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George W. Bush and Colin Powell Visit State Department

Aired February 15, 2001 - 1:24 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now live to the State Department. You saw the big crowd gathered there to greet the secretary of state, Colin Powell -- and now applause for President Bush, who heads out on his first foreign policy trip. He's heading to Mexico tomorrow. He's going to make statements about, we think -- of what he expects from the trip with Mexican President Vicente Fox.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.


POWELL: It's a great pleasure to welcome the president with us today on national security week. On Monday, he visited with the troops at Fort Stewart, Georgia. On Tuesday, he visited with the troops in Norfolk. On Wednesday, he visited with the Reserve and National Guard troops in West Virginia. And here on Thursday, he's with the troops of the State Department of the United States of America.


Mr. President, these dedicated men and women you see before you of our Foreign Service and our Civil Service and so many who are watching by television around the world, and also joining will be Foreign Service nationals, are in the front lines of America's efforts throughout the world to bring peace and freedom and the free enterprise system to the world. And they're serving in so many ways in so many different places and they make Americans proud, they make the nation proud of what they do.

Earlier today, I gave an award to Ambassador Jock Covey, just back from a difficult assignment in Kosovo. And as I read the citation and heard about the bombing he was almost caught in, I thought about his separation from his family, thought about all of the sacrifices he made after being asked to come out of retirement for this mission. It once again touched me deeply about the kind of sacrifice that these people make for us every day of the year.

And I want to thank you, sir, for giving me the opportunity to lead them. But moreover, and more importantly, thank you for the support that you're going to give to them, the inspiration you're going to give to them, the vision that you are giving to them and the world.

And, Mr. President, it is now my great pleasure to present to you the wonderful men and women of the State Department.

The president of the United States, George W. Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all. Thank you, very much.


BUSH: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. It's an honor to be here with you. And thank you all for that warm welcome.

As the secretary mentioned, I'm focusing this week on America's national security, and few are more important to that mission than the people of the State Department, both Foreign Service and Civil Service.

Our gathering here will be seen by some 10,000 State Department personnel in the Washington area. It will be seen by 37,000 committed men and women, including many Foreign Service national employees, in 250 posts all over the world.

So to those in this room, those around the town, those across the world: Thank you for what you do on behalf of the American people. You do so much to sustain America's position in the world and so much to foster freedom, and for that we are grateful.

In a few moments, I'll go upstairs to witness the swearing-in of 38 new foreign service officers. Our hope is that they draw strength and inspiration from your example, because you all are the finest diplomats in the world.

The flags that surround us here represent every country with whom the United States has diplomatic relations. They are a powerful reminder that you are one department of our government that literally never sleeps.

America's commitments and responsibilities span the world in every time zone. Every day you fulfill those responsibilities with quite excellence.

You solve problems before they become headlines. You resolve crises before a shot is fired. And when tragedy or disaster strikes, you are often the first person on the scene.

The other markers that surround us speak even more directly of your devotion to duty. They memorialize your colleagues who gave their lives to our country. The earliest are from the 18th century, understanding your long record of service and the long march to freedom. Others are all too recent, bitter reminders of the dangerous times we live in, like the ones marked Kenya. I know the example of these American heroes inspires you, just as seeing you all here today inspires me.

It's sometimes said that State is the one federal department that has no domestic constituency. Well, whoever said that is wrong. Let me assure you that, between me and Secretary Powell, you do have a constituency.


Speaking of the secretary, I chose him to be our secretary of state because he is a leader whose dignity and integrity will add to the strength and authority of America around the world.


He is the absolute right man for the job.


The secretary and I are counting on you, on your help, as we pursue a clear and consistent and decisive foreign policy, foreign policy that serves both our vital interests and our highest ideas.

Our goal is to turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace. This requires America to remain engaged with the world, and to project our strength with purpose and with humility. America will set its own priorities, so that they're not set by our adversaries or the crisis of the moment.

We must work closely with our democratic friends and allies in Europe and Asia. We must engage Russia and China with patience and principle and consistency. We must build our trade relations across Africa, and help nations that are adding to the freedom and stability of their continent.

