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Remarks at Reception for Donors to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
April 25, 2008

Thank you very much. Thank you, Marcee, for that wonderful introduction, and I am just delighted that Marcee has assumed the position of Director and Curator of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms as of December. Marcee, you are doing a wonderful job. We appreciate what you do and we really look forward to continuing to work with you.

I also want to thank the many curators and docents and tour guides that have come through tonight, because you help make these rooms come alive. Thank you very much for that. But of course, it is especially with great pleasure that I welcome all of you here this evening because of the loyal and generous support that many of you have given as donors so that we can use these rooms, these magnificent rooms, to further the cause of American diplomacy. And I am pleased to personally thank you for your gifts.

I want to welcome some of my colleagues. Especially, let me welcome our Attorney General --Michael Mukasey and his wife, I think, are here. I saw them come in. They’re here someplace. There they are. (Applause.) Let’s see, the Deputy Secretary John Negroponte and his wife Diana are here. (Applause.) And I know that Under Secretary Pat Kennedy is here, who of course is in charge of the A Bureau. So thank you, Pat, for being here.

The continued support of these rooms plays a vital role in our work at the Department of State. And in addition to hosting much of the daily work of American diplomacy, whether it is the swearing-in of ambassadors or of the classes of new Foreign Service officers, I wanted to tell you a little bit about some of the important events that I’ve been able to hold here just over this last year or so.

For instance, last December I was able to host a wonderful dinner here to honor the Kennedy Center honorees. You all watched the Kennedy Center Honors. I had the chance to be here in these rooms over the last several years with Smokey Robinson and with Itzhak Perlman, and it’s really a thrill to be able to have those great artists here and to indeed bestow the honors in this very room.

Early in March, I was honored to recognize eight extraordinary woman leaders who have struggled for social justice and to present them with the Secretary’s Women of Courage Awards. And earlier this month in this room, I hosted the Benjamin Franklin Awards for Public Diplomacy, which recognizes the contribution of individuals and other entities to the advancement of America’s highest ideals through public diplomacy. The Award reflects my strong belief that the solutions to the challenges of the 21st century have to come from all sectors of American society, working together to inspire others and to take our message abroad. Among others that we honored were Dave Brubeck, the great jazz pianist; the University of Southern California -- you know that I’m being ecumenical when I am willing to honor USC (laughter); Search for Common Ground and the Johnson & Johnson Company.

But perhaps the event that will live through history that was recently hosted in this room, just where I greeted you, was the reception for the Annapolis peace conference last November. In that room, Israelis and Palestinians, Egyptians and Saudis, people from Europe, people from Asia, came together to affirm their common desire for peace. We then came here to this room for a wonderful dinner. And I have to say that sitting on one side of me was the Prime Minister of Israel and on the other side the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. And as I sat between them and as they talked, and they talked about their hopes for peace, I can tell you that it was a wonderful thing to be in these beautiful rooms, but these rooms came alive with what we really are all about here at the Department of State and what America has always been about, and that is to try to lead from both power and principle, and to try to make the world a better place. And so thank you for making it possible to have that wonderful historic event right here in this room.

Tonight, we are celebrating a number of gifts to these wonderful rooms. As I arrived on the 8th floor, I hope you noticed the newly renovated elevators generously underwritten by the Fund for the Endowment of Diplomatic Reception Rooms. And I also want to thank the many donors who participated in the giving of the gift of a silver teapot made by Paul Revere that was recently presented in honor of our former Director, Gail Serfaty, who is here with us tonight. It’s very appropriate that such an elegant object commemorates Gail’s many years of dedicated service. Thank you, Gail, for your wonderful service. (Applause.)

We have also received funds for a Society of Cincinnati dinner plate once owned by George Washington and given in honor of Pat Heflin, who worked side-by-side with Gail and Clem Conger to build this collection. This plate commemorates the alliance between the French and American citizens who fought together in the great cause of freedom.

So, again, I want to thank all of you for the important role that you play in supporting these Diplomatic Reception Rooms. They are a unique national treasure that informs visitors of America’s great cultural heritage. Your gifts ensure that this collection will be protected and preserved, and that we will continue to do the great work of diplomacy, the spread of freedom and the spread of peace here in the nation’s capital. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


Released on May 2, 2008

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