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Remarks Celebrating the Rangel Fellows International Affairs Program

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Reception Hosted by Representative Charles Rangel
Longworth House Office Building, Room 1100, Washington, DC
July 30, 2008

Thank you very much. Thank you. I just told my good friend, Congressman Rangel, I said, Charlie, you can introduce me anytime. He is just terrific. And I just am so pleased to be here and I want to thank you for all the nice words that you’ve said about me and about the Department of State. But I want to say just a few words about you and the inspiration for this program.

And it comes, I think, from a couple of places. And it’s why I’m so proud to be associated and to have the Department associated with the program that is named for you, Charlie Rangel. And I see that my great predecessor, Colin Powell, has just arrived and he, of course -- (Applause.)

I want to say a word about Charlie Rangel and his inspiration for this program, but I just have to say that I think it comes from two places for our congressman. One is that he is someone who dearly, dearly loves America and has believed in America, and in doing so, has done so for the right reasons. Yes, as a young man called to defend this country in – as a Korean veteran, but also as somebody who knows both America’s greatness and America’s imperfections. Because as the congressman of Harlem, you also know that the America that you defended is not perfect, but it is far better than almost anything else in the world. And so it comes from that place of having defended America and having defended America both for its greatness and recognizing its imperfections.

And secondly, it comes from a lot of young people. I have been around Charlie Rangel in his office with his young staffers. I’ve seen him with the young people at a school in Harlem that I visited. And he just loves young people. And so the opportunity to bring together a chance for fine young men and women to get to know the world and to get to know that they will have a chance to be a part of defending America in a different way through diplomatic activity, I think, was something you just couldn’t resist, Charlie. And it is indeed a great program.

Now a second reason that I’m very pleased to be associated with this program is that it’s just really, really important. It’s important because as I go around the world, I really realize that what America is really respected for is not its great power, not even its great economic wealth, but for its people. And increasingly, it is understood that America, great multiethnic democracy that began with a birth defect called slavery, is making great strides toward a more perfect union that really does represent all of us.

But that point can’t be made if America’s diplomats are all one color or one gender. In fact, that point can only be made if America’s diplomats look like America. And I know very well, – and I’m sure Colin would underscore this and Ambassador Dawson, even more from his time, you can go to a meeting in the State Department and you can go all day long and never see somebody who looks like you. And that’s not good for the State Department and that’s not good for America abroad.

And so (inaudible) the chance to bring young talent interests you in international relations and believing that, as Rangel Fellows and Scholars, you will stay interested in international affairs, and that many of you will, in fact, become professional diplomats is another great reason for this program, because it will make the American Diplomatic Corps and the American Foreign Service and, in fact, all of America’s interactions internationally, in business and the like, much, much better because it will be more diverse.

Finally, I’m really pleased to be associated with this program because I, as much as anybody, knows that you cannot make it on your own. You need mentors. You need people who will show you the ropes. And if anybody ever tells you that any of us or anybody who’s in a position like this made it on their own, that they didn’t have some help along the way, that they didn’t have connections; they’re just not telling you the truth.

And I want to tell you a particular story of a connection. He’s sitting right there. I might have ended up having my first job in Washington, and I might not have but for Ambassador Horace Dawson, who was a good friend of my father’s. And my father was serving on a lay panel for Ambassador Dawson evaluating U.S.I.A. And Ambassador Dawson said to my father, I hear your daughter is studying international relations. My dad said, yes, that’s right. And Ambassador Dawson said, well, then she really has to be an intern at the State Department. My father said, okay, how does she do that?

Ambassador Dawson then sent me the materials to be an intern at the State Department. And not only did he send me the materials. He kept calling and saying, have you filled out the materials? (Laughter.) He was determined that I was going to be an intern at the State Department. And, in fact, in 1977, the summer of 1977, I was an intern at the State Department. Now, I tell people, be good to your interns because you never know what’s going to happen. (Laughter.)

But that’s what mentorship is about. We can all look back in our lives and look at moments when somebody believed in us, and not just believed in us, but pushed us and prodded us to do something that we might not otherwise have done. And so this great program named for this great man, that helps us to bring more diverse, young talented people into the ranks of those who will be involved in international affairs, either as professional diplomats or in some other walk of life, and to give them a chance to be mentored, that’s the way we want a legacy to be built.

I know that Colin, who is going to speak in a few minutes, will join me in saying how important he considered and how important I consider the continuation of this program. And that’s a piece of advice that I will pass on to my successor here in a few months.

I want to say one final thing. As we stand here in the great Capitol of the United States and realize the long and difficult history that we’ve had in becoming one, it’s really, perhaps an amazing fact that at the end of my term, it will have been 12 years since the United States of America had a white, male secretary of state. (Laughter.) That says something about America. (Applause.)

So to all of you, to my honored – the honor of being here on this dais with these great, great people, to the members of Congress and the staff who are here, to the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, which does so much for the State Department, to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, who are represented by Barry Lowenkron, who worked for us in the Department of State, to the colleges and the universities and the mentors and the selection panels and to the Howard University Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, thank you for helping to make this program a reality. But it’s a reality, and it’s something to be proud of. For those of you who are sitting out there who are the fine young people selected for this program and who are really giving it its name, thank you very much. (Applause.)

Released on July 31, 2008

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