Following is a transcript of Secretary Clinton’s remarks plus questions and answers at a town hall meeting in the State Department on May 1, held as part of the annual Foreign Affairs Day program. She gave an overview of her first 100 days in office and addressed questions on Gaza, Afghanistan/Pakistan, rebuilding the public diplomacy function, relations with Hugo Chavez, and formulating an overarching concept for current U.S. foreign policy analogous to containment during the Cold War. – Ed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Director General Harry Thomas. I appreciate your leadership and words today. And it’s always a pleasure to be with so many members of the State Department family. We’re joined by career ambassadors, retired officers returning to State after decades of distinguished service, young diplomats and civil servants just beginning their careers, and all of you who care deeply about our country and who have served it, are serving it, and know what a difference that can make.
I want to thank Jack Lew and Bill Burns. It is a pleasure working with both of them. And I am delighted that we are going to have an opportunity in just a few minutes to come with another award for Foreign Service professionals that will be both named for and given to Ryan Crocker. And I’m delighted that Ryan Crocker and Christine Crocker are here with us.
We have a message from the President on this May 1st that sends warmest greetings and thanks you all for your years of service to build a better, more democratic, secure and prosperous world for the American people and the international community. And we’re delighted that we have such strong support from President Obama for the mission of the State Department.
I think that those of you here may feel that your years of service were more of a calling than a job. Certainly as I travel around the world and meet many of you, both currently serving and retired, that is the impression that I get from you. This is my 100th day serving as Secretary of State. And I know that there are many – (applause) – people who have been here a thousand days, 5,000 days, 10,000 days. (Laughter.) But no matter how long we have been here, we’re all working toward the same future – of greater stability, prosperity, and opportunity.
I see our work as really based on principled and pragmatic partnerships. Bill Burns referenced how we are trying to tend, once again, a lot of the important relationships that we have in the world, while we reach out and deal with the crises and the opportunities. And let me just give you a brief snapshot.
We’ve reinforced our relationships with key allies and historic partners in Europe and Asia. We’ve engaged emerging nations and pivotal regional actors on issues of common concern, from climate change and energy, to democracy and good governance, and regional and global security.
We know very well that the work we’ve done so far to strengthen our relationships throughout this hemisphere and around the world are just a beginning. We don’t have any illusions about how challenging the environment is that we are navigating. But we are encouraged by the positive responses that we have received to date.
As I have traveled on behalf of our country, we have been heartened by the positive outreach that many who had either withdrawn or become somewhat adversarial are willing to evidence. And we’ve worked closely with the White House and the Defense Department on strategic reviews of Afghanistan and Pakistan, of Iraq. We’re trying to chart the best course forward of the Middle East and to deal with the difficulties presented by Iran.
I testified yesterday with Secretary Gates, who is quite passionate about increasing the resources for diplomacy and development. And I was delighted to sit beside him while he made that case for us. Now, there’s a difference between making a case and getting the money – (laughter) – but better that the case be made than not. And I know that Secretary Gates is going to be a great partner with us.
I was just in Baghdad this last weekend. Chris Hill got there about 18 hours before me, having finally been confirmed. And I was struck as I met with the leaders there how committed they are to seeing this through, something that owes a great deal to the partnership that Ambassador Crocker has had with both General Petraeus and General Odierno. But again, we have no illusions about what a long and difficult road lies ahead.
We have worked to reset our relationship, even though we didn’t spell “reset” right in Russian. (Laughter.) We have actually thought back on that as a moment of levity which may well have increased their willingness to cooperate with us.
We are working hard on our comprehensive relationship with China. In fact, as we speak, we have several of our people from the State Department and Treasury in China defining the parameters of the new strategic and economic dialogues that we will begin with China.
I had thought, and was pleased that others in the Administration agreed, that our relationship had become much too economy-centric, and there is a range of issues to discuss with the Chinese, and that’s what we intend to do. We are also proceeding on a lot of the transnational problems. Just on Monday last, we hosted the Major Economies Forum as part of an effort to get set up and ready for Copenhagen. This Administration is committed to addressing climate change. And we know, again, that it will be difficult, both domestically and internationally, but we intend to give it our very best efforts.
