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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 > November

Remarks at City College of New York

Secretary Colin L. Powell
The Great Hall of Shepard Hall
New York, New York
November 10, 2003


(6:25 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for that very warm CCNY and New York welcome. And Dr. Boudreau and President Williams, I thank you for your gracious welcome and your introduction, and I especially, Greg, thank you for the service that you have rendered to this wonderful institution and to the people of the City of New York since you took the leadership of CCNY just before 9/11 two years ago. Enrollment is up, standards are up, everything is moving in the right direction, and your leadership had a lot to do with that, Greg, and thank you. (Applause.)

I can never come in to the Great Hall without thinking about the two eternal questions in my life that continue to vex me: Why they let me in, and why did they let me out? (Laughter.) A "C" student from Morris High School, and when I left here four and a half years later, I was a "C" student from CCNY. (Laughter.)

And they were, I think, kind of pleased to see me go. They gave me to the Army and said, "Please, be gone." (Laughter.) And now I'm one of the favorite sons of the City College of New York, and very proud of it. (Laughter and applause.)

It's always a pleasure and a joy to be back at my alma mater. It's a special joy on this occasion to be able to preside, for the first time as Secretary of State, at an event of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies. I am so pleased that the Center is thriving, and I thank Vince for his leadership. And as you heard earlier, the very first Colin Powell Leadership Fellows are with us this evening, and I offer my congratulations to these eight wonderful youngsters and I look forward to seeing each of them a little bit later on in the evening's activities.

The Center's programs are moving ahead with dispatch, and I'm so pleased at the level of cooperation that exists with the Foreign Policy Association, and I thank Noel Lateef for what he doing. And I want to say a special word of thanks for the May & Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, which has provided such generous support to the Center since it was created some five years ago. And I'm so pleased this many members of the Rudin family are here with us this evening -- Jack, Lewis, everyone. Thank you. (Applause.)

Another program here that I'm proud of is the Maud and Luther Powell America's Promise Scholarship program, which was endowed for my parents, is also thriving and brings me great satisfaction.

It's a special honor, though, to be asked to present a lecture in honor of Dr. Ralph Bunche during the centenary of his birth. As Greg noted, Dr. Bunche was a remarkable man. He was a great scholar. He was a tireless worker for civil and human rights. He was a diplomat par excellence of both the State Department and of the United Nations, and winner -- the first time for a black person -- of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.

I was just a boy then. I was 13 years old in 1950 when Dr. Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize. When he came back from Oslo, the City of New York threw a tickertape parade for him. I remember it very well and I remember reading all about his exploits and his achievements.

Back in those days, celebrity heroes for young black kids were mostly musicians, entertainers and athletes, wonderful people like Nat King Cole or Jackie Robinson or Joe Louis. And there was also one black general that we knew about, General Benjamin O. Davis.

But Ralph Bunche was something different, quite unlike everyone else. He was brilliant. He was a Ph.D. He had taught at Howard University and he had taught at Harvard University. And he was hands-on. He had worked during World War II in that famous intelligence agency, the OSS. And then he was tapped to become an Assistant Secretary of State, a very rare thing for a person of color.

The very existence of a man like Ralph Bunche opened our minds up there in the Bronx. He showed us that there was more to hope for, more to work for, than perhaps we had ever thought. We could be smart, we could be brilliant, and we could matter, just as Ralph Bunche mattered. There were new ways, therefore, for us perhaps to make our parents proud of us, maybe one day to make our children proud of us as well.

Ralph Bunche was not foremost in my mind, however, when I first set foot on this campus about four years after that tickertape parade. My parents were on my mind. I knew that all my parents' hopes, all of their dreams, all of their aspirations, were bound up in their children. And that they believed education to be the key to making their dreams for us come true.

As you heard, my parents came to America from Jamaica. They were immigrants, like all of our parents were at one time. They worked hard, they saved and went without, all so that my sister and I would be educated. And so that we would in due course be able to educate our children, both for material success and for its own sake. For the love of learning, and the refinement that learning brings to our lives and brings to our society.

