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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991 - March

Remarks to State Department Employees

1991-03-27

The President. Thank you all very much for that warm reception. I really wanted to come over here, and I really wanted to say thank you. And I wanted to address our foreign policy professionals and all those who support them. You are, indeed, the men and women on the front lines of American interests, both in war and in peace. And this recent situation was no exception.

Dwight Eisenhower once marveled at freedom's power to assemble ``lightness against the dark.'' Well, I think that all of you showed that rather eloquently in this Gulf situation, indeed, in our victory in the Persian Gulf. You acted for right against wrong. I don't know how each and every person here was motivated, but for me, very early on it became a clear choice of good versus evil, of right versus wrong. And when that happens it makes it easier to make some of the decisions.

You spoke here, various officers, for dignity against oppression. And I salute you -- I salute you on behalf of every American and all the freedom-loving peoples of the world.

We do stand for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and no one tried harder to resolve the Gulf conflict peacefully than our Secretary of State Jim Baker, and then the entire State Department.

You know, from August 1990 to January 15th of 1991 -- 166 days -- you conducted nonstop discussions in the hopes of reversing aggression, in the hopes of this peaceful settlement. Secretary of State Baker had more than 200 meetings with foreign dignitaries, 10 diplomatic missions, 6 congressional appearances. I.O. and Tom Pickering, operating up in New York, helped put into effect 12 United Nations resolutions. And over 103,000 miles traveled on the Secretary's part to talk with members of the U.N., the Arab League, and the European Community.

Every American staff, every consulate, every bureau, and every department here and abroad facilitated these missions. The American people will always remember the courage of Embassy Baghdad and Embassy Kuwait. You were called upon, those that served there, to do your duty, and you did so.

You worked closely with our allies, this Department did -- an extraordinary coalition. I really believe that when history writes the final chapter on all of this, this coalition of -- some might say disparate coalition -- is going to be one of the highlights of what happened in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Indeed, I think all of your work inspired the American people. And you brought new respect, frankly -- and deserved respect, in my view -- to men and women for whom diplomacy is not merely a profession but it's a mission.

During all of this, I recall several important meetings at the White House where I drew on the experience of, among others, Assistant Secretary Kelly, Ambassador Glaspie; met also with the -- [applause] -- I think that's appropriate. And also the returning officers from Embassy Kuwait and Embassy -- he's back there. [Laughter] Ambassador Howell and Mr. Wilson later on, and so many others that just did a wonderful job.

That mission, your mission, of course, deals with the entire world, not only the Middle East. It's a mission you carried out even as war raged in the Persian Gulf. We forget that at a time all of this was going on, just by way of example, there were some very harrowing problems still remaining, I might add, in Liberia. And you look at other trouble spots in the world, and things were going on. And those officers and those supporters of the missions there get very little credit for that. But you kept the foreign policy moving forward. You put out the fires, and you did a great job, even though not as much in the focus as those Embassies in Kuwait and Baghdad.

So, you're dealing with the entire world. It went on; all that important work went on even as war raged in the Persian Gulf. And then you, along with the finest soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines and coast-guardsmen that any nation has ever known, helped light the lamp of liberty. Now, I'd like to see us use that, and I know many here are already actively involved in this, in illuminating a new world order.

I know that your jobs often are not comfortable or safe. The scroll -- there's a scroll outside that I've seen that tells the tale. Far too many Foreign Service officers have made the supreme sacrifice for this nation and the values it holds dear. And every day you guard this nation's freedom.

In coming weeks, we'll be working together to shape this order -- and in trying to bring peace, lasting peace, to the Middle East and every corner of the globe. We're talking about Lebanon; we're talking about the Palestine-Israel situation; we're talking about security and stability in the Gulf itself. And our efforts are going to be critical to the solution of the problems in those three areas and so many others.

But for now, let me simply leave you with a word of thanks, I'd say, on behalf of the entire coalition -- and in memory of those who gave what Abraham Lincoln called ``the last full measure of devotion.''

So, thank you all very, very much. I am very proud of you. I expect there are some times you wonder whether we know you exist way over four or five blocks away at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And there are probably sometimes you wish we didn't know you existed. [Laughter] You can interpret that any way you want.

But I've had the privilege since 1971, when I was the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, to work closely with many people, many of whom are here today. Not so many old guys left, but quite a few. And it's been a joy, and it's been an honor. And I support you. And I just came over to say thanks. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:42 p.m. in the Dean Acheson Room at the State Department. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of State James A. Baker III; the Bureau of International Organization Affairs; Thomas Pickering, Ambassador to the United Nations; John H. Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs; April Glaspie, former Ambassador to Iraq; Nathaniel Howell, former Ambassador to Kuwait; and Joseph Wilson, former Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

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