And closer to home, we must work with our neighbors to build a Western hemisphere of freedom and prosperity, a hemisphere bound together by shared ideas and free trade from the Arctic to the Andes to Cape Horn.

Building this hemisphere of freedom will be a fundamental commitment of my administration. Our future cannot be separated from the future of our neighbors in Canada and Latin America. Our bonds of language and family and travel and trade are strong, and they serve us all well.

Some look south and see problems. Not me. I look south and see opportunities and potential.

When I travel to Quebec in April and meet with other hemispheric leaders at the Summit of the Americas, I look forward to doing this: I look forward to discussing how we can build a century of the Americas. And I'll carry this message with me tomorrow when the secretary and I go to Mexico for my first foreign trip as the president.

These are exciting times in Mexico, times of change and times of possibility. Mexico has seen a new birth of freedom and trade is creating hope and economic progress. The doors are open to a closer partnership with the United States. But nothing about this new relationship is inevitable. Only through hard work will we get it right.

President Fox and I will get started at his ranch tomorrow. I'm looking forward to hearing his ideas on expanding trade throughout the hemisphere, on safe and orderly migration, on expanding educational opportunity for all our children, and what we can do together to fight drug trafficking and other types of organized crime.

President Fox and I met as governors, and I look forward to renewing and deepening our friendship. But I look forward even more to forging a deeper partnership between our two great nations, a partnership characterized by cooperation, creativity and mutual respect.

I want to thank you all for welcoming me here today. I'm glad the secretary invited me. I'm glad I responded positively.



Oftentimes, those of us who hold high offices don't stop and say thank you as much as we should. So today, I'm doing just that. On behalf of the American people, thank you for the service to this great country, and God bless.


ALLEN: President Bush, visiting the State Department during his defense theme week, giving an "atta boy" and an "atta girl" to members of the State Department on the eve of his first trip -- foreign policy trip, going to Mexico to see a friend, Vicente Fox. And, as you heard, he'll be talking about immigration and trade, drug-trafficking.

And let's talk with Major Garrett about what more we can expect, Major, from this trip tomorrow.


A couple of points about the president's speech and the sort of backdrop for it: Not only was he trying to reach out to the State Department, but it's a key issue for this White House. Many of the people who work at the State Department are career foreign service or civil service. There are not very many political appointees there. And the Bush team really believes it needs to recruit them, get them on their team.

Having Secretary of State Colin Powell there is a big part of that. But the president wanted to underscore that desire as well. Also, he said to the State Department employees: You have a constituent at the White House.

That is an underlying message that the State Department may have not as much trouble getting its budget through Congress as it did when just Republicans were running and there was not a Republican president. Lastly, on the trip to Mexico, the president said it's part of a hemispheric policy he's going to have to unite the United States, Canada and Mexico.

One issue he did not mention that will clearly come up in his conversations with Vicente Fox is new energy policy between the United States and Mexico -- a good talk about the transmission lines, perhaps creating new pipelines to get energy from Mexico, possibly to California and other Western states. That's a long-term project. But clearly, the energy crisis in California is on the White House agenda. And they're going to talk to the Mexican government about ways, perhaps in the future, they can address it -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, Major, are there some major differences, as far as U.S.-Mexican relations that might be difficult to talk with at this step in the Bush administration?

GARRETT: There are a couple of major thorns in the relationship between the United States and Mexico. One is the issue of amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants who are in the United States. Vicente Fox is very clear: He would like blanket amnesty for those illegal immigrants here in the United States. The Bush administration has made no decision on that. But, generally speaking, he's not favorably disposed to it.

Also, there is this issue of the recertification process that Congress has set up for many nations around the world: Are they doing enough to fight the drug war? Mexico constantly has to fight a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill to make sure it's not on that list of nations who are not cooperating. The Mexican government would like that whole process changed. And, as a matter of fact, Republicans and Democrats are pushing a bill in Congress to change that whole certification progress: a key element of the drug war.

The White House is open to all ideas on this. Clearly, that will be discussed in Mexico tomorrow -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. And, of course, we'll be following the president along on his trip. Thanks so much, Major Garrett at the White House.



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