Ralph Bunche knew the value of education, too, far more than most people. But here's something you may not have known about Dr. Bunche. At a critical point in his education, he was awarded a scholarship, the Rosenwald Fellowship, which he held at Harvard in 1932 and 1933.

That scholarship, which enabled Ralph Bunche to do dissertation research abroad, was not only critical to his doctoral degree. It opened his eyes to the world. It set the course for his remarkable career.

Now you can see why the Powell Center, and especially the Maud and Luther Powell America's Promise Scholarships, mean so much, so very, very much, to me. These scholarships, and others like them, are keys for young people to a better future. I know that there are future Ralph Bunches in the CCNY student body. Some of them are probably sitting in this hall tonight. Some may be among the eight that we mentioned earlier. There are future Ralph Bunches elsewhere in this country, and for that matter, all around the world. All waiting for and wanting an education.

There's an old story about a man by the name of George Ellis whose job it was, back in 1908, 1909, to clean up every day. He was a janitor. He cleaned up after a remarkable man by the name of Daniel Chester French. He was the man who carved that wonderful and giant statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits at the center of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. And every day, that old man swept up the granite rubble that the sculptor's work produced every evening, barely exchanging more than a "hello" or a "good evening" with Mr. French as the artist left for the day and George arrived to do his work. But George Ellis watched, and watched every single day, every week, every month, as Mr. French continued his work.

And late one afternoon, when the sculptor was nearly done with Mr. Lincoln, the old man said: "Mr. French, can I ask you a question?" "Certainly", said the sculptor, "What is it?" George said, "Well, what I want to ask, sir, is how you knew all along that Mr. Lincoln was sittin' inside that block of granite?"

It was not a silly question. It was a profound question about how to recognize potential and how to chisel that potential into being, how to chisel it into reality.

In our case, education is the chisel. That's what CCNY does: it recognizes potential, and it works to carve that potential into a living reality. As you all know, CCNY was founded in 1847 "to provide higher education for the children of the working class." The children of the blue-collar laborers. The children of the immigrants. And what a job it's done and what a job it continues to do.

My class, just celebrating its 45th anniversary, produced doctors and lawyers and technicians and scientists, nurses, teachers, and among other callings it produced soldiers, soldiers like me and soldier classmates of mine who gave their lives in the service of their country. I am very proud, so very proud, of my alma mater. And I am proud to be the son of a city and state that knew the value and importance of educating all its citizens. Once again, I say to New York, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)

As we meet here tonight, on this Veterans Day eve, another generation of soldiers is serving this nation in far-flung places around the world and in two active combat theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We went to Afghanistan two years ago to defeat the al-Qaida murderers who destroyed the World Trade Center and left a hole in the heart of this wonderful city. We went to remove the despotic Taliban regime that gave al-Qaida sanctuary and allowed their country to be used as a mass production platform for worldwide mass-casualty terrorism.

That terrible regime is now gone and al-Qaida is on the run and in hiding. A new government, led by a gifted man, President Hamid Karzai, is hard at work. It is putting in place a new political system resting on a foundation of democracy. Afghanistan's society will be faith-based, but it will allow participation in civil life of all citizens, including women, especially women.

Afghans have just finished drafting a new constitution. It will be voted on later this year and will lead to elections next year.

The Afghan economy is starting to rebound. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned to their homeland. The infrastructure of the country is being rebuilt. The international community is speeding up its financial contributions to help the people of Afghanistan succeed in rebuilding their country.

Yes, there are still dangers there, to be sure. Taliban remnants want to turn the clock back. They don't like what they see. They don't want to see their country moving in this direction. Some regional leaders are still resisting the central government. The former will be dealt with, the latter will also be dealt with, but they both have to know that Afghanistan is going to be moving forward. Much more work needs to be done, but so much has been accomplished in the two short years since we have been helping President Karzai and his people. We should be so proud of what we have done, what we have done to give hope to the Afghan people.

