Announcement of Major League Baseball All-Star Ken Griffey, Jr. to Public Diplomacy Role Secretary Condoleezza Rice
November 18, 2008
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I am very pleased to welcome all of you here this morning to announce our new American Public Diplomacy Envoy Ken Griffey, Jr. Ken joins Michelle Kwan, Fran Drescher, and Cal Ripken, Jr. as Americans who go out on behalf of the values of the United States – not the Government of the United States, but the values of the United States – to engage with people around the world from very special positions. And there’s nobody more special than Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken was drafted number one by the Seattle Mariners, straight out of Cincinnati Moeller High School. He went on to become a prolific home run hitter, who is currently ranked number five on the Major League Baseball all-time home run list with 611 home runs, a list that includes some of the greatest names in baseball: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays. He won ten consecutive Golden Glove Awards from 1990 to 2000 for his outstanding defense in centerfield. And in 2007, he was named by Rawlings to the All-Time Gold Glove Outfield, along with Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. In the ten years from 1990 to 2000, baseball fans chose Ken to be starter in Major League Baseball’s Annual All-Star Game.
Now, in addition to his many accomplishments on the field, Ken has been his team’s nominee to receive the Roberto Clemente award three times when he was in Seattle and twice in Cincinnati. And this is given to the Major Leaguer who combines outstanding skills on the field with service to the community.
Baseball, of course, is America’s national pastime. It’s a unique team sport with a great history that has helped to define America’s culture. When Ken Griffey travels overseas, one of his greatest objectives will be to talk to young people and to spark their interest in America and in our culture.
Public diplomacy must be a dialogue. And this dialogue must extend to every citizen in every country, especially to young people. But the job of public diplomacy is not the job of the U.S. Government alone. It has to be shared by all Americans. And I am so very proud that Ken Griffey, Jr., has stepped up to that task of helping us to share the story of America, the culture of America, and the values of America.
I know that he said he’s going to make his first trip to Panama in January, and I look forward to that. I’m going to Panama and – in just about two weeks here, three weeks here, and I’ll be able to tell them that Ken Griffey, Jr. isn’t going to be far behind.
And so thank you very much for taking on this great and important task. I know you will serve us well in what you do. And I hope there’ll be a little bit of fun for you, too. Thank you.
MR. GRIFFEY: I appreciate it. You know, this is quite an honor. When Dr. Rice called and said that she would like me to do this, you know, I didn’t really have to think about it. It was – yeah, I would do it. I played in Japan for the Super Series and just watched how other countries go about their business in playing baseball. And you know, I think that the youth is the most important thing. After a certain age, you pretty much set your ways. But if we can reach out to young children about our culture and also about our pastime, which is baseball – (laughter) – not those other sports like football – (laughter) – but the Browns did win –
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
MR. GRIFFEY: – so I guess you’re happy this week. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: I am. I am.
MR. GRIFFEY: You know, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to teach kids and develop them. I think prepared – being prepared like I was when I was a kid, having my dad there who taught me, you know, about baseball at an early age, helped me throughout my career. Just I may have a different style than my father. My mother’s over here. (Laughter.) But, like I said, I am looking forward to this and the opportunity to go there in January.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
MR. GRIFFEY: Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: We’re going to take a picture. But I neglected to say hello to Ken’s mom and his wife who are here, and several friends of his as well. So, welcome to you. Thank you.
Let’s go take a picture.
Thank you, everyone. Thank you.
MR. GRIFFEY: Now, I get all the questions. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, you get to take the questions. (Laughter.) He’s going to stay behind and answer a few questions for you. But again, thanks, Ken. I look forward to seeing you soon. Okay.
MR. GRIFFEY: You, too.
Released on November 18, 2008