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Robert Longley

Colin Powell's Parting Remarks

By January 20, 2005

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Exiting Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, on January 19, issued the following remarks on his experiences during the past four years of service on President Bush's Cabinet.

SECRETARY POWELL: (Applause and cheers.) Thank you very much. Thank you, all. Thank you. (Applause and cheers.) Whew! (Laughter.) Thank you so much, my dear friends. This is an exciting day for the Powell family. We close yet another chapter of our life and move on to something else. But it is a chapter that will always bring us the fondest memories of serving with a group of wonderful people for the last four years.

I remember the first day that I came into this lobby and was greeted with warmth and affection by all of you. That morning before I left to come down here, Alma said to me, "Remember now, you're not in the Army anymore." (Laughter.) "And don't go down there and start acting as if it's an infantry battalion." (Laughter.) And I said, "Yes, dear." (Laughter.) Then I immediately came down here and saw the crowd, and I started treating you like you were an infantry battalion. (Laughter.) Because you were my troops. You were America's troops. You are wonderful individuals. You are wonderful families. You are wonderful patriots who serve your nation as its troops in the far-flung outposts of American diplomacy. You are in the first line of offense of America's foreign policy.

And I want to thank President Bush for giving me the opportunity to serve as the 65th Secretary of State and the opportunity not only to be his foreign policy advisor, but to be the leader of this magnificent Department.

I want to thank everybody in the Department, whether you are Foreign Service, Civil Service, Foreign Service National or all the components thereof, whether you are here in the Department, whether you're USAID, the Peace Corps, OPIC and all the other organizations that flow into the State Department family. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to thank all of the family members who are in so many of our missions around the world and here in the Department for the sacrifices they make. Alma and I know a great deal about family sacrifice as a result of our 35 years in the service, but the sacrifices that I see our spouses and our children in the Foreign Service and the Civil Service and all of our other components make are equal to anything that we asked of our children. And I want to pay special tribute to the families.

I know that the kind of support and loyalty that you have given to me, you will give to my successor, Dr. Condi Rice, a dear friend, somebody I have known for many years and who I know will bring gifted leadership to the Department and to American foreign policy.

I also want to pay a special tribute to all the members of the senior staff who have worked so hard, and there are two individuals especially who walked in with me, who have been friends of many years' duration and formed part of the immediate leadership team. You've gotten to know them well. One we call Buddha, and that's my Deputy Secretary -- (laughter) -- Rich Armitage. (Applause and cheers.)

The other individual who had so much to do with the revitalization effort in the Department with respect to getting more people into the Department through our Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, or what we have done with information technology, what we have done with refurbishing our facilities around the world, helping get the money we need from the Congress, a guy who really is quite a leader, and he and I drove up together in my PT Cruiser on the first morning that I came here -- (laughter) -- and this was before DS got control of me -- (laughter) -- DS realizing that I almost had an accident out front here while I was pulling up in my PT Cruiser -- and that's Under Secretary for Management Grant Green. (Applause and cheers.)

You all know that I have always focused on the concept of family. We are one big family and we exist to serve the American people. We serve the American people by helping the President execute his foreign policy. We have much to look back on with satisfaction, many successes that we can take credit, along with the President, for. Whether it is the effective response that we made to the global war on terror when it was shoved at us on 9/11 and how we have responded and pulled together the world in this threat to civilization. How we have succeeded in getting rid of two of the most despotic regimes on the face of the earth, in Kabul and Baghdad. And even though the task is difficult, how we will see to it that these two nations, Afghanistan and Iraq, have the freedom and democracy that their people richly deserve. And that will happen, and you had a lot to do with that. (Applause.)

We have reached out to friends and partners around the world. We have helped to expand the transatlantic community through the expansion of NATO, through the expansion of the European Union, helping and watching, through creating a better relationship with the Russian Federation. In our first nine months, everybody was concerned that we would destroy that relationship because of the debate over the ABM Treaty. But, in effect, the President showed what kind of a foreign policy we would have. We pressed forward with the elimination of the ABM Treaty because we needed to go to missile defense, and we did it in a way that the Russians understood why we were doing it. We were patient. We took our time. We explained it to them. And after we told them we had to withdraw, six months later, rather than there being a big rupture, we signed the Treaty of Moscow and put our relationship with Russia on a new strategic footing.