And we haven't done it alone. Dozens of countries are working alongside us as partners in this vital work. NATO has taken over security responsibility for the capital city of Kabul. Other nations have sent troops to join U.S. troops in securing the countryside. The United Nations has played an indispensable role. If, as some critics charge, American policy is "unilateral," it certainly is the funniest kind and the weirdest kind of unilateralism I have ever seen when I look at how the international community is working together in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the reality is that the American GI -- their presence -- is the backbone of this effort. Thousands of wonderful young men and women, your fellow citizens, are serving so well, serving with such distinction. And they're serving for a simple purpose: to bring freedom and peace to people who have not known such freedom and peace for decades. This is America at its very best. (Applause.)

In Iraq tonight, over 130,000 American troops are serving with equal distinction. Another despotic regime is gone. Saddam Hussein, along with his cabal of thugs and murderers, had gassed their own people. He filled mass graves. I've seen those graves. He tortured and mutilated people. I've seen some of them. He invaded his neighbors and he gassed them, too. He consorted with terrorists and he himself is a terrorist. He squandered his nation's wealth for over 35 years on weapons and on palaces. He was a threat to the region. He invaded those neighbors. He was a threat to the world. The UN warned him for 12 years, repeatedly, to no avail.

President Bush would not ignore the threat and acted, and he acted in concert with over 30 other nations.

Remnants of the old regime remain to be defeated. They cause us casualties on a regular basis. They are attacking our troops, troops who are there to restore peace to a people who desperately want peace. All they want is a chance to rebuild their own country -- a country that will be based on democracy, a country that will have a desire to live in peace with its neighbors. The remnants of this old regime, the terrorists that are moving in, are murdering their fellow Iraqis.

But let there be no doubt about the outcome. The defeat of those remnants is certain. So is the defeat of terrorists from abroad who are coming to Iraq to visit their hatred and fear of progress on the Iraqi people and those who are trying to help them. We will find them wherever they are. And they will be destroyed.

In the meantime, we're not just standing still. The work of reconstruction goes on. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under Ambassador Bremer, is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to build a democracy. Groundwork is being laid for the drafting of a new constitution. Iraqis are taking on added security responsibilities. Democratic town councils are being formed. And we are working as hard and fast as we can to prepare Iraqis to resume full sovereignty over their country.

UN Resolution 1511, supporting our approach, was passed by the Security Council unanimously last month. The recent $20 billion supplemental passed by Congress, and the $13 billion pledged at the Madrid conference just two weeks ago show that the international community, so fractured over the issue of going to war, is now coming together to build the peace. This is as it should be, and as it must be for, ultimately, the form of an Iraqi government must be acceptable to Iraqis, to Iraq's neighbors and to the international community at large.

There is no question that we are being tested in Iraq. We're being tested politically as well as militarily. It is a test that we must and will win. We will win. Of that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. (Applause.)

Afghanistan and Iraq are two theaters in the global war on terrorism. President Bush said after 9/11 that this would be a long, difficult and costly war. For the sake of civilization, and for our own security, we must have the patience, we must have the determination to stay the course and pay the price in the certain knowledge that we are doing the right thing. History will be our judge, and we are already sure of history's verdict.

Our success in Afghanistan and Iraq will fundamentally reshape those two connected regions. Afghanistan can become an example to the nations of Central Asia, and Iraq can become a model for the Arab world and the entire Middle East.

Why shouldn't they be? Why should the sweep of democracy and freedom be denied to those nations who would so benefit from joining the sweep of history?

As President Bush said last week at the National Endowment for Democracy, "The advance of freedom is the calling of our time…Our generation has witnessed the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500 year history of democracy." And that advance shows no signs of stopping.

I see that advance of freedom every day as I go about my work as Secretary of State. It is a joy to sit in my office and meet with leaders from countries who, just a few years ago, were imprisoned behind an Iron Curtain or were under some form of dictatorship in other parts of the world. They now all come and visit me as representatives of free nations, asking for partnership, asking for partnership and help in embedding forever in their societies the concepts of freedom, democracy, human rights and market economies. Why do they do that? Why do they come and talk about these issues? Because they learned that these are the values that are going to work in the 21st century.

