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Announcement of Cal Ripken, Jr. as Special Sports Envoy

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Remarks With Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes
Washington, DC
August 13, 2007

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(10:12 a.m. EDT)

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, good morning. I want to thank you all for joining us for the announcement of our second American public diplomacy envoy, someone whose character and great achievements will help us share the best of America with the rest of the world. When we created the American public diplomacy envoy position last year, it was part of a larger effort to encourage our fellow Americans from all walks of life -- business, sports, academia, nongovernment, community and faith-based organizations to join in America's public diplomacy efforts.

I like to describe the way others view our country as a very complex tapestry that is woven by many different artists and the threads include things from policy to pop culture. Each American company, organization and individual makes an impression when we travel or work abroad or welcome foreign visitors here. And of course, every American has a unique American story. And together, we're part of a much larger narrative that makes our nation the melting pot that it is -- rich in diversity, comprised of people from virtually every, nation, culture and faith in the world.

Through their personal examples, our public diplomacy envoys become leaders in America's effort to engage in a positive and constructive dialogue with the world. Earlier this year, I traveled to China with our first Public Diplomacy Envoy Michelle Kwan. She's not only a superstar athlete, but also a humble and gracious young woman and it was inspiring to watch the young people of China relate to her. They were so eager to learn more about her Chinese American family and about the hard work and discipline and determination that had led to her success. She recently returned from another trip to Russia where her message of working hard and dreaming big resonated with young people across the country.

Both our first and second public diplomacy envoys are helping us reach out to that vital audience of young people. As we looked at ways to counter extremism and foster greater tolerance and respect for diversity and differences, our embassies almost universally cited a need for more youth outreach. We've traditionally done that primarily through education and exchange programs, but the youngest of those programs began in high school. So this summer we launched something new, designed to reach a younger audience than we have ever comprehensively approached before -- 8 to 14 year olds. At summer youth enrichment programs in 13 countries with significant Muslim populations and the West Bank and Gaza, we're introducing 6,000 young people this summer to English and sports activities and leadership development programs.

This afternoon, I'll leave for Morocco to tour one of those new summer programs -- Camp Friendship, it's called -- and they're generating very positive feedback. We've had invaluable partners from the sports community in this effort -- from high school swim coaches to NBA and WNBA players to soccer coaches and baseball players. We've witnessed how sports can bring people together across divisions of race, religion or region and teach the common values of hard work, teamwork, respect and leadership -- lessons that help young people succeed in life.

We've made a concerted effort of the last several years to increase sports diplomacy activities, sending a wrestling team to Iran and welcoming women's soccer coaches from Afghanistan. We've had baseball players and coaches here from Venezuela. Joining us this morning are 12 sports visitors from China who are training at the Ripken Baseball Academy in Aberdeen, Maryland and we want to welcome you all. They're learning coaching skills and how to introduce the great American sport of baseball to young people across their home country of China. Through these exchanges participants learn much more than new coaching or hitting techniques, as important as they are, they're also building the people-to-people connections that are so important to the future peace and security of our world.

Growing up, one of the enduring American lessons that my own parents taught me was that in this land of opportunity, you can achieve anything if you are willing to work hard for it. The envoy we announce today embodies that spirit of hard work, perseverance and great achievement. And as the mother of a young man who played baseball, I think I can speak for many parents in expressing my gratitude for his positive and powerful example. To announce our new envoy, I’m pleased to welcome our Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Karen. It’s a pleasure to welcome you all here this morning. I’m especially pleased to be in the company of a truly great sports legend. You all know that I, myself, had I had my choice in life, would have been a truly great sports legend -- (laughter) -- but the next best thing is to stand next to one. So thank you very much, Cal Ripken, for being here.

Baseball is America’s national pastime, a sport that truly defines American culture. It is only fitting that the face of our national pastime would be one of the faces that America shows the world as our next public diplomacy envoy.

