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Confirmation Hearings: Secretary of State-Designee Colin Powell Appears Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Aired January 17, 2001 - 11:10 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to break away for a moment from these Ashcroft confirmation hearings to switch to the confirmation hearing for General Colin Powell. Facing confirmation hearings for secretary of state, he is talking to the Foreign Relations Committee.

Let's listen into the general.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I want to thank Senators Warner and Allen for their very, very gracious introductory remarks. I wish Senator Allen and his colleague Senator Nelson all the best as they begin their service on this committee.

And I want to especially thank Senator Warner for all the support, friendship he has given to me over a very, very long period of time, over 20 years we have been friends, and the support he has provided to the young men and women in uniform, the armed forces of the United States, and above all, for being my friend.

I'm very thankful that you allowed me to introduce my wife to be recognized. As I said earlier, she has been partner with me some 38 years. And she is in this for the whole ride as well.

Mr. Chairman, I do have a prepared statement that I would like to be abbreviated, however, if I may place the prepared statement in the record.

These proceedings mark the 64th renewal of a long and honored tradition that began when the 26 members of the first United States Senate met to consider the nomination that was before them, then, that of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

When Jefferson took office in 1790, a cynical and tired Europe laughed in derision at the thought that popular government, as it was called then, might work in even one country, much less the whole world.

In fact, just a few decades ago, noted experts in academic journals wrote of the weakness and possible demise of democratic institutions in the face of a rising dictatorial power of the kind we saw represented by the Soviet Union on the red side of the map. Those articles were appearing at the very moment that Jefferson's ideas of liberty and self-government were about to prove another generation of cynics absolutely dead wrong.

Ideas that are going to, as Jefferson prayed, flow through time and spread their happy influence over the face of the earth, as people behind the Iron Curtain around the world threw off the yokes of totalitarianism.

Jefferson's ideas and Jefferson's prayers were ahead of the time in which he lived, and ahead of the man himself.

I have to pause in my admiration of Jefferson during this week of celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and reflect on how Dr. King helped to answer Jefferson's prayers for black Americans whose fair forbearers at that time were considered to be property, slaves, even in Jefferson's own custody.

I'm before you today, as Jefferson's admiring successor, thankful for all the sacrifices that were made by Dr. King and so many others to make Jefferson's dream possible for people like me, a dream that I hope that will continue to inspire my fellow Americans and inspire people around the world, because there's still so much that needs to be done here at home and around the world to bring that universal Jeffersonian dream to the whole world.

President-elect George W. Bush understands that dark shadows still linger over the edges of American dream for so many. He intends to remove those shadows. He will be a president for all Americans. And he will be a leader who faithfully represents the ideas of freedom and justice to the entire world. And he will do it with determination, and he will do it with humility befitting the great power.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, I'm no stranger to this committee. I remember working late nights with you in 1987 as we worked on the INF treaty. I remember you shuttling me back and forth across the Atlantic several times, Senator, to make sure that I brought back the assurances that Senate needed in order to ratify that treaty that subsequently eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

To make sure you understand the politics in the Powell family, Mr. Chairman, I have to digress for a moment and tell a brief story. After the INF Treaty was signed and we were in the process of destroying those Soviet SS-20 missiles and the American Pershing II missiles, as you recall, there was a ceremony at the Air and Space Museum, where me as Joint Chief of Staff chairman and my Soviet colleague were putting into the museum a replica, an actual SS-20 that had its warhead taken off. And next to it was standing a Pershing II missile.

And there we were. We had accomplished this. And there stood the two missiles.

And my wife Alma, who pays some interest to what I do, but -- just so you know where her heart is, in that she's always being careful about our security -- she stood before those two missiles, and she nudged me, and she said, Colin, how come theirs was bigger?

I told her, that's why we wanted to get rid of them, darling. That's why we wanted to get rid of them.

I also remember testifying in hearings before, Senator Biden, when you chaired the proceedings that we examined the conventional forces in Euro Treaty, a treaty that we were able to put in effect and bring a new status to the Iron Curtain in Europe, with both sides starting to move back.

Little did we know at that time that the move back would be permanent, that the entire empire was about to crash down on our heads. We could just begin seeing the outline of that historical happening.

And in those times, we worked together in a spirit of cooperation to do the nation's will. We argued, we debated. And that's the American system; that's the America -- democratic system.

And if confirmed, I promise that I will argue with you. I will debate with you, as I did in the past. But it will always be in the best spirit of cooperation to make sure we get the right answer for the American people, and that we pursue the president's foreign policy as he has divined it from the will of the American people.

We will need to work together well because we have a great challenge before us. But it is not a challenge of survival anymore. It is a challenge of leadership, for it is not a dark and dangerous ideological foe we confront as we did for all those years. But now, it is the overwhelming power of millions of people who have tasted freedom. It is our own incredible success, the success of the values that we hold dear, that has given us the challenges that we now face.

