Remarks With Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes and Public Diplomacy Envoy Michelle KwanSecretary Condoleezza Rice
November 9, 2006
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES:
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES:Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us. I especially thank Secretary Rice for joining us in announcing an exciting new public diplomacy initiative. As I travel the world, people everywhere tell me that the thing they like most about America is the American people, their can-do spirit, their friendliness, their individual stories each unique, yet, collectively American.
We believe that Americans who excel in many different fields from healthcare to education to science to sports can play a major role in helping achieve our country's strategic public diplomacy goals. The first is that America must always offer a positive vision of hope and opportunity that is routed in our values, a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being, our belief in liberty and justice for all.
Another objective is to foster a sense of common interests and common values between Americans and people of different countries, cultures and faiths. That sounds simple, but I was reminded by a beloved former Ambassador, Frank Wisner, that especially at a time of war it is important that we focus not just on common threats but actively work to nurture common interests.
This is especially true as we reach out to the next generation of young people across the world, many of whom are being exposed to hate and propaganda directed against our country. I've worked hard to expand sports diplomacy initiatives because sports appeal to young people and sports are a common language that can bring people together despite differences of region, race or religion. Sports teach leadership, teamwork, respect for rules and respect for one another. To succeed in sports requires practice, discipline and determination; important skills that help young people succeed in all areas of their lives. Sports provide an opening for increased dialogue and greater cultural understanding.
I was privileged to witness this firsthand this year when we brought 30 young soccer players from 13 different countries from Afghanistan to Indonesia to the United States and into Germany in conjunction with the World Cup. They attended soccer clinics, played games and attended community activities that sparked meaningful and long-lasting cross-cultural dialogue.
In fact, just last week I saw one of the young women who participated in the soccer exchange when I visited her country, Bahrain, and she told me that she now regularly e-mails the new friends she made in America and around the world. They became a global family with a shared love of soccer.
Our announcement today combines the power of sports diplomacy with the personal appeal of a unique American story. I am now pleased to welcome Secretary Rice who will introduce someone who can help our country put our best foot forward.
SECRETARY RICE: It is a pleasure to welcome you all there this afternoon and to announce that our first American Public Diplomacy Envoy is the World Champion figure skater Michelle Kwan. Michelle embodies the American dream. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she rose to the heights of artistic and athletic excellence through her discipline, her drive and her determination.
Even before Michelle won her first World Championship at age 15, she had already captivated the imaginations of people everywhere with her personal story, a story that is deeply an American story. Now I am pleased that she is devoting her good name and her patriotism to help further our nation's public diplomacy efforts.
Michelle's fans have grown to admire her humility and her grace under pressure, and so have I. As a former figure skater myself, I have all the more respect for Michelle and her athletic accomplishments. I remember the grueling morning practices all too well. I remember the patience and the poise and the perseverance that it takes to succeed. And I will have to say Michelle had a little more success in that than I did. (Laughter.)
As a competitive figure skater, you have to handle constant performance appraisals, never-ending media scrutiny and the judgment of the international community. Come to think of it, figure skating was good preparation for my current job. And since Michelle is currently attending the University of Denver, my alma mater, and studying political science and international relations, as I did, she is on her way, I am sure, to being Secretary of State one day as well.
But for now, Michelle, I hope you enjoy your time at the University of Denver. I expect that your studies will guide you and ground you as you embark on your mission as America's Public Diplomacy Envoy.
I've said before that public diplomacy in the 21st century must be a dialogue, not a monologue; it must be the job of all Americans, not just government specialists. And of course, public diplomacy in today's world must reach every citizen of every country, especially the young boys and girls who will become future leaders of their nations.
So one of Michelle's greatest objectives will be to engage and spark dialogue with young people all around the world. By helping to tell America's story through her own story, Michelle will foster understanding of our democratic principles and the rich diversity of our people.
The fact is people all around the world who yearn for freedom and democracy and opportunity in their countries continue to look to America for inspiration. And it is not just our successes that have the power to inspire. Democracy in America has been a long journey of failures and false starts, a journey that continues to this day of flawed and imperfect people struggling to live up to the universal ideals of our nation's founding to forge an ever more perfect union and to include ever more Americans in the justice and opportunity of our democratic institutions.
So it is with great humility and no false pride, but with abiding optimism, that we tell America's story to the world and stand with all people who are on the long journey to democracy.
Michelle, I want to thank you for taking on this really important mission. It's a time of great consequence in the world and I know that you are going to play an important and valuable role for our nation.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is really with great pleasure and great pride that I present to you our first Public Diplomacy Envoy, World Champion figure skater and University of Denver student Michelle Kwan.
MS. KWAN: Thank you, Secretary Rice. It's a real honor to accept this appointment. You know, as an athlete, I've always been very proud to represent the United States. And now to do it in this position is really, really special to me.
I started competing around the world and representing the United States at age 12, and I can say that the last 14 years I was in training for this position and this job today. I've always wanted to somehow serve our country to contribute and to make a difference. And I feel that in this position I can do just that.
I look forward to sharing my experience, my story and the lessons that I've learned in competition, things like dedication, setting goals and how to go about achieving them, the importance of teamwork, and the reality of life that it's not always smooth sailing and sometimes you have to pick yourself up and keep on going. I believe these are universal concepts and I hope that people can learn from my experiences and apply it to their lives.
In this position, I look forward to interacting with people, young people, and share the positive things that America, its culture, its people and the great things America stands for. And I hope by in some small way I can bring people and maybe even countries closer together.
I'd like to thank Secretary Rice for appointing me to this position and I look forward to working with the Under Secretary. And I will try my very, very best to live up to the faith that you've placed in me. Thank you.
Released on November 9, 2006