Last week, I visited Panama and Nicaragua, two countries that 14 years ago, when I was National Security Advisor to President Reagan, were wallowing in dictatorship and despair. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I directed the invasion and liberation of Panama. As National Security Advisor to President Reagan, I supported the Contras and I got money for the Contras in Nicaragua as they tried to overthrow the Sandinista regime.

Ironically, when CCNY some years ago decided to award me an honorary doctorate, it was done in my office at the Pentagon rather than at commencement. The reason for that was a great concern over student demonstrations against what we had done in Panama, the invasion of Panama.

But last Monday, almost 14 years after that invasion, I was warmly welcomed in Panama City, welcomed by a democratically elected president who was getting ready to give up office next year to another democratically elected president. I stood on the reviewing platform with President Moscoso to observe the parade celebrating the 100th anniversary of Panamanian Independence.

A few hours later, I was in Managua, Nicaragua, and my reception by the democratically elected government in Nicaragua was just as warm. As I landed and my plane came to a halt, when I came out of my plane, down to the bottom of the ramp, I stood there at attention as a military band played the Star Spangled Banner.

I hope to come back here to CCNY at some time in the future. And I know that there are young people across the street who are exercising their right to demonstrate, and I admire them, I appreciate that they have these feelings. But I hope that when I come at some point in the future -- (applause) -- they will recognize that we have given to two more countries the rights to have a democratic form of government, market economies and a system founded on the basic essentials of human rights. (Applause.)

Indeed, we have no choice. History calls us to act on behalf of liberty and freedom, and no one answers such calls like Americans. We always have; we always will. We are answering it now. In his speech last week, President Bush laid out a vision for the whole Middle East. It is a speech that Ralph Bunche would have understood, and he would have applauded.

The United States has put forward a way of approaching the world that is quite different, and Bunche would have understood this perfectly. Ralph Bunche received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for getting the Arabs and Israelis to reach an armistice agreement in 1949. It was a dangerous assignment that he had. His predecessor had been assassinated. It was difficult. He had to persevere, to cajole, to shout, and to reason with others. He needed to balance patience with persistence. But he did, and he succeeded.

Over a half a century later now, there's still violence, regrettably, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. American diplomats are still at work trying to stop it.

The United States has put forward a roadmap that can break the spiral of fear and revenge and hatred. That roadmap can put the parties on a path leading to a Palestinian state, living in peace with Israel and all its neighbors. I hope that the new Palestinian government will act to end terrorism, the terrorism that erupts in its midst, end that terrorism so that we can press both parties to march down this road to peace once and for all. (Applause.)

But the President's vision goes beyond just this conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. It goes beyond the efforts we are exerting with our many partners in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

It is a vision of success, not just for Americans and global security, but for the peoples of the Middle East, and of the entire world. That vision is about justice. It is about prosperity. It is about freedom. And it is about, above all, peace.

But what do we mean, more specifically, by success -- and how are we going to achieve it? Let me start explaining it this way.

We have helped to free the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq from the tyrannies that held them down. But even more important, is what we want to free them, and their neighbors, for. We want to help Middle Eastern nations and other nations to prosper, to be independent, and to be free, just as we're doing with Iraq and, in Central Asia, Afghanistan -- to be free and thereby, with that freedom, to enjoy the twin blessings of liberty and peace. And they are indeed twins. For peace invariably comes to us on the wings of liberty.

We want this for its own sake, for the peoples of the Middle East, because it is right and good. But we know these goals also to be in the enlightened self-interest of the United States, its allies and its friends.

We live in a world that is becoming almost entirely seamless with regard to security. There have always been failed and failing states. But until fairly recently, the implications of tyrannies like those of the Taliban and the Iraqi Baath Party were local or at most regional.

The United States, protected by two great oceans and blessed with civilized and friendly neighbors, cared about such tyrannies out of an obligation to our basic sense of humanity. But remote political tragedies and the people who cause them did not directly threaten America.

Now they do. Such people cast their murderous shadow right here in New York City on September 11, 2001. They cast it that same day on the Pentagon and on a field in Pennsylvania.

Clearly, the nature to the American people of the threats, the nature of the threats to the American people, has changed. The main threat is obvious, or should be. It is the potential for terrorist methods to link up with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But if the threat is new, we also see new opportunities, as well.