Like all of our greatest sports heroes, Cal Ripken is recognized for bringing integrity to the game of baseball and by extension to all of sports. He is revered, not just by fans, but by all for his character, his perseverance, his work ethic. The real-life iron man gives us all -- gives all credit to his upbringing. In Cal’s household, there was one mandate: You had to report to work every day. It’s a lesson his dad instilled in both Cal and his brother, Bill, who also played for his dad when Ripken, Sr., was managing the Orioles. The trio are the only father and sons combination to play for the same organization at the same time in Major League history.

Most people know Cal Ripken, Jr., for his accomplishments on the baseball field, his record-breaking streak of playing in 2,632 consecutive Major League games, his 19 All Star appearances, and especially his 21-year career with one team, his beloved Baltimore Orioles. But I can tell you with certainty Cal’s work since leaving the game of baseball in 2001, further highlights why he’s America’s MVP.

Since the leaving the game, Cal Ripken, Jr., has dedicated his life and his work to youth, not only here in America, but also around the world. He established the Cal Ripken, Sr., Foundation, which teaches life lessons through baseball to disadvantaged youth, and he has built the Ripken Youth Baseball Academy, the largest baseball academy in the United States, where thousands of young people learn the finer points of the game and deepen their love for playing it.

As if that weren’t enough, Cal is the man behind the Cal Ripken World Series for 11 and 12 year olds from all over the world. He has written books on teaching baseball and parenting young athletes, as well as a children’s book teaching kids how to persevere through difficult times.

He’s also served as the first commissioner of the White House Tee ball initiative for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. When commenting on the streak and breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, Ripken said, “Didn’t seem like such a big deal when I was doing it, one game at a time, show up, and try to meet the challenges of the day.” So by that, Cal, I assume that whenever I call you, you’re going to be hard at work for America.

Public diplomacy cannot be an American monologue; it must be a dialog with people from around the world. That dialog must be sought out and conducted, not only by people like us in government, but by committed Americans from all walks of life, Americans like Cal Ripken, Jr. He truly exemplifies America at its best, our aspirations to be a better nation and to help build a better world.

Just recently when Cal accepted admission into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he talked about being an ambassador for the future and leaving a mark on the world, just as a baseball player tries to leave his mark on the game and make it better than he found it. I have no doubt that as he begins this tenure, Cal will be an excellent envoy of the American people to men and women all around the world; and it is, therefore, my great pleasure and my honor to introduce our newest American public diplomacy envoy, Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr.


MR. RIPKEN: Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago and now this honor bestowed upon me by the State, that’s a pretty good little run, pretty good little streak. (Laughter.) As most of you know and as I reference in this speech, I had a great career in baseball, and I had a wonderful time playing it. I could catch, hit and throw, couldn’t run terribly well, but it didn’t matter too much in my game. But I was able to reach out and have a positive influence on kids, and we’ve had great success since I retired. I have the Cal, Sr., Foundation that deals with disadvantaged kids. We use baseball as a hook to try to get them involved in things and teach them life lessons that dad taught us. We have the academies that teach baseball to them and really celebrate baseball in a way. Books, you know, DVDs, those sorts of things, we continue to grow, and this is one more step that gives me an opportunity to use that platform to go out there and reach kids.

I happen to think that sport -- baseball, in particular -- is very magical. It can go across cultural lines. It can appeal to all kids and all people. We have the World Series going on right now up in Aberdeen, Maryland, the Cal Ripken World Series. We have six international teams. Although it’s difficult for me to communicate with the Koreans -- I don’t speak Korean -- and the Japanese as well, but when you put them out on the baseball field and you start seeing them in baseball, then the communication obstacles go away and everybody communicates in a really nice way and there’s a great interaction between all the kids all around this country and around the world. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to send that message, plant a few seeds in different parts of the world and use baseball and sport to actually cross over cultural lines.

