George W. Bush photo

The President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Colin L. Powell as Secretary of State

December 16, 2000

BUSH: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much for that warm Crawford welcome. Laura and I are delighted to back to our new home, and we're delighted to welcome two distinguished Americans with us. First, this isn't Vice President-elect Cheney's first visit to Crawford, as you well know. He keeps telling me every time he comes down to visit, let's go to Crawford, (LAUGHTER)

But it's an honor to be here with Dick Cheney, a man who understands good people and good country, and Mr. Vice President-elect, thanks for coming down. (APPLAUSE)

Many times during the course of my campaign, I said that if all went well, General Colin Powell just might be called back into the service of his country. Today, it is my privilege to make that call, and ask him to become the 65th secretary of state of the United States of America. (APPLAUSE)

Colin Powell first answered the call to duty as a lieutenant in the United States Army, where he served for 35 years. He's been a decorated infantry officer, an Army Corps commander, a national security adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, adviser to our last three presidents, providing good counsel, strong leadership, and an example of integrity for everyone with whom he served.

His entire life has prepared him to fulfill the responsibilities that he will soon hold. General Powell is an American hero, an American example, and a great American story. It's a great day when a son of the South Bronx succeeds to the office first held by Thomas Jefferson.

Much has changed since our country's early days, but the fundamental principles guiding American foreign policy are the same.

BUSH: Foreign policy in the coming years must serve our national interests in the world, while speaking for the highest of America's ideas. In word and deed, we must be clear and consistent and confident that our values are real, and we must be true to our friends.

We must conduct our foreign policy in the spirit of national unity and bipartisanship. Our next secretary of state believes, as I do, that we must work closely with our allies and friends in times of calm, so that we will be work together in times of crises.

He believes, as I do, that our nation is best when we project our strength and purpose with humility. As president, I will set our priorities, and we will stand by them.

If we do not set our own agenda, it will be set by others: potential adversaries, or the crises of the moment. Our administration will work with our allies in Europe and in the Far East and around the world to extend the peace.

We will promote a fully democratic western hemisphere bound together by free trade. We will defend America's interests in the Persian Gulf, and advance peace in the Middle East, based as any lasting peace must be on a secure Israel.

We will fight the weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We will work towards a world that trades in freedom.

And my administration will understand that American values always are at the center of our foreign policy. Our stand for human freedom is not an empty formality of diplomacy, but a founding and guiding principle of this great land. By promoting democracy, we lay the foundation for a better and more stable world.

BUSH: This is a moment of great opportunity, and my administration will seize it. America has unique power and unmatched influence, and we will use them in the service of democracy, spreading peace across the world and across the years.

In this cause, I know of no better person to be the face and voice of American diplomacy that Colin L. Powell. Wherever he goes, and whomever he meets, the world will see the finest of the United States of America.

In this office, he follows in the footsteps not only of Jefferson, but also of one of his personal heroes, General George C. Marshall. And I would say of General Powell what Harry Truman said of General Marshall: "He is a tower of strength and common sense. When you find somebody like that, you have to hang onto him."

I have found such a man. In directness of speech, his towering integrity, his deep respect for our democracy, and his soldier's sense of duty and honor, Colin Powell demonstrates the qualities that made George Marshall a great secretary of state, qualities that will make him a great representative of all the people of this country.

And so, it's a great honor for me to submit the name to the United States Senate of Colin L. Powell as secretary of state. (APPLAUSE)

POWELL: Thank you, very much. Thank you. Thank you, very much. Thank you, very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, very much. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

POWELL: Thank you so very much, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President-elect and Mrs. Bush, Mr. Vice President-elect Cheney, ladies and gentlemen, citizens of Crawford, Texas.

It's a great pleasure to be with you this afternoon, and I'm honored, honored, to be given the opportunity to return to public service as the 65th secretary of state of the United States of America.

POWELL: Mr. President-Elect, I thank you for the confidence that you have placed in me, and I look forward to serving you, the American people, and the cause of peace and freedom around the world.

And it is a special privilege for me to once again to serve with Vice President-elect Dick Cheney. We have been through many adventures together and many more adventures await us in the future.

Mr. President-elect, during your administration you'll be faced with many challenges, and crises that we don't know anything about right now will come along. But I believe that these challenges and these crises will pale in comparison to the wonderful opportunities that await us: Opportunities that have been brought about by the end of the Cold War; by the spread of democracy and the free enterprise system around the world; opportunities that come to us because we held steadfast in our belief in democracy; opportunities that will come to us become of the information of technology revolutions that are reshaping the world as we know it, destroying political boundaries and all kinds of other boundaries as we are able to move information and capital data around the world at the speed of light, able to move knowledge around the world at the speed of light; opportunities that will come to us because the old world map as we knew it of a red side and a blue side, that competed for something called the third world is gone, and the new map is a mosaic, a mosaic of many different pieces and many different colors spreading around the world, a world that has seen that communism did not work, fascism did not work, Nazism did not work.