And those opportunities are ultimately greater than the threats. The essence of them is what the President spoke of last week: the advance of freedom.

Just as the economic ministers of the world have finally come to a consensus on what works in the world of economic growth, so political thinking and political leaders have come to a consensus on what works in the world of governance. Democracy works. Freedom works. Liberty works.

We cannot persuade everyone on this planet that this is so overnight. It requires of us a generational commitment. And it requires all the tools of American statecraft, and the energies of the American people in their private business activities, their philanthropy, and in their prayers.

As the President emphasized last week, there is nothing inherent in Islam that is anti-democratic, that is anti-freedom.

Indeed, outside of the Arab world, the majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims live in countries with democratic or democratizing governments, with the rule of law firmly established in constitutional foundations.

This reality is spreading. We see it every day. Jordan held historic elections this past summer, building on work started by the late King Hussein. His son, King Abdallah, is just as determined on the issue of reform, and we are determined to help him as much as we can.

As the President noted last week, Qatar has a new constitution. In Oman, the vote has been extended to all adult citizens. In Bahrain, there is now a popularly elected parliament for the first time ever. There is a multiparty political system taking root in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is committed to the gradual introduction of elections, starting at the local level.

Outside the Arab world, too, we see change. The Iranian people want their freedom back, of this there can be no doubt. They do not want to banish Islam from their lives. Far from it. They want to be free of those who have dragged the sacred garments of Islam into the political gutter.

They have been imprisoned for wanting this. They have been gagged for wanting this. They have been intimidated and threatened for wanting this. Some have already died for wanting this. And yet when Shirin Ebadi returned home to Iran just a week or so ago, this year's Nobel Peace Prize in her hands, tens of thousands of Iranians came out to greet her.

We all know what this means. Ralph Bunche certainly would have known what it means. The hidebound clerics of Iran know what it means, too. Should they be worried? Does morning follow night? They should be.

President Bush was exactly right to point out last week the rulers of non-democratic societies in the Muslim world really have only two choices: lead the way to democratic change, or be destroyed by it, be left behind. For the sake of their own people, we hope they choose well.

Why is all this happening? Is it mainly because of public American and Western pressure? No. Is it because we have given secret, threatening orders to the rulers of these and other countries? No. Is it because, by some strange coincidence, a large and growing group of regional leaders have discovered the work of John Locke and James Madison and Thomas Jefferson? Not likely.

It's because the people of these and other countries in the Middle East, and not just the Middle East, because they feel the bracing winds of freedom on their faces. Dictators and despots can build walls high enough to keep out armies, but not high enough to keep those winds from blowing in.

Even those without experience of genuine democratic and constitutional government know in their bones what freedom is all about. They know exactly what equality of opportunity is when they don't have it. They have a deep appreciation of freedom of speech and assembly, because they don't have it and they see the consequences. They know what human dignity is, because Islam exalts it and demands that it be respected, even when those who rule in its name try to take that dignity away.

So reform is welling up in the Arab and Muslims worlds. Every tear shed from the oppression and injustice of decades is now collecting together, building up an ocean of hope -- an ocean whose waves are beginning to slap up against the wharfs of stagnation and injustice.

Momentum for reform is building not least among women and women's groups -- a true barometer of positive change in the Muslim world. And here the vanguard of change is Morocco, where King Mohammed himself is taking the lead.

Indeed, pressure for reform is growing from the Atlantic straight across to the Indian Ocean, from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Strait of Hormuz. And we hope that the example of a successful and democratic Iraq will add to that pressure.

Liberty and peace are coming to the Middle East, and we want to help that process along. But how exactly to best go about it?

We know where to begin. We take our bearing by recognizing the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. The National Security Strategy of the United States, put forward last September, lists eight such demands of human dignity. They are our lodestone for strategy as we approach the Middle East, and beyond.

Here they are: The rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.

These are nice sounding words. They are words that move me every time I hear them, and no matter how many times I hear them. But ladies and gentlemen, they are not just words. They form the lodestone of our policies, and we are executing these policies. Some examples.