You know the first step we’ve had 12 coaches from China that came in to our complex and we’ve been running them through our very interactive style of teaching, and they’ve been going through all the same programs that the seven-year-olds, all the way up to the higher levels go through. We enjoy their flare for the -- and the spirit of their fundamentals that they were going around teaching.

So the second step is to go to China, and we’re going to China in the end of October, early November, and they’ll invite me in -- into their system. And I’ll assist them in planting those seeds, going to schools, or teaching clinics. And, again, the hope is that we’ll just plant a few seeds of -- that will grow through baseball and we’ll promote baseball a little bit. But the real fact of the matter is we’re appealing to kids, and we’re showing them a good example and some of the great things that can happen through sport.

And so I’m really excited and I’m very honored by this opportunity. And I know I’m going to be answering a few questions in a few moments, but I just really wanted to open up by saying it’s a tremendous honor. I look forward to representing, as I always did with baseball, and yourself as you went around playing baseball, I’m now representing, you know, the United States abroad and just trying to pass on and continue to do some of the things we’ve been able to do successfully to the kids over here. Thank you.


I’m a whole lot more trained for this sort of parts, so if you have any questions for me, I’ll be glad to try to answer them. Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RIPKEN: Well, the State, I think we were looking back over our notes way back as early as 2002. I was approached about this and I was curious and interested. I wasn't sure that I was worthy. But as I retired from baseball and I knew that many of the initiatives that we were getting into, maybe the timing really didn't work well until about this point. So through a lot of the communication and exchange, we've gotten to this point and I'm at a good point in my life where the schedule is a little bit clearer and I feel a little bit more stable in some of the things we've been able to do with the kids here and I'm ready to take that trip. I'm ready to go to work. I was looking for a job. (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, Nina Bishop, who is our -- who coordinates our sports diplomacy in our Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau I think first reached out to Cal to ask him to travel abroad on behalf of America in 2002. And when we created the public diplomacy envoy position last year, he was tops on our list of people that we wanted to recruit for this. And so we're delighted that he has agreed that at this point in his life. He feels with the foundation set up and the youth-based program established that it's a good point for him to be able to go out and represent us and we're delighted that he's agreed to do so.

MR. RIPKEN: That was a better answer. Use that one. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Cal, Morris Jones with Sinclair Broadcast Group. You've met the challenges with baseball and now you're becoming a diplomat of sorts. But you're going to be dealing with some countries that don't really like America. How are you going to use what you've learned from baseball to translate into diplomacy?

MR. RIPKEN: Well, again, I think there is a magic in sport and you are appealing to them in a different way. And through baseball, a new sport, through sport in general, that usually -- you're really usually received with more open arms, I think. You know, this isn't a political statement for me necessarily. This is about the kids and planting, you know, baseball and using baseball for good reasons. And just as we're able to cross cultural lines, I think it's amazing to watch kids interact that can't speak and can't communicate but do have sport in common. There's a respect, there's a credibility that's born in about the hard work and the dedication that's required to do those sorts of things. So I know it's not probably going to be easy in some environments. But again, I use the expression: planting a seed that helps grow. And then I would imagine the joy of the sport is what happens first and then other things might happen after that.

QUESTION: Sue Pleming from Reuters. How much time do you plan to devote to this? You said that you are going to China in October. Are you planning any other trips, especially, you know, before the end of the Administration?

MR. RIPKEN: Well, I don't think there's any term limits on the job yet.


MR. RIPKEN: But I'm very open-minded.

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We'd be happy to make it a life appointment. (Laughter.)

MR. RIPKEN: I'm very open-minded to it and I'm looking forward to this first trip. It's a new experience for me. This has been a wonderful experience -- having them over here learn baseball and watching them participate in some of our drills and some of the -- their spirit and their enthusiasm really elevated the camp -- elevated the kids at the camp. So I can't wait to get to China to see how baseball is received, you know, the spirit in which they exhibited in our camps, I'm anticipating in China. And so I look forward to it and probably take it one step at a time. But again, I wouldn't commit to something like this; this is a serious thing for me. I wouldn't commit to it, if I didn't really care and I was ready to put the time in to make a difference.