We did the same thing in our relationship with China, the other major nation that, at one time, might have been called an adversary. We had a problem, you will recall, in early April of 2001, with the collision between our airplanes, and everybody thought this relationship is going to a deep freeze. But instead, with patient diplomacy and listening to the Chinese and their concerns -- their listening to us -- we solved that problem, and over the last several years have put U.S.-Chinese relations on the soundest footing that they have been in decades.

If you look around the world at the kinds of things we have done, whether it is our interaction with the Indians and the Pakistanis on the subcontinent to defuse a conflict situation and let them know that we were their friends, each in an individual capacity, and, working together, helped them resolve some of the difficulties.

If you look at what we did with our Asian alliances and alliance members and partners, it is an excellent condition.

If you look at what we did to deal with those problems that are so vexing in the world with respect to poverty, with respect to disease, with respect to hunger, we have much to be proud of: doubling of our development assistance funding; the HIV/AIDS program, where we are in the forefront of the world's efforts.

If you look at how we solved problems in Liberia or in Haiti or what we have done with patient diplomacy over the years to bring us to that marvelous moment last Sunday when I was privileged, on behalf of the President, on behalf of you, to witness the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the SPLM and the government in Khartoum, bringing this 20-year-old war in Sudan, hopefully, closer to an end.

When you look at what we have done with respect to free trade, when you look at what we have done with respect to our interests in our own hemisphere and in Africa, it is a record that we can all be proud of.

You are the ones who do it. I am up on the seventh floor with my wonderful colleagues from the sixth and seventh floors, who are assembled behind me like a choir. (Laughter.) We trust they will not break out into song at any time. (Laughter.) But we are the leaders and we have the privilege of being your leaders, but we know how it gets done. It doesn't get done because I give a speech or I go here or I go there. It gets done because you do it every single day. You do it by the way in which you go about your work and the way in which all of your colleagues in every one of our missions around the world go about their work.

They are the carriers -- you are the carriers -- of America's values. You are the ones that go out, not to lecture, not to impose, but to let our works go before us to show what democracy can bring to people in the way of a better life. You are the ones who demonstrate the importance of individual rights that everybody should be free. You are the ones, by the way you do your job here, the way all of our people, our embassies around the world, do their job in connecting with the citizens of that land, tell those folks what America is all about, what we believe -- freedom, human dignity, economic openness -- all for the purpose of not imposing American values, but showing how American values can benefit the world if they are adjusted and adapted to the needs of a particular country.

We have demonstrated that in the broader Middle East and North Africa as we have launched the Forum for the Future to help those nations reform themselves with our help. We have demonstrated it in our continuing effort to work with the nations of the Middle East, and especially with the Israelis and Palestinians, to move forward so that a free, reformed, democratic state of Palestine could be created to live side by side in peace with Israel.

We have not shrunk from the challenges. We are focusing on Iran and North Korea and trying to persuade them that there is a better way. We put the spotlight on these kinds of problems. We solved the problem in Libya of weapons of mass destruction. We hope other nations that are thinking in those terms will come to the same conclusion that the Libyans did.

So we have much to be proud of, but you are the ones who should be proud of what we have done. It has been my privilege to serve you, but you are the foot soldiers of the battalion. I am so proud that I have had this chance to serve my nation once again. When I step down from this job I will have had close to 40 years of government service. Thirty-five of those years were in the United States Army. I will never not be a soldier. You can't serve for 35 years and say, "I'm no longer a soldier." So the Army will always be dear and precious to me.

But I want to say to you here today that after four years of being with you, serving this Department, the relationship is the same. And even though I step down as your Secretary, I will never leave you. I will always be a part of this wonderful family. Thank you, all, and God bless you. (Applause and cheers.)

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Source: State Department Transcript

Also See: About the President's Cabinet

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