial services for colleagues struck down while representing our nation or helping others to achieve peace.
During the past four years, the good days far outnumbered the bad, but the worst was August 7th, 1998. It was more than two years ago, yet still we mourn. Still we are conscious of the risks involved in defending our interests around the world. And still we understand that there could be no greater responsibility or honor.
I have said that one of the things that I will miss most, starting tomorrow, is the view. From my office I have been able to look out over the Mall, to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the dome beneath which the likeness of Thomas Jefferson, our first Secretary of State, silently stands. Each day I witness a steady tide of visitors to these shrines of freedom from all corners of our country and all parts of the globe.
Many of you have heard me say it before, but this morning I want to reiterate to you the depth of my gratitude to President Clinton and the sense of honor I have had to represent America, first at the United Nations and now before the world.
Our country, like any, is composed of humans and therefore is flawed. We are not always right in our actions and judgments, but I know from the experience of my own life the importance and rightness of America's ideals. I have seen firsthand the difference that American foreign policy has made and continues to make in the lives of men, women and children on every continent. I believe profoundly in the goodness of the American people, and I will bear witness all my days to the value and the values of those who labor in and for this Department.
I said at the outset that I have dreaded this day, but because of all you have done, all you believe and all you will accomplish after I have gone, I will cherish this moment forever. Thank you, and God bless you all, and farewell.
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