Madeleine K Albright

American Leadership for the 21st Century - March 25, 1997

Madeleine K Albright
March 25, 1997— Wingate University
Jesse Helms Lecture
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Mr. Chairman, thank you for that introduction and for your hospitality. I was born abroad, came of age in Denver and work in Washington, but after today, I feel almost like a native Tarheel. Thank you all for making me feel at home.

Dr. McGee, Dr. Prevost, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Baldwin, students, faculty, distinguished guests, it is an honor to participate in the Jesse Helms Lecture series.

I know of the role that Wingate University has played in the life of Senator Helms, and the reputation that Wingate has achieved in a state richly blessed with quality educational institutions.

As a former professor, I love academic surroundings--and old habits die hard. When I testify before Senator Helms' committee, he is always reminding me that not every question requires a fifty minute response.

Despite that, the Chairman and I get along very well, which some people find puzzling. They wonder what we have in common.

After all, the Senator is from rural North Carolina, I was born in the capital city of Czechoslovakia.

He can square dance, I've done the macarena--and unlike Vice-President Gore--I actually move.

He's a Republican--and before I became a diplomat and had all my partisan instincts surgically removed--I was a Democrat.

So, what gives?

I think the answer can be found on the very first page of Senator Helms' book.

I have "no doubt", writes the Senator, "that being an American in the twentieth century is the greatest fortune that can befall a human being."

Chairman Helms and I do not always agree. But we are both grateful for the privilege of living in this country.

We both understand that our ability to debate differences freely and without fear can never be taken for granted. Millions have died for that right. And hundreds of millions are still denied it.

We both believe that the concept of individual liberty set out in the American Constitution remains--after more than 200 years--the world's most powerful and positive force for change.

And we both agree that if our freedoms are to survive through the next American century, we cannot turn our backs on the world.

At Wingate University, you also recognize that. As your brochure says, " awareness studies are required."

Members of the university community are encouraged and helped to travel. It is an important part of your preparation for the future.

When you who are students graduate, you will compete in a global market place. Your jobs may depend on the vigor of overseas trade. The security of your families will be influenced by whether we are able to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, whether we can stop small wars from growing into large ones, and whether we can win the fight against international terror, crime, drugs, and disease.

An important part of my job as Secretary of State is to spread the word that the success or failure of American foreign policy will be one of the determining factors in your lives--as it has been in mine.

And I suggest to you, as you think about your own futures, that you consider how you might contribute to America's success. To me, there is no goal more meaningful or exciting, and no field more interesting than international affairs.

Who knows, one day one of you may become Secretary of State, or Chairman--or Chairwoman--of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I hope you do. I also hope that the world you will inherit will be in as good or better shape than the world we have today.

To that end, American foreign policy is dedicated to three central goals.

First, we strive to keep our people safe by defending against threats to our security and that of our allies and friends.

Second, we work to keep our people prosperous by creating an ever-expanding global economy, in which American genius and productivity receive their due.

And third, we are determined to keep our people free by promoting the principles and values upon which America's democracy and identity are based.

Today, as a result of American diplomatic and military leadership from Administrations of both parties, our citizens are safer than at any time in memory.

Russian warheads no longer target our homes, and nuclear weapons have been removed from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan.

North Korea's nuclear weapons program has been frozen and will be dismantled.

Iraq's Saddam Hussein remains trapped in a strategic box, unable to threaten Iraq's neighbors--or us.

In Asia, we are building with allies and friends a community of nations based on common interests and a shared commitment to peace.

In Europe, where America has fought two hot wars and one Cold War this century, we are making progress towards a continent that is wholly united, peaceful and free. And we are working with our NATO allies to adapt our great alliance to new missions and to include new members.

These efforts reflect not altruism on our part, but realism. They are both right and smart. But we know that preparedness does not come without a price tag.