We have also increased attention for urgent issues like food security. It transcends borders and spans oceans affecting people on every continent. And we think we have an opportunity to lead and recast what we do on food security. You know, the United States led the green revolution in the 20th century starting in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and we had a great accomplishment. Now, we see our aid decreasing for the support of farmers and sustainable agriculture while we are remaining the world’s largest donor for emergency food crises.
We want to begin to put the emphasis back on agricultural productivity and helping people be able to irrigate and fertilize and produce their crops again. We think that our approach to a lot of these issues is really focused on an understanding that one size does not fit all. Countries may be in the same hemisphere, they may be next door to one another, but you know better than anyone that culturally and historically, demographically, and in so many other ways, they are not to be lumped together.
So we have worked very hard to create a review of our diplomatic challenges in these kinds of principled, pragmatic partnerships by starting with the basics – where we are and what we hope to achieve through our work on behalf of our country. That is the idea at the core of smart power, using all the tools in our toolbox to craft efficient and effective strategies for the challenges that we face, whether it is pandemic disease, as we are currently coping with today, terrorism or trafficking in drugs and humans.
But it’s also important that we expand our connections beyond government-to-government. I’ve encouraged our Foreign Service and Civil Service professionals to think of new ways to connect with people, with NGOs, with businesses. We’ve done that, but now we have new tools that we have to employ – the social networking tools, the media. We have to get smarter with public diplomacy. And public diplomacy is not just lecturing at other people and telling them how great we are and what we hope they will believe about us. It is actually having a real dialogue and listening as much as talking. So we are committed to using these new tools in public diplomacy.
From my very first days here at State, I have included USAID and all of the development agenda that lies ahead. We want to streamline it. We want to make it more efficient. We want to move more of AID’s work back inside AID instead of having it out with contractors, because we are wasting an enormous amount of money. Fifty cents on the dollar doesn’t even get into the pipeline to actually be delivered. We only have four engineers in all of USAID now. And I think it’s important that we get back to the United States Government providing these services. (Applause.)
At the heart of smart power are smart people and we have smart people in abundance here at the State Department. That’s why I have pressed the Congress, as well as the White House, to give us the support that is needed to do the jobs that we are asking of you. I’ll continue to fight for those resources. We have, as Jack Lew was saying, gotten a positive response but it’s in the political process right now. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we get the resources that we know we need.
Today, we are starting a new tradition here at the State Department in recognition of the outstanding service that so many of our diplomats perform every day in challenging and often dangerous circumstances on behalf of our nation. So I am delighted to announce a new award named for a true hero of the Foreign Service, a man who has led diplomatic missions in some of the hottest hotspots on the planet, who has helped to sow seeds of peace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Lebanon. And that is, of course, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. I also want to make it clear that his wife Christine, who has been with him in most of those settings, deserves that recognition as well. (Applause.)
Ryan Crocker is one of the career ambassadors here with us today, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Foreign Service officer. And I think it’s only fitting that we pause for a minute just to recognize the other career ambassadors who we think are with us. We hope they are. And if you are, if you would just stand and I will say something that I know is never followed. If you’ll hold your applause until we have all of our career ambassadors standing: Ambassador Richard Boucher, Ambassador Herman Cohen, Ambassador Ruth Davis, Ambassador Marc Grossman, Ambassador Alan Larson, Ambassador George Moose, Ambassador Richard Murphy, Ambassador Johnny Young, Ambassador Bill Burns, and, of course, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. (Applause.)
As we bestow this honor on Ambassador Crocker, I think I’m confident in saying that I speak for everyone here when I recited that sequence of assignments. I must say I marvel at your fortitude and thank you for your courageous service. And you remind us that it is not only the men and women of our armed forces who put their lives on the line to serve our country overseas. The men and women of the Department of State and USAID often do the same. And later this morning, we will commemorate four Foreign Service officers who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation.
Now, we have a new way to celebrate our colleagues who distinguish themselves and serve in very difficult posts, not once, not twice, but over and over again. And that will be the Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy. (Applause.) With this award we not only honor its namesake, but all those men and women of the State Department family who rise to meet the great challenges to further the goals of American diplomacy and development. Congratulations and thank you, Ambassador Crocker. (Applause.)
Now, this is supposed to be a town hall. It’s running a little bit late, but I would like to take some of the questions. And it would be wonderful to hear from those of you with long years of both experience and perspective. I think we have – Harry, we’ve got two microphones, right? People can line up in this aisle and that aisle. We’ll try to get to as many questions as possible. If you would identify yourself, that would be very, very helpful. So why don’t we start right there.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. My name is Ann Wright, and you were one of my instructors at the University of Arkansas Law School in the legal clinic. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wow.
