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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2006 Secretary Rice's Remarks > April 2006: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Reception for Donors to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
April 21, 2006

Thank you very much. I would first like to thank Gail Serfaty for her wonderful work here as the Director of Diplomatic Reception Rooms. She talks about the caring that all of us have for these rooms, but Gail, your caring for these rooms is greatly appreciated. (Applause.)

I am delighted to be here to host this reception and to thank you. I have been Secretary now for a little over a year and I can tell you that I've made good use of these rooms. I have hosted diplomatic receptions here. I have hosted the heads of universities here, as we tried to reach out to America's universities to engage them in the work of getting our students to study abroad and getting students from abroad to study here. I've had the opportunity to host the Kennedy Center honorees. These rooms are being made very good use of for American diplomacy and I want to thank you for being the stewards of these rooms and for making it possible for America to have a place that we can bring foreign guests, as well as American citizens, to see our great heritage.

And whenever I'm in these rooms, I am reminded of several great American traditions and that is really why these rooms are so important. We are a young country, but we are not a country without tradition and without culture and without heritage and it's important that it's brought here together. We, first of all, honor the traditions of our Founding Fathers.

As I was waiting to come in, I was looking at portraits of Washington and John Jay and Ben Franklin and the artifacts of many of our Founding Fathers. And it allows us to remember the tremendous gift that they gave to us, the gift of institutions and a constitution that enshrined certain values about freedom and liberty that we all today draw on and expect. But we should never forget that they were hard won, those values and those institutions, and that around the world others are fighting for the same values and the same liberty and enjoyment of liberty that we all have had for so long.

We also remember, too, that of course, in America it took awhile to get to this great multi-ethnic democracy. It took awhile to make the words "We the people" mean all of America's people. But that's a part of our tradition and our heritage, too, and it's something to be proud of and something also to give us a kind of humility in our foreign policy as we talk about and help others toward democracy.

These rooms also celebrate the traditions of the growth of our country. I know that there are things here from the 18th and 19th centuries, including I'm told, a wonderful Chinese export porcelain bowl from circa 1760. And that reminds us that China -- the President of which was here just yesterday -- has been an important trading partner for our country for many, many centuries. And of course we have wonderful lithographs here of Native Americans by the German artist called Bodmer, which tells us a little bit about how Europe saw the indigenous people of these lands.

Now, I know that we are going to unveil a marble bust of Daniel Webster and Webster served three presidents as Secretary of State, and so I'm particularly grateful for the traditions that celebrate and that enshrine the position of Secretary of State. Now, I want to tell you a little bit about this position because you may think that it's always just been about foreign policy. You wouldn't believe some of the things that the Secretary of State actually does and I'll tell you a little story about that.

I sign every presidential commission that goes to any serving government official, whether it is the Attorney General; I've signed his commission. The Secretary of the Treasury, I signed his commission. The Assistant Secretary of Interior, I signed that commission. And so one day I said, why do I sign all of these commissions? And they said, well, you sign them because if you run your hand across this, there is the Great Seal of the United States of America and the Secretary of State is the keeper of the Great Seal. And I said, well, how long has the Secretary of State of been the keeper of the Great Seal? And they said, since 1790. So I imagine that Thomas Jefferson and Knox and Alexander Hamilton, you know, the original four, were sitting around and they said, Tom, you can be the keeper of the Great Seal because you don't have much to do in foreign affairs. (Laughter.)

Well, even though I have much to do in foreign affairs these days, I love hearing stories about the Secretaries of State and the tradition of being Secretary of State and so I'm delighted that we are going to unveil this bust of Daniel Webster, another great tradition of America. But the real tradition that we're here celebrating is the tradition of philanthropy and generosity in America. It is really unlike any other place in the world, where citizens give of themselves and of their wealth, and very often of artifacts that they themselves have, to their country, to the heritage of their country simply out of their love for their country and their generosity. And that tradition, I want to thank you for continuing. I want to thank you for the hard work that you put in on behalf of these great rooms. And I want to thank you for the love for America that is so evident in your caring and your generosity towards us. Thank you very much and I hope you'll enjoy the reception. (Applause.)


Released on April 24, 2006

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