If you want to be successful in the 21st century, you must find your path to democracy, market economics, and a system which frees the talents of men and women to pursue their individual destinies. And at the center of this revolution, America stands, inspiration for the world that wants to be free, and we will continue to be that inspiration by uniquely American internationalism, as President-elect Bush has stated it.

Not by using our strength and our position of power to get back behind our walls, but by being engaged with the world. By first and foremost, letting our allies know that we appreciate all we have been through over the last 50 years, and our alliances are as strong now as they every have been, and they are as needed now as they ever have been, and we'll work with our allies to expand and make those alliances the center of our foreign policy activity.

We will work with those nations in the world that are transforming themselves, nations such as China and Russia. We will work with them not as potential enemies, and not as adversaries, but not yet as strategic partners, but as nations that are seeking their way.

POWELL: We will have areas of agreement and areas of difference, and we will discuss them in rational ways, letting them know of our values, letting them know of the principles that we hold dear.

For those nations that are not yet on this path of democracy and freedom, for those nations who are poorly led, led by failed leaders pursing failed policies that will give them failed results, we will stand strong.

We will stand strong with our friends and allies against those nations that pursue weapons of mass destruction, that practice terrorism. We will not be afraid of them. We will not be frightened by them. We will meet them. We will match them. We will contend with them. We will defend our interests from a position of strength.

That strength comes to us from the power of our system, the democracy and free enterprise system. It comes to us from our economic power. It comes to us from our military power. And as we go into this new century, and as we begin this new administration, we have to make sure that all of those elements of power are protected and allowed to thrive even more.

With an economy that is strong, growing, part of the now international system, global trade, with military power, we are the best on the face of the earth. We're going to keep it that way.

And we're going to take actions early on to ensure that our young men and women who might be called to go in harm's way have what they need to be successful. We owe that to them.

I spent a good part of my life helping those GIs get ready for battle, and I spent a good part of my life up on Congress, before Congress, working hard to get those troops what they needed.

Well, I don't have to do that quite anymore, but I will certainly be there with the secretary of defense, assisting the secretary in getting what he needs for the military.

But I now will be up before the Congress, letting them know, in the most powerful terms that I can muster, that the dedicated men and women of the State Department need that same kind of support.

They are in the front lines, they are part of this contest, they are part of the battle, and we must make sure that when they go to do the work of the American people they not only have the support that they need, but they have the resources that they need, and that will be a priority of my stewardship as Secretary of State.

So I think these are promising times, times of great opportunity, but times, also, of challenge and danger. We are up to the task.

POWELL: President-elect Bush has given us the guidance we need. We are going to pull together a great team. We're going to communicate with the American people to make sure that we are crafting a foreign policy that reflects their values and their will. We will work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion, so that we can arrive at consensus and that the world can see us united behind our foreign policy.

Exciting times, and I'm so proud to be a part of those times, and I thank the president-elect for giving me this opportunity.

I'm especially pleased that he chose to hold this ceremony in a school in Crawford, Texas. I was, frankly, glad it wasn't at the ranch. (LAUGHTER)

Nothing wrong with ranches, but I don't yet do ranch-wear very well. (LAUGHTER)

Hey, I'm from the South Bronx, and I don't care what you say, those cows look dangerous. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

But the real reason I'm so happy that we're doing this in a school is because for the last several years of my life, I've been working with young people, young people such as the students who come here everyday to be prepared for the future. I have been working hard as the Chairman of America's Promise, the alliance for youth, a great crusade that we have been conducting for the past few years. It was a mission that was given to me by former President Bush and President Clinton, and former President Carter, President Ford, and Mrs. Reagan.

We've accomplished a lot over the last three years, and as I now take on new duties as secretary of state, I want to say to all of the partners who have worked with us on America's Promise that I'm not leaving it. I'm going to find a way to continue to play an important role in the work of America's Promise, and the president-elect has encouraged me to do just that.

I go around the country telling people, no matter how busy you are, you have time to give back to young people, and that's what I'm going to do as secretary of state, not only to encourage other cabinet officers to do likewise, but hopefully to take this Promise message around the world so that all nations realize that we have nothing more valuable as a national asset in anyone's country than the young people, and we have to prepare them. So the little red wagon will still be a part of my life.