QUESTION: I was also one of the U.S. diplomats that resigned over the Iraq war, but I’m back because I’m part of this family. And as a part of this family, I would like to know about Gaza. I’ve made two trips to Gaza in the last hundred days and will be going back in May. And could you please tell me how we’re going to get aid in to those people that are in that open-air prison? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is a great challenge, as you know. I went to Sharm el-Sheikh for the donors conference, and I was very pleased to make a significant commitment on behalf of our country, nearly $900 million. We are having difficulty actually delivering that aid for several reasons. One, we believe strongly that we have to have some guarantees of actual delivery. We want the aid to get to where we’re sending it. It’s been very difficult to get that structured. If you have any ideas about that, I would welcome them, because we share your concern about the humanitarian crisis that exists there.
We also have been somewhat sidelined by the ongoing negotiations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It would certainly make our lives easier if there could be some agreement that would enable us to get the aid there. But as you know very well, politically there is no appetite in our Congress for any aid going to Hamas or to a unity government that does not have every member recognizing Israel and renouncing violence and agreeing to follow the previous agreements of the PLO and the PA. We also are working very closely with the Israelis to persuade them to open the crossings, let more essential goods in.
So I take very seriously the challenge, and we are working hard to try to meet it. And again, I welcome your advice of any ideas you might have as to what we could do.
QUESTION: I certainly have some ideas and would be glad to furnish them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Secretary Clinton, Rob Warren, a former FSO. We greatly appreciate you coming and speaking to us today. We admire your leadership.
I’d like to ask you about Afghanistan and Pakistan. It seems to be one of the most critical areas and one of the greatest challenges for the Department. How do you see us carrying out the strategy that the Administration has outlined, and what role the Department will be playing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. We had an intensive strategic review starting slightly before the President was inaugurated. It was chaired by Bruce Riedel, as some of you may know, a former CIA analyst, and co-chaired by Richard Holbrooke, who is our Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Michele Flournoy, who is the Deputy – or Under Secretary at the Pentagon for Planning.
So we started from the beginning with a kind of all hands, whole government approach. The bottom line is that we need to learn from the lessons that were painfully taught us in Iraq. We need to better integrate our military and civilian assets and approach. In Afghanistan, we actually have quite a bit of support from the international community, both in terms of military and civilian personnel, and in contributions. And in Pakistan, it’s a very difficult environment because of the confusion among the civilian and military leadership about how to prioritize what is the greatest threat to Pakistan going forward.
We will have this week our second trilateral. President Karzai will be coming from Afghanistan with leaders of his government. President Zardari will be coming with leaders of his government. They will meet – we’ve had one of these already, which we thought was quite helpful in beginning to change mindsets and, frankly, set forth some requirements about what we expect from these governments. And we hope that this will do the same. The President will meet with both of his counterparts and will have some very intense sessions on the specifics of what we’re trying to accomplish.
We think that there are a number of important missions in Afghanistan, but we can only do a few, and we have to count on our allies and partners to do others. Obviously, we’re taking the lead on security and stability operations, on the training of the Afghan National Army and police. On a project to try to stimulate agricultural productivity again, I mean, it’s heartbreaking to look back and see that Afghanistan was sort of the garden of Central Asia, had lots of orchards, great production of fruits, like pomegranates. And I think there’s a lot of potential there if we are smart about how we do it.
So we are recruiting, as Jack Lew was saying, certainly within the State Department family, but also within USDA and other parts of our government to get the expertise that we need, but all under a State Department lead with the special representative and the team here. That’s our goal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Alice La Brie. I’m a former – what is now known as management specialist, but in those days it was Foreign Service secretary. I came into service with a background as a television producer. And I was always saying, “You guys don’t toot your horns enough. You’re just too reticent.” So I’d like to say that, at present, I am a weekend green room coordinator at Good Morning America, and I tried to haul our executive producer in here today, but it’s sweeps week so he couldn’t leave his job. (Laughter.) But I will continue to noodge them, as I have been for the last three years. I would very much like them to do a segment and a piece, of course, on the Department of State. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. And I think you make a very important point. I don’t know if it’s so much tooting our own horn as telling our story, and doing it in a way that people actually will listen and feel that they can connect and relate to it.