Last December the President announced the Middle East Partnership Initiative, a program to support educational, economic, legal and political reform throughout the Arab world. Though still a new program, this Partnership is already achieving impressive results.

Its Partnership for Financial Excellence, for example, is helping banks provide credit and financial services to medium and small private enterprises. Success depends on, and demands, the rule of law for this kind of activity.

Its Commercial Law Development Program is providing technical assistance to enhance the protection of property rights. We are building respect for private property.

A few weeks ago, we held our first regional forum on judicial reform in Bahrain. At that forum, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor led a team of American jurists in a series of workshops with the region's most senior judges and justice ministry authorities, a workshop on issues such as human rights and legal procedures. That's how we are promoting the concept and the practice of equal justice before the law.

We have an international visitors program for the Middle East devoted to Women as Political Leaders. This builds capacity for government and leadership in the region, and by so doing engineers respect for women.

We have a program, in partnership with the private sector here and abroad, devoted to the Arabic Early Reading Program. That program encourages independent reading, and with it independent thinking and analysis. We thus encourage the energies that one day will spring forth in free speech.

In Yemen, we have begun a program to link high schools to their American counterparts using the Internet. We are creating a collaborative learning network to benefit both Yemeni and American students.

And by doing so we hope to engender respect for difference, for minorities, and for freedom of worship among people of different religious traditions.

We also seek a free trade area with the Middle East, as the President announced in May, an area that would stretch from Morocco to Iraq, resting on the basic principle of free and open trade. And as we work toward that goal, we are developing free trade arrangements as the opportunities to do so come at hand.

We have a free trade agreement already with Jordan, and in the fairly short time it has been in force trade between Jordan has increased exports to the United States, resulted in increased exports to the United States six-fold. American companies have increased exports to Jordan by more than 30 percent. Jobs have been created both here and in Jordan.

Deep economic reforms in Jordan set the stage for that agreement, showing yet again how economic reform and freer trade work hand-in-hand. Free trade, and the reforms that are prerequisite to it, thus encourage the growth of civil society, and that growth of civil society, in turns, places limits on the absolute authority of the state.

We hope to replicate the pattern we have set with Jordan with Morocco, Bahrain, and other countries as well. And not just in the Middle East. We seek a freer trade and investment climate all around the world.

In February, too, the President announced the birth of the Millennium Challenge Account, a revolutionary change in how we go about stimulating economic development in the world's poorer countries. The MCA, as we call it, takes the form of a contract based on the genius of the free market itself. It is not a charity account but an incentive system for building good governance. Create good governance, good economic and political governance, give your people the tools for their own prosperity, and we will support you generously.

You're not eligible for MCA money because you are not yet on a firm foundation of democracy and human rights? Come talk to us. We will help you. We will show you how to become eligible for these funds.

The MCA applies very much to the Arab world, to the Middle East, and to the developing world beyond. We do all this so that the enormous potential of the Middle East -- I am talking about people, not natural resources -- so that enormous potential will not be frustrated and wasted.

As the President said last week, "The prosperity and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by the extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity -- and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations."

The President is exactly right. Economic and political reform cannot be imposed. It must come from within, from the people themselves freely using tools of their own prosperity. Liberty must be earned. But the friends of liberty can make a loan, so to speak. A loan of experience. A loan of encouragement.

A loan of money, too. The MCA, if fully funded by the Congress, will represent the largest increase in U.S. aid since the Marshall Plan – indeed, it is even bigger than the Marshall Plan.

We're not literally providing loans with the MCA, but grants. We're giving the money away. But we'll get every penny back and more. The dividends will be in dollars in the form of expanded trade. But the dividends will also come in the form of the stability and peace that economic development ultimately encourages, in the Middle East and will also encourage elsewhere. For us, for our own security, that's far more important than just a monetary return on investment.

We've made a good start. But we're still building our policies as appropriate to opportunities as they arise. It will take time. It will not be easy. But we will not stop until we have helped the nations of the Middle East each go through their democratic revolution, their democratic process.