QUESTION: So how much time are you willing to (inaudible?)

MR. RIPKEN: Well, let me see, baseball season was 162 games, seven days a week. (Laughter.) No, whatever it requires. I mean, obviously we have plans and I'm running a few small immature businesses that we're getting in place. I mean, there's a whole effort. We at Ripken Baseball say we're trying to grow baseball worldwide the Ripken way. And so that -- there's a lot of responsibility here and we continue to go. But, again, my schedule and availability, when I’m available and when I have a chance to do it. If it’s a two-week trip, then it’s a two-week trip. If it’s something more or something less, then certainly I’m amenable.

QUESTION: Zain Verjee, CNN. What do you think your biggest challenges will be?

MR. RIPKEN: My biggest challenges? You know I really haven’t -- I haven’t given it that deep sort of analysis which is kind of strange for me, because I analyze most everything. But I think I’m operating under the assumption that this is a nice value proposition for anyone. You know, you’re teaching sport, you’re teaching kids, you’re planning the good things that sport brings to the table, a nice basis for the rest of your life.

I mean, yeah, I was a professional athlete, but all the people that play sport and play baseball around the country don’t become professional athletes, but they lay down a nice base to interact with people. I mean sport is a great way to teach teamwork and teach how to deal with people to understand that preparation is important in all aspects of your life.

So, to me, I see it pretty open. It’s an easy -- it’s an easier door and maybe I’ll have a different opinion once I get into it. But I think when you’re teaching baseball and you’re doing things or you’re planting seeds for sport, it’s a little easier entry point than some other things.

But as we meet the challenges, you try to deal with the challenges as best you can. So I really don’t know unless you have some insight I don’t know about. Can you prepare me for -- for my trip?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Not yet.


QUESTION: This a question for Under Secretary Hughes. Do you hope that this appointment of Mr. Ripken will help attract other high-profile athletes to your envoy program? You know, he’s obviously the highest profile you’ve had so far.

MR. RIPKEN: I like that question. (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, obviously we envision this program as, you know, it’s a way of expanding and helping share the American story on a wider level. Obviously, as he travels, he’ll be able to attract significant media attention, attract a great deal of attention in countries where he visits. He’ll be able to attract the interest and appeal to the dreams of young people; and, yes, we envision ultimately that the public diplomacy envoy program will be broader than sports.

We feel obviously sports is very important because it does teach life lessons and because it does appeal to young people, and we’re trying to appeal to younger audiences. But we also envision that there might be other prominent Americans in other fields that we would hope to recruit to the program, and we’re working to do that and to expand it.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one more question? Can you explain a little bit about what finances are involved in this and how that process works with the public diplomacy envoys? (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Yes. Typically, we pay for the travel. They volunteer their time. In the case of Michelle Kwan and Cal Ripken, Jr., they have both volunteered their time. It is an official position. I believe they’re an unpaid consultant to the State Department and then we pay the travel expenses. Anybody else?

MR. RIPKEN: I was looking for a baseball salary.


UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We don’t have those in government. (Laughter.) Anybody else? I was hoping a little -- that the magic that Cal talked about involved with sports will rub off on the rest of our public diplomacy efforts -- (laughter) -- so we’ll be glad to share in that magic.

So thank you all very much for being here today. Any --

QUESTION: Cal, I notice a young man in audience that came all the way from (inaudible) to get your autograph. John, you can go up there.

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: It would be good public diplomacy to -- (laughter.)

MR. RIPKEN: I’ve never signed an autograph before. (Laughter.)

[Ripken autographs baseball.]

You’re being used, you know.


QUESTION: Is that bad?

MR. RIPKEN: No, it’s all for the good. Is that okay, or do you want your name on it?

QUESTION: That’s good.


QUESTION: Thank you.


UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Right. Thank you all very much.


Released on August 13, 2007

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