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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > October

Remarks at the 2003 Corporate Excellence Awards

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 15, 2003

2003/1044

SECRETARY POWELL: Welcome to the State Department, a particularly busy day today, and I'm very delighted to be with you. But 20 minutes ago, I was with Plácido Domingo at our Hispanic heritage celebration, where I sang to him briefly. (Laughter.)

Very briefly. But it is a busy day. But no part of the day is more important for me or more significant for me than to be with this group, and to thank you for the superb work that you are doing in assisting the State Department in its work around the world.

And so, I am especially pleased then, to be given the opportunity, once again this year, to present 2003 Awards for Corporate Excellence. You know, the lessons of history, I think, are quite clear -- economic growth is the best way to promote peace, prosperity and freedom across the globe; growth creates jobs, opens societies, and reinforces the habits of liberty.

If we truly want to unleash the power of human potential, we must build lasting economic bridges between people of every creed, culture and continent. President Bush is deeply committed to building those bridges. Despite daily headlines about the war on terrorism,
North Korea, reconstruction of Iraq, a significant portion of the President’s foreign policy is devoted to igniting a new era of economic growth.

As the President has said, “Our nation’s cause has always been larger than our nation’s defense.” Of course, talk of economic growth is meaningless to people who lack the basics -- fresh air, clean water and arable land. Growth offers little satisfaction to those struggling under brutal dictatorships and arrogant kleptocracies.

Growth is a mere concept to millions of people around the world, especially women and children who are malnourished, who are sick, who are suffering, who don't know where their next meal is coming from or how their children will be educated. Governments can help people put roofs over heads, food on tables, and opportunity within reach. But only business, with the help of good government, can turn opportunity into reality.

That’s exactly what you, the nation’s business community, exactly what you do when you buy and sell, when you take risks, when you invest and you trade far beyond our shores. In towns and cities all across the globe, you are giving more and more people reason to be optimistic -- not just through your investments in goods and services, but through your investment in people and communities.

In my travels around the world, as Secretary of State, I have seen with my own eyes how the combination of free markets and free trade are enriching and fundamentally altering people’s lives. In Africa, seed capital is spurring start-up businesses and providing internet access to craftspeople in remote villages, linking them to the larger world.

In Asia, and in parts of the Middle East, technical training and management programs are spawning a new generation of entrepreneurs. In Latin America, small farmers, who once grew coca to feed their families, now have economic incentives to grow alternative crops.
To Ace winners and nominees, helping people help themselves isn’t beyond the fray, it’s business as usual. To these companies, one less cry of despair is one more victory for hope.

And so, I am pleased to welcome those of you in the audience, and those of you who have tuned in via satellite to present the Awards for Corporate Excellence in the year 2003. The State Department created this award in 1999 to spotlight companies
that advance ethical practices and democratic principles.

Our chiefs of mission at our embassies all over the world, and at our consulates around the world nominate companies every year, and this year I nominated 48 companies from every geographic region for this year’s award. Out of these worthy, worthy nominees, we picked two winners.

I am pleased to announce that the first of two recipients of this year’s award is Chevron/Texaco of San Ramon, California. Through its subsidiary, Chevron Nigeria, Limited, Chevron/Texaco has done far more than drill for oil. The company’s riverboat clinic is bringing badly needed healthcare to thousands of people in the Niger Delta; poverty in the delta is among the worst in the world.

Sometimes, villagers have found themselves caught in the middle of ethnic violence and political conflicts. And in those instances, Chevron Nigeria has been there to airlift the villagers to safety. Like many parts of Africa, HIV/AIDS has cast its shadow over Nigeria. To the victims of this awful, devastating silent killer, Chevron/Texaco is more than a corporate logo, it is a lifeline.

The company’s AIDS prevention program recently prompted Nigerian President Obasanjo to designate Chevron Nigeria’s managing director as co-chair of the country’s
public-private sector alliance to fight HIV/AIDS. We applaud Chevron Nigeria’s commitment to its employees, and to the people of the delta.

More than a good corporate citizen, Chevron Nigeria is a good neighbor, and a model of excellence and trust. It is, therefore, my great pleasure now to present the Department of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence to Mr. David J. O’Reilly, chairman and CEO of Chevron/Texaco.

(Applause.)

MR. O'REILLY: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Assistant Secretary Wayne, dignitaries, guests. I know that Under Secretary Larson couldn't be here today, but I'd also like to thank him for his involvement in the process. I am deeply honored to accept this on behalf of our company. I want to congratulate also U.S. Steel and Tom Usher for the recognition they are getting today.

To our Nigeria-based employees in Abuja, who I know are watching this, you are excellent examples of corporate responsibility, and I want to acknowledge that. I'm accepting this award really on your behalf. And, to some extent, I'm accepting it on behalf of the 53,000 Chevron/Texaco employees in over 180 countries around the world because they exemplify the behavior that I think is compatible with corporate citizenship.

As a company, we're committed to helping foster social, economic development, as we pursue our business goals. And our operations are often based in countries where there is poverty, lack of education, healthcare, and civil unrest, some of the things the Secretary just mentioned, we see and experience these issues, particularly, you that are in these areas -- and as Reverend Leon Sullivan, one of my heroes, taught me and us, we have to work to lend people, not a "handout," but a "hand-up" in society.

In my view, making a positive difference in this way is the real meaning of corporate responsibility. We recognize that as one company, we can be effective only to a point, to bring about substantial change will require cooperation between governments, NGOs, communities and companies working together. There is clearly a need for greater collaboration in this area if we're going to be successful.