So yes, I think we have a lot of work to do. And certainly, within our own country, we need to do a better job of explaining what we do and who we are and what a paltry investment we make. I think 6 percent of our national security budget goes to State and USAID, so we have a lot of room for growth in trying to make the case.
But I think you’re right that we need to do a better job both internally and internationally in telling our story.
QUESTION: My name is Gil Scheinbel and I am a retired Foreign Service officer. I did political, economic, administrative work, et cetera. I never worked for the U.S. Information Agency, but I am a great supporter of what we should be doing in the field of public diplomacy, to which you would have referred, as had the previous person.
We have, since the demise of USIA in 1960 – in 1999, we have had a very erratic leadership in the field of public diplomacy. I fear that many of us here in this room perhaps do not fully appreciate the value of public diplomacy. We had a lot of very competent people in that field whom I have known over the years, and I think we have to go back to emphasize that. I don’t think we’ll ever see, at least in our term, a recreation of USIA or something like that. But I think that field has to be emphasized, because as you said, we have to get the word out to everybody not just what we are, but what we can do out in the hinterlands as well as in the capitals.
Thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and I could not agree more. The President has nominated for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy someone who not only has a great deal of experience in telling stories and communicating effectively around the world, but also someone who happens to be the daughter of a Foreign Service officer. So her name is Judith McHale. She was one of the founders and creators of the Discovery Channel. And she has an understanding of the story that has to be told.
I could not agree more with you that USIA and other related public education mechanisms were very unfortunately marginalized. They are moving across the street. We’re getting them closer. We’re getting them close enough that I can see them from my window, and we intend to do a lot of work on this.
I have done a number of Voice of America interviews. I answered questions that were sent in from Afghanistan and elsewhere. I’m going to do a lot of that as well. And the President is more than willing to participate. So we’re going to give it a new approach and see if we can’t make a difference. Thank you.
QUESTION: Good morning, Mrs. Clinton. I’m Dan Strasser and had the pleasure of meeting you over a decade ago when I was the executive director at Val-Kill and you were the First Lady. And I want to thank you for all the work you did to promote Mrs. Roosevelt’s legacy in our work then, and I’m sure she’s smiling down on you right now wishing you all the best and very proud of what you’ve accomplished even in the short time you’re here.
My question – I should mention right now I work for General Maddux at Joint Forces Command and still actively engaged in the issues that this Department is involved in as well. My question actually is this, or proposal – many years ago when the last Clinton Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, first came to the Department, he had a big town hall meeting like this for the staff, which was very good. And I asked a question then. I said, “Mr. Christopher, we just finished the Cold War and we know that a great diplomat came up with a concept to how to deal with the Cold War, and that was containment.”
And I asked him, “Do you have a concept to deal with the post-Cold War period that we’ve now entered?” And being the lawyer that he is, he basically said, “Well, no, we’ve got to deal with each problem one at a time.” I was never really satisfied with that answer. And listening to the various things that you are doing and also Deputy Secretary Burns – Under Secretary Burns’ list of things, I wonder if you feel that you have an umbrella over – an umbrella concept, an overarching concept in which to contain what it is that this Administration and you are trying to do to deal with what I call the problems of galloping globalization in the world. And I do hope that you might have one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: May I – I know you’ve talked about the three –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you have any ideas?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I nominate the concept of global governance, which I know that Anne-Marie Slaughter knows a lot about, and which was proposed back in the late ‘90s when you were in the White House by the UN Commissioner on Global Governance. I believe it still has a lot of very good proposals that probably need to be updated, but recommend to you, considering global governance, as that concept for this Administration. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can just imagine what Lou Dobbs will say about that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You know what? Who cares about Lou Dobbs? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I agree with that. (Laughter.) We – you mentioned Anne-Marie Slaughter, who some of you may not know is our policy and planning director, first woman to have that job, former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. And we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I mean, we don’t want to get hung up on coming up with a word. But we do have a pretty clear idea of the kind of approach that we’re taking. But I think she would be very disappointed if I were to preview any of it right now, so give me a little – give me a few weeks, okay?
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m going to try to talk to her –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Talk to her, (inaudible).
QUESTION: — as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go lobby her, good.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for honoring us by being here this morning. I’m Brian Murphy, dubious distinction of being the first to have retired from our Embassy in Baghdad, so thank you, Ambassador Crocker. (Laughter.)
