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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Thomas R. Pickering as United States Representative to the United Nations

1989-03-20

The President. We were reminiscing in the Oval Office with the Pickerings. And Barbara and I had visited them in four different posts: Jordan, Israel, Nigeria, and El Salvador. And in all likelihood, we will be visiting them in a fifth post. [Laughter]

But this is a proud day, I think, for the country, certainly for Tom and Tom's family, and for the Foreign Service. Ambassador Pickering, as we all know, is a skilled diplomat, a veteran of high-priority, tough assignments. He is one of only five FSO's that hold the rank of Career Ambassador. He's had extensive global experience, diplomatic experience that includes in a broad sense the Middle East, Central America, Africa. And now he's assuming a very important job.

I take the U.N. very seriously, and I'm pleased with the changes that have been taking place there. I salute, incidentally, his predecessor, my friend Dick Walters, who is with us today, for helping effect some of the changes, particularly on the financial side. I believe that the Secretary-General, an old friend of ours, Javier Perez de Cuellar, is doing a good job; and he deserves our support.

The U.N.'s Nobel Peace Prize for peacekeeping is a sign of new respect for the organization. And the U.N. is on the right track for reform. It is now certainly a more effective organization, and I expect under Tom's prodding that will continue -- that reform momentum. Signs of greater political seriousness must continue. A case in point has been the approach to Cuba and human rights. As a result of the recent U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva, Cuba's human rights record will be in the spotlight. I'd like to have seen a continuation of that mission, but nevertheless, it has been spotlighted there. And I'm counting on Tom Pickering to make sure that the question of human rights in Cuba maintains an appropriately high profile and stays high on the United Nations agenda.

The U.N. can be a force for peace, a forum for resolving conflict. And as proof of this, consider its instrumental role in the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, in the Iran-Iraq war -- a very important role there. It's an important place in the international arena. There was a time when a lot of us got pessimistic about the U.N. role in peacekeeping -- our interests mainly in the economic and social end. But I think both now are on the track towards significant improvement.

My point man there at the U.N., working with the Secretary and me, will be Tom Pickering, an able, articulate advocate for our administration's foreign policy. And so, it's a delight for me -- and I seldom speak for the Secretary of State or the Vice President, but it's a delight for all of us, we three -- to join his family and all of you in saluting Tom Pickering. And now, with no further ado, Jim, if you would do the honors, I will grab my toe mark here. [Laughter] Here we are. Here's your toe mark. [Laughter]

[At this point, Ambassador Pickering was sworn in.]

Ambassador Pickering. President and Mrs. Bush, Vice President Quayle, Secretary Baker, family and friends. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your very kind words and your strong and ringing endorsement. And thank you both for being here with me this morning at this very important event in my life and in my hope to serve our country as well as possible.

Your faith and confidence in me and through me and the American Foreign Service is a special mark of honor for me and for all of us, many of whom are here with me today, who serve in the American Foreign Service. I think I share with Jim Lilley, who will soon be the next Ambassador in Beijing, a unique and historical distinction. We will be the first Ambassadors in American history to serve a President who knows just everything -- more about our jobs than we do. [Laughter] That's a heavy load, but I will be on my toes in New York to try to do the best I possibly can in this endeavor. And I think it's symbolic that just a few minutes ago, Mr. President, a number of members of the Cabinet staff took all the dead wood out of this office. [Laughter]

Because this administration has already shown its interest, there is a new excitement in New York at the United Nations. As an institution under the able leadership of the Secretary-General, who was a companion and colleague of yours, it has made real progress over the last few years in peacemaking and in peacekeeping: in Afghanistan, in the Iran-Iraq war, and now in the Angola-Namibia settlement. It has supported free elections everywhere and the benefits of the market economies. It has helped with programs in the area of narcotics, in international terrorism, in human rights, and in national development. And it has begun building a program of far-reaching reforms.

This has been a result not only of our own policies but of changing views in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, and particularly the work of a number of my distinguished predecessors. And I want to mention particularly Dick Walters, who is here with us this morning. He has been a terrific predecessor, a great man to break in a new Ambassador, and -- along with the very able staff of the mission in New York and the people who work on this subject at the State Department -- has been an enormous help. Mr. Secretary, John Bolton, I look forward to working very closely with you in the days ahead on our policy at the United Nations.

It is a time for us to look ahead, cautiously but, I think, optimistically, in New York. U.N. reform can and should continue. Peacemaking in areas as remote, but as important, as Cambodia and the Western Sahara, and even in Cyprus, now show some sign of progress. Peacekeeping tasks are likely to continue to grow. Help in Central America will certainly be important in verifying a balanced agreement which includes the provisions for democratic processes in Nicaragua, dealing with global climate change with the environment, with human rights. And as you mentioned, Mr. President, especially for Cuba, where for the first time it is prominent in the world's agenda of human rights questions -- will be high on my agenda, and I accept your instruction and will certainly proceed to continue to keep it there. Similarly, narcotics and terrorism, chemical weapons, and many other issues will be on our plate in New York.

Mr. Secretary and Mr. President, you are both here in this place sending a special signal, a special signal of support for me and our foreign policies in the U.N. I don't know how this will be received in New York, but I can assure you that for the first time in my history 110 percent of my family has taken this opportunity to attend a swearing-in. [Laughter]

I'm delighted as well to see so many friends here. But I do want to mention one special friend and supporter, without whom this day would not be possible. Alice has been part of a foreign service team with me for many years. She has done a fantastic amount of work around the world, much of it unsung. Indeed, I feel often I get the recognition and she gets the tough jobs. However that may be, I hope you will all consider with me that this is her day today as much as it is anyone else's. And I want to thank her from this platform for all that she has done; because she represents, as many others in the Foreign Service represent, the best in the way of loyalty and devotion to the ideals of the United States in unstinting service to our country. She very much took the oath with me, as she has six times before. And I'm delighted that she is here, and I hope that she will share in the recognition that's being accorded to me here today.

Thank you again, all of you, for being here. Tomorrow we leave for New York to take up a new assignment. I know I can say with safety that we will see all of you there from time to time -- [laughter] -- and I say with genuine sincerity that we look forward to seeing you there. Thank you again, very, very much.

The President. Barbara and I are going to ask Alice and Tom to come into the Oval Office, and it might be a nicer way to greet all of you that have come over to pay your respects to him. And so, if you don't mind kind of filing through, we'd like to welcome you there, and just a quick handshake and then you'll be summarily thrown out by -- [laughter] -- Joseph Reed, who knows how to do this because he's been at the U.N. for a long time.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Vernon A. Walters, former U.S. Representative to the United Nations, and Joseph Reed, Chief of Protocol-designate at the Department of State and former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations. Secretary of State James A. Baker III administered the oath of office. In his remarks, the Ambassador referred to his wife, Alice Pickering, and to John Bolton, Assistant Secretary of State-designate for International Organizations.

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