I'd also like to acknowledge our partners in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. They, too, deserve credit for joining us in bringing sustainable benefits to our host communities. And I have said in the past that global poverty is the defining challenge of the 21st century. And as much as anywhere, the Niger Delta embodies that challenge. No one should minimize it, but no one should minimize our steadfast commitment to positive and innovative change. We will continue our efforts to harness our human, financial and technical resources to help the communities in which we operate.

So, in closing, Mr. Secretary, I want to acknowledge again our Chevron Nigeria employees. They undertook an enormous task this year to help refugees at our terminal in Escravos. And I believe their actions taken by them, as well as our business partners, illustrate the depth of their commitment to helping their neighbors, and I'm convinced that they save lives.

So I salute all of you, our Nigeria-based employees, and our business partners in Abuja, Lagos and other areas for your commitment, hard work an dedication. You can be really commended for this, and it's an honor for me to receive this on your behalf. Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, David, and congratulations to all those watching in Nigeria, and my special thanks for the work that you are doing in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in Nigeria.

I am now pleased to announce the second recipient of this year’s award, the United States Steel Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More than three years ago, U.S. Steel bought the East Slovak Iron Works, otherwise known as U.S. Steel Kosice. Almost overnight, the iron works went from a rusty communist relic to a shining example of capitalism.

U.S. Steel Kosice raised salaries, increased incentive programs, and improved social healthcare and benefit packages. It wasn’t that long ago when the concept of employee retention at the East Slovak Iron Works consisted of taking a head count every morning, and that was it. Today, a new profit sharing program offers the men and women of the plant not just a reason to show up, but a tangible benefit in their own futures.

U.S. Steel Kosice has built an oncology wing at a local children’s hospital. It has purchased badly needed medical equipment, and donated roofing materials and heaters to refurbish orphanages. U.S. Steel Kosice facilitates adoptions, adoptions of Slovak children, raises funds through concerts, and even sponsors a youth hockey league so that local kids can have the proper equipment instead of just hand-me-downs.

U.S. Steel Kosice is an exemplar for how American companies can be responsible corporate citizens, not just in their own back yards, but around the world. It, therefore, gives me great pleasure to present Thomas J. Usher, chairman and CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation, with a 2003 Department of State Award for Corporate Excellence.

(Applause.)

MR. USHER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And also, David, to you and all the employees of Chevron/Texaco, my congratulations.

It is truly an honor to accept the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence in recognition of U.S. Steel's activities in the Slovak Republic. I would like to begin by thanking Ambassador Weiser and the embassy staff in Bratislava for nominating U.S. Steel, the Government of Slovakia, which works with us in a real spirit of business- government cooperation, and the officials in Washington who evaluated many worthy applications, but recognized something special in the U.S. Steel Kosice story.

This recognition, more than any single criterion of the award, acknowledges our company for the way it has conducted itself as an American corporation doing business abroad. It also reflects the commitment to responsible and ethical corporate management. It is firmly ensconced in the traditions and practices of United States Steel Corporation.

Throughout our 102-year history, U.S. Steel has focused on making steel and selling steel mainly in the United States. But as many of our customers have globalized, we have moved with them. Nearly three years ago, U.S. Steel acquired the steel-making assets which we now call USSK.

Although we have been engaged internationally to some extent, this was our most significant investment in a steel operation outside the United States, and central Europe was a part of the world which we did not have a long history or any great relationship. So, to be quite honest, we were a little nervous. We weren't sure what would happen as we assumed our ownership in Slovakia.

We entered Slovakia, however, with our minds open to learning from our new Slovak partners, and with a strong determination to carry out the best traditions, know-how, and professional practices with us. Our investment in Kosice offered an opportunity to apply industry best practices across the board.

While many of our accomplishments occurred inside the mill gates, some of our greatest satisfaction has come from participating in the Slovak community life. USSK's involvement and support for the educational, health, social and cultural needs of the local community is possible due to the success of the business itself and our basic commitment to good corporate citizenship.

This is how we conduct ourselves responsibly in America; this is how U.S. Steel will conduct itself abroad. We are very proud of the American and Slovak employees of U.S. Steel, who have worked so hard to establish and grow operations in Slovakia in a manner consistent with our companies’ traditions of high standards.

I am also pleased to report that European steel consumers and suppliers have embraced our forthright style of competition and our code of business conduct. U.S. Steel takes great pride in its accomplishments in Slovakia, its role in regional economic development, and its modest but important contributions to the emergence of free markets in central Europe. We remain very optimistic about our future in Slovakia and the region.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY POWELL: And my congratulations to all our friends at USSK in Bratislava.

My friends, this year’s nominees and winners understand that bottom lines and stock prices, they're more than that. We are involved with much more than that. We realize that, in addition to just being corporations doing work, they're ambassadors of American values -- values like democracy, freedom, and respect for human dignity. And I think they all, once again, deserve a round of applause -- not just the winners, but all the nominees.

(Applause.)

Before I move on to the interactive part of today’s program, I would like to thank our ambassadors, our chiefs of mission and their talented teams for participating in this competition. Because without you, far fewer people around the world would benefit from the economic freedom that they enjoy today.

And I salute you, the men and women of the American business community, who each day and every day, turn optimism into profits and hope into revenue. You represent the best of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the dawn of our new century, it is more important than ever to reach out to people all across the globe. By following the lead of companies like Chevron/Texaco and U.S. Steel, we have the best opportunity in decades to lift millions out of misery and provide a future full of hope.

Thank you all very, very much.

(Applause.)

If you all will excuse me, I've got to get back to UN resolutions. Thank you.

(Applause.)

 


Released on October 15, 2003

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