Just to echo what a previous speaker spoke about public diplomacy, I had the greatest experience in my career of being a Fulbright law lecturer in Bulgaria back in the early ‘90s, that country then known as the Balkan surprise by Secretary Eagleburger. Great experience, it’s a wonderful way to build bridges. I had the great privilege of bringing the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist over at the insistence of the Bulgarian chief justice – just the best thing we do, in my view.
Finally, I had the great pleasure of hearing designee Harold Koh, legal advisor at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And thank you so much for what you’re doing, along with Anne-Marie Slaughter. What a great day this will be. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your vision of your job, which is an unusual one, an exceptional one – being both the Secretary of State and also the CEO of the Department of State is a critical fusion. Too many secretaries that we’ve had have had a vision of the policy but not a leadership role in terms of getting the resources to implement the policy. You are doing both. I thank you.
America’s statecraft is out of whack. I’m Tek Cyrus, by the way. (Laughter.) America’s statecraft budget is about a trillion dollars. Ninety percent of that, $900 million if you do the accounting the same way that we do the accounting on the Chinese – add nuclear weapons, add Veterans’ benefits and other things into the mix – our intelligence budget is about 7 percent. Our diplomatic budget is under 40. Something is wrong. What can we do as Foreign Service retirees to develop and help you in balancing our statecraft portfolio, which has now invested 90 percent in military, 7 percent in intelligence, and 3.5 percent in diplomacy? That’s wrong. It’s wrong for America. It’s wrong for our future. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well – (applause) – I think that speaking out, contacting members of Congress, particularly the Appropriations committees, contacting the White House, just making the case as to why we need the resources that we are requesting. We think that we can begin to rebalance that mix. But it’s not going to be easy and we need a lot of voices out there talking about why it’s important. So I appreciate that.
I’ve just been told by Harry this is our last question. I’m sorry. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Well, I’ll make the last one, Madame Secretary, a softball you can hit out of the park. (Laughter.) I’m Ken Scoge, a retired FSO. I just would like to get your views on a subject that’s been of some attention recently. There have been indications that at a very high level or levels in the Department, there is a more benign face being shown – excuse me – to Hugo Chavez in Caracas. And this at a time when Chavez is attempting, and in some views, to follow the path of Putin in consolidation of the powers of the presidency, and whose attitude toward the United States has not been very friendly. Is this a correct assessment that you are – have – showing a more benign face? And if so, what’s in it for us? What are our objectives?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that from our analysis, when we look around the world, actually, we see a number of countries and leaders – Chavez is one of them but not the only one – who, over the last eight years, has become more and more negative and oppositional to the United States. Certainly, from my perspective, the prior administration tried to isolate them, tried to support opposition to them, tried to turn them into international pariahs. It didn’t work.
And we are going to see what other approaches might work. We have no guarantees here that we can create a better relationship with someone who has a different view of politics, the economy, and so much else. But we think it’s worth trying to just explore this and see what comes of it. And I have to say that I don’t think in today’s world, where it’s a multipolar world, where we are competing for attention and relationships with at least the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, that it’s in our interest to turn our backs on countries in our own hemisphere.
So we’re going to try some different approaches. No illusions about who we’re dealing with or what the issues are. But I think it’s worth a try, because what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked very well. And, in fact, if you look at the gains, particularly in Latin America, that Iran is making and China is making, it’s quite disturbing. I mean, they are building very strong economic and political connections with a lot of these leaders. I don’t think that’s in our interest.
So I’m certainly open to both constructive criticism and ideas, but – we talked about exchanging ambassadors again with Chavez, which I think we will do at some point. We are looking to figure out how to deal with Ortega. The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua, and you can only imagine what it’s for. We want to try to build better relationships with Correa, and we want to see if we can figure out how to get an ambassador back and work with Morales in Bolivia.
Now, we’re facing an almost united front against the United States regarding Cuba. Every country, even those with whom we are closest, is just saying you’ve got to change, you can’t keep doing what you’re doing. We would like to see some reciprocity from the Castros on political prisoners, human rights, and other matters.
So we’re looking at a number of different relationships and trying to figure out whether we can be more productive. My bottom line is: What’s best for America? How do we try to influence behavior that is more in our interest than not? And that’s how we’re looking at it.
Thank you all. (Applause.)