It costs money to inspect a nuclear facility in North Korea or Iraq; or to dismantle and dispose of nuclear materials safely from the former Soviet Union. It takes money to help our partners build peace and democracy and to defeat transnational crime.

Under the Clinton Administration, we insist that other countries pay a fair share of the costs of what we do together. America is a champ, not a chump.

But we cannot lead without tools.

I have urged Chairman Helms, as I urge you, to support the President's request to fund our international affairs programs. The amount for everything from aid to Israel to building peace in Bosnia to buying pencils for our embassy in Tokyo equals about one percent of our total budget. But that one percent may determine fifty percent of the history that is written about our era; and it will affect the lives of 100 percent of the American people.

One of the President's top early priorities, which will certainly affect our lives, is a treaty to ban chemical weapons from the face of the Earth. That agreement, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, will enter into force on April 29. Our goal is to ratify the agreement before then so that America will be an original party.

Chemical weapons are inhumane. They kill horribly, massively, and--once deployed--are no more controllable than the wind. That is why we decided long ago to eliminate our stockpiles of these weapons. We will not use them against others; the CWC would help ensure that others never use them against us.

The CWC sets the standard that it is wrong for any nation to build or possess a chemical weapon, and gives us strong and effective tools for enforcing that standard. This will make it harder for terrorists or outlaw states to build, buy or conceal these horrible weapons.

Not everyone agrees. There are thoughtful critics of the treaty who say it is flawed, because we cannot assume early ratification and full compliance by the outlaw states.

This argument is sincerely made, but to me, it is not convincing. It's like saying that because some people smuggle drugs, there is no point in passing a law against drug smuggling. We can't let the bad guys write the rules. We and the other law-abiding nations have to establish the rules by which all must be judged.

And as General Norman Schwartzkopf recently observed, if the Senate rejects the CWC, the United States would end up on the opposite side from our allies, and on the same side as countries such as Libya and Iraq.

That's not all. If we fail to ratify the Convention by the end of April, we will lose the right to help draft the rules by which the Convention will be enforced.

We will lose the right to help administer and conduct inspections.

And we will risk serious economic loss.

According to a letter signed by the CEOs of more than a dozen companies that have facilities here in North Carolina, the American chemical industry's "status as the world's preferred supplier...may be jeopardized if...the Senate does not vote in favor of the CWC."

According to those executives "we stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in overseas sales, putting at risk thousands of good-paying American jobs."

Ratifying the CWC is right and smart for America. In fact, the Convention has "made in America" written all over it. It was endorsed by President Reagan, negotiated under President Bush and is strongly supported by our military leaders.

In the weeks ahead, the President and I will be working to persuade Senators to give this important treaty their timely approval.

A second major goal of American foreign policy is to create American jobs. Here, the Clinton Administration has had extraordinary success. Since 1993, more than 200 trade agreements have been negotiated, causing exports to soar and creating an estimated 1.6 million new jobs nationwide.

This matters to states, such as North Carolina, that rely a great deal on exports. Senator Helms recognized that when he invited the Ambassadors from seven Southeast Asian nations here last year.

He knows what our businesspeople also know: competition for the world's markets is fierce. Often, our firms go head-to-head with foreign competitors who receive active help from their own governments.

Our goal is to see that American companies, workers and farmers have a level playing field on which to compete. And we continue to make progress towards that objective.

Last December, we achieved an International Technology Agreement that will open up new markets for North Carolina's many high tech firms.

And earlier this year, we signed a global telecommunications agreement that will dramatically increase sales and investment opportunities for companies from this region and elsewhere across America.

As long as I am Secretary of State, our diplomacy will strive for a global economic system that is increasingly open and fair. Our embassies will provide all appropriate help to American firms. Our negotiators will seek trade agreements that help create new American jobs. And I will personally make the point--as I did during my recent visit to South Korea, Japan and China--that if countries want to sell in our backyard, they had better allow America to do business in theirs.