I have seen that success in many ways since I stepped down and took off my military uniform seven years ago. I have been out across the country. I have traveled around the world. I've sat on the board with some companies that are in the forefront of the transformation of our society.

And what I've seen is an economy that's flourishing, people in America who are creating wealth, people who are doing so very well, as they take advantage of this new economic environment that we find ourselves in.

I have also seen fellow Americans who have not yet shared in that dream. And I have tried to see what I could do to help them.

I've seen more and more nations moving on to the path of democracy and free enterprise system, a rise of democracy and the power of information revolution combined to leverage each other.

As a member of the board of directors of one of these transforming companies, America Online, I had a unique vantage point in which to watch the world start to transform itself.

America Online in its various services have over 100 million people connected electronically. They can instant-message, they can e-mail, they can trade photos, papers, ideas, dreams, capital, likes and dislikes, all done without customs posts, visas, passports, tariffs, guard towers, or any other way for governments to interfere. With the speed of light, they can communicate with; with the speed of light, the concept of freedom can travel around the world.

If such ideas move around now with the speed of light, they will also light the light. Darkness cannot withstand them. Eventually, they will flow into every dark place and illuminate that place for the betterment of mankind.

Two of the most important of these idea are democracy and capitalism. They are like twin lasers working in tandem, all across the globe, to illuminate the last dark corners of totalitarianism and dictatorship.

The ideological isms, which challenged us for the last 50 years, have all died away -- fascism, Nazism, communism -- leaving only the dregs of abuse and misused power in their wake.

Yes, dictators remain, but their relics of the past and the isms they practice can't destroy us, can't overthrow us, can't end our way of life, the way the threat of the Soviet Union was able to do so.

These regimes and these dictators can be dangerous, and they require our attention. But they can't hurdle the Atlantic in 30 minutes, the way I used to worry about Soviet forces doing just a few years ago.

Democracy and free markets work, the world knows it. And there's no finer example of this than America and its allies who, together, comprise the strongest economies in the world, helping to reshape the entire world by willing to trade openly and encourage others to do likewise.

And there should be no question in any world leader's mind that the first and most essential ingredient for success in this 21st century is a free people and a government that derives its right to govern from the consent of such a people.

So a guiding principle of President-elect Bush's foreign policy will be that America stands ready to help any country that wishes to join the democratic world, any country that puts the rule of the law in place begins to live by that rule, any country that seeks peace and prosperity and a place in the sun.

In that light, there is no country on earth that is not touched by America, for we have become the motive force for freedom and democracy in the world.

And there is no country in the world that does not touch us. We are a country of countries with citizens in our ranks from every land. We are attached by 1,000 cords to the world at large, to its teaming cities, to its remotest regions, to its oldest civilizations, to its newest cries for freedom. This means that we have an interest in every place on this earth, that we need to lead, to guide, to help in every country that has a desire to be free, open and prosperous.

So Mr. Chairman, this is a time of great opportunity for us. We have the strength to take risks for peace. We must help the world that wants to be free.

And we can take these risks because we are so strong. We are economically strong, we are politically strong. And underneath it all, we have an insurance policy that allows us to take risks.

And those insurance policies go first by the name of the armed forces of the United States, the finest, the best in the world. And they will remain the finest under President George W. Bush. They will remain the finest because they will have the best people, the best equipment, the best training and the best funding necessary to make sure that they are always, always ready, whatever challenges come their way.

The armed forces are just one element of this insurance policy, just one part of our national security team. There are many others. And if you confirm me, I will become the leader of one of the most vital elements.

It is the State Department and its talented and dedicated professionals, who are in the forefront of our engagement in the world.

While the world has been growing more demanding and more complex, when more and more nations demand to need our attention, we have cut the number of people in the State Department. We have underfunded our facilities. We have neglected our infrastructure. We need to do better.

Many of you have visited Camp Bondstill in Kosovo, where our G.I.s are stationed. Senator Biden was there just yesterday. And Senator Biden and others will tell you it is a superb, first-class facility, put in almost overnight to make sure that our troops are taken care of.

But if you visited some of the dilapidated embassies and other facilities in the region, you would wonder whether the same government was taking care of them.

That's not right. We have exceptional people in the State Department, many of whom I've met personally and worked with personally over the years, and a number of whom I have had occasion to meet in the first few weeks of my transition.

And if we want them to do the people's work, then we must give them the resources they need to do it.

In that regard, I want to thank you for what you gave the department this past fiscal year under the encouragement of Secretary Albright. But I want to let you know that I will be coming back to you because I know that we do not have enough to accomplish the mission. We do not have enough. And we need not just a little increase; we need a step increase.

And as soon as I put together the specific programs and dollar details to support these programs, and once I get the approval of the president, I can promise you I will be back.

Put it on your calendars. If you approve my appointment and the full Senate approves it, I will be back. That's a promise.

Now, I know you expect to hear...

KAGAN: General Colin Powell, as this is before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this is his confirmation hearing as secretary of state. The general just not making his own case, but also making a case for a stronger State Department.

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