We will not stop because we are inspired by Ralph Bunche. Ralph Bunche never stopped either. He could have just stayed a scholar, or just dedicated himself to educating others. That would've been fine, particularly at a time when so many doors were still closed to him. Everybody would have understood if that's all he did. But he refused to be limited. He went on to serve his country with great distinction as a high State Department official.

I can't help but get a little personal at this point when I think about Ralph Bunche, when I think about the State Department I am privileged to command. To think of the doors that were closed to men of genius like Ralph Bunche. And I think about that and I think about those days, and I think about the great waste of human talent that was caused by prejudice, intolerance and injustice. From the block long balcony on the eighth floor of the State Department, I can walk along and I can look over that balcony and see the most incredible view of downtown Washington. Close by I can see the Lincoln Memorial, where Daniel Chester French and George Ellis had that remarkable conversation back in 1909.

And I can look across the Potomac River and see Virginia. I can see the Custis-Lee mansion above the row of crosses in Arlington National Cemetery. I can see other memorials. I can see houses, apartment buildings, parks and roadways. It looks quite idyllic, and it surely looked that way when Ralph Bunche worked in the State Department. But do you younger members of this audience tonight realize that for a decade and half after Ralph Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize, that place across the Potomac that I can see from my office, that state Virginia that Ralph Bunche could also see in those days, was still horribly racially segregated?

There are members of my staff still in their early 50s who grew up over there, who, as I do, remember the two drinking fountains and the three bathrooms at their neighborhood drug store's lunch counter.

Ralph Bunche lived in that time. It is not ancient history to me. It is still of my generation. He overcome all such obstacles. So many of us did. And now those obstacles, for the most part, have gone away. There are other obstacles that are there, but those obstacles are gone. But think of how many men and women of great talent weren't given the chance to overcome. They couldn't. Think of the terrible waste.

Ladies and gentlemen, the forms of social prejudice, intolerance and injustice that still pervade many societies in the Middle East and other places around the world are different in their history, different in their nature, different in their appearance from the crisis of intolerance that marked the days of segregation in this country. But prejudice, intolerance and injustice always have the same effect in the end.

Prejudice destroys human dignity. Intolerance destroys social peace. Injustice destroys hope. All three plant the seeds of fear, resentment and violence. All three destroy the future.

Ralph Bunche refused to give in to such a fate. And he worked his whole life to make sure others didn't have to give in either. We must refuse to give in, as well.

We too must work to change fate -- not just the fate of others, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But through them we'll change our own fate, our own future, for the better, as well.

Yes, Ralph Bunche could have been satisfied with being a high State Department official, but he wasn't. He went on to be a champion of civil rights, and of human rights in his service to the United Nations.

In the mission to spread liberty and peace to the Middle East, we can take a valuable lesson from Dr. Bunche.

Are there dangers? Yes, but that won't stop us. Is it difficult? Very difficult, but that won't deter us. Will we too have to persevere, cajole, shout, and reason with others? You can bet on it. Will we have to balance patience with persistence? No doubt. Will we too succeed? The answer is a resounding yes.

After winning the Nobel Prize, Dr. Bunche could have retired to a life of lecturing and teaching. But instead he helped lead the civil rights movement along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he went back to work for the United Nations as Under Secretary for Special Political Affairs and then Under Secretary General.

Ralph Bunche, throughout that long, distinguished career of his, never stopped trying to help others, never stopped serving others. That's what made him happy. The harder he worked, the happier he became. And he worked up until the day he died.

And so, CCNY family, and especially CCNY students, who I would like to say a special word to, you want to be happy? It's no secret how to do it. Happiness cannot be achieved solely by amassing possessions or power. Real happiness is a by-product of serving others.

So, my young friends, just look around you in this city. In this country. In this Middle East. In this whole big, beautiful, but unfinished world. A lot of people need you. Lots of work needs to be done. Liberty's work. Freedom's work. Noble work.

Do that work, serve others by it, and you'll be happier than you can imagine. Maybe as happy as Ralph Bunche was when he was helping others. Maybe as happy, in my own smaller way, as I am. Thank you all, very much, and thank you, CCNY. (Applause.)

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