Force, strong alliances, economic leadership and active diplomacy all contribute to our security and well-being. But to build the kind of future we want for our children, we must also remain true to American values.

Some suggest that it is soft-headed for the United States to take the morality of things into account when conducting foreign policy.

I believe a foreign policy devoid of moral considerations can never fairly represent the American people. It is because we have kept faith with our principles that, in most parts of the world, American leadership remains not only necessary, but welcome.

That is why we must fight and win the war against international crime and put those who traffic in illegal drugs permanently out of business.

It is why we must stand up to the forces of international terror.

It is why we should speak out against those who violate human rights, whether those violations occur in Baghdad, Burma, Burundi or Beijing.

It is why we should keep our word and pay our debts to the international organizations we rely on to help fight hunger, control epidemic disease, care for refugees and ensure the survival of infants and children.

It is why we should ratify properly-drafted international conventions on human rights, including--almost twenty years after it was signed--the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women.

When it comes to the rights of more than half the people on Earth, America should be leading the way. Today, around the world, appalling abuses are being committed against women, from domestic violence to dowry murders to forcing young girls into prostitution. Some say all this is cultural and there's nothing we can do about it. I say it's criminal, and we each have a responsibility to stop it.

Finally, if we are to be true to American values, we must do all we can to see that government "of the people, by the people and for the people" continues to make progress around the earth.

One of the great lessons of this century is that democracy is a parent to peace. Free nations make good neighbors. Compared to dictatorships, they are far less likely to commit acts of aggression, support terrorists, spawn international crime or generate waves of refugees.

In Haiti, America was right to restore democratically-elected leaders, and smart to remove the source of terror that was causing thousands of migrants to flee to our shores.

In Cuba, America is right to push for democratic change, and smart to work with Latin and European leaders so that pressure builds from every direction.

Today, in our hemisphere, only Cuba remains unfree. And as Senator Helms has often pointed out, its regime does not have time on its side. How could it? Communism was created to solve the problems of the 19th century--and failed. It rose to prominence in the 20th century and killed and jailed tens of millions of people. Now, on the threshold of the 21st century, it is a relic, a sinking ship that will soon disappear beneath the waves of history. It could not compete with the idea of freedom.

A half century ago, a generation of American leaders, including Secretary of State George Marshall and Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped to forge a bipartisan consensus to defend freedom against the threats faced in their day.

They did this, not because it was good politics, but because it was best for America.

They understood that, when Americans stand together, and act across party lines, we are more likely to succeed.

They knew that, when we are together, our commitments will inspire greater trust. And those tempted to oppose us will think twice--or today, if they see Senator Helms and me ganging up on them--maybe more than twice.

Above all, our predecessors understood that the ties that bind America are far stronger than disagreements over any particular policy and far more durable and profound than any party affiliation.

I am reminded of a story in the Bible about the prophet Elijah, upset by the waywardness of his people, seeking guidance from above. As Elijah crouches in a cave, a great wind arises that splits mountains and breaks rocks. But Elijah does not find God in the wind. After the wind comes an earthquake, but God is not in the earthquake. Then comes a fire, but God is not in the fire. Finally, after the fire, there comes a still small voice. And it is in that voice that Elijah hears God.

I believe that those searching for the secret of America's strength will not find it in our missiles, though our missiles, too, may split mountains and break rocks; they will not find it in the tall buildings on Wall Street or in the largest shopping centers or the most luxurious private homes.

I think they will find it instead, in the still, small voice that helps us not only as Americans, but as people, to separate right from wrong, to judge others as we would be judged, and to believe in our hearts in the birthright of every human being to be free.

Let us all, Republican and Democrat, old and young, rich and poor, heed that voice.

Let us respond to the threats we face in our day by building a future based on what is smart and what is right; a future that will bind our people together, secure our freedoms, and protect our citizens through the remaining years of this century and into the next.

Toward that end, I pledge my own best efforts, and ask your help. Thank you very much.

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