And, finally, I would just like to note that in the newspaper stories that will be written about this occasion, they will say that Colin Powell, first African-American to ever hold the position of secretary of state. And I'm glad they will say that, and I want it repeated.

POWELL: I want it repeated because I hope it will give inspiration to young African-Americans coming along, but beyond that, all young Americans coming all, that no matter where you began in this society, with hard work and with dedication and with the opportunities that are presented by this society, there are no limitations upon you.

And I also want to pay tribute to so many people who helped me reach this position in life: African-Americans who came before me, who never could have risen to this position because the conditions weren't there, and they had to fight to change those conditions.

For me, this isn't history. It's my lifetime. I was exposed to these things in my lifetime. And I will work with President-elect Bush and with Vice President-elect Cheney to do everything I can do to help them, to show to America, as President-elect Bush said the other evening, that this will be an administration, he will be a president for all the people, all the time.

I know that is the deepest emotion in his heart. The American people will see that in due course. We'll get over these difficulties that we have seen in recent days, and we'll come through this a stronger, greater nation on the way to that more perfect union that we always dream about. Thank you, very much. (APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The secretary of state designee and I will take a few questions. Yes, Tom?

QUESTION: General Powell (OFF-MIKE) there are some preliminary talks this weekend in Washington. Will you be monitoring these, and when you become secretary of state, what do you see as the (OFF-MIKE)?

POWELL: I will certainly be monitoring them, but you know, you can only have one president, one secretary of state, and one foreign policy team at a time. And so, although we'll be monitoring them, it is entirely in the hands of President Clinton, Dr. Albright and their team.

It is absolutely a given that under a Bush administration, America will remain very much engaged in the Middle East.

POWELL: I expect it to be a major priority of mine, and of the department. It will be based on the principle that we must always ensure that Israel lives in freedom, and in security and peace. But at the same time, we have to do everything we can to deal with the aspirations of the Palestinians and the other nations in the region who have an interest in this.

And so I think America will continue to be a friend to all sides. America will continue to put forward ideas. America will remain engaged until we can find that solution to this most difficult problem.

But at the end of the day, it's going to be the parties in the region who will have to find that solution and come into agreement. They are going to have to live with each other, and hopefully, in the near future, we can find ways that they can accommodate their differences, and find that elusive solution. It is elusive, but it is out there somewhere, and hopefully, if it doesn't happen in the very near future and becomes something for us to manage, you can be sure that we'll be fully engaged in trying to find a solution to that problem.


POWELL: We're in a different situation now than we had in 1991 and 1992. At the end of the Gulf War, your acting regime agreed to the conditions that brought an end to the conflict, that they would fully account for all the weapons of mass destruction and other evil technologies that they were working on.

They have not yet fulfilled those agreements, and my judgment is that sanctions in some form must be kept in place until they do so. We will work with our allies to re-energize the sanctions regime. And I will make the case in every opportunity I get that we're not doing this to hurt the Iraqi people, we're doing this to protect the peoples of the region, the children of the region, who would be the targets of these weapons of mass destruction if we didn't contain them and get rid of them.

Saddam Hussein is sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be around in a few years' time. The world is going to leave him behind, and that regime behind, as the world marches to new drummers, drummers of democracy and the free enterprise system.

And I don't know what it will take to bring him to his senses, but we are in the strong position, he is in the weak position. And I think it is possible to re-energize those sanctions, and to continue to contain him, and then confront him should that become necessary again.


POWELL: Our plan is to undertake a review right after the president is inaugurated, and take a look not only at our deployments in Bosnia, but in Bosnia and Kosovo and many other places around the world, and make sure those deployments are proper. Our armed forces are stretched rather thin, and there is a limit to how many of these deployments we can sustain.

So, we're going to take a look at that. We're going to talk to our allies. We're going to consult. We're going to make on-the-ground assessments of what we're doing now, what's needed now, but also, what is really going to be needed in the future, and see if we can find ways that it is less of a burden on our armed forces, not as a way of running out, but as a way of substituting others, or substituting other kinds of organizations and units and perhaps police organizations to handle the remaining missions.

So, we're not cutting and running. We're going to make a careful assessment of it in consultation with our allies, and then make some judgments after that assessment is completed.


POWELL: What kind of person would I like to work with as president?

BUSH: She said "who" first.


BUSH: That's called trying to get a scoop, aren't you? (LAUGHTER)

POWELL: That's been resolved... (APPLAUSE)

POWELL: ... to my great delight.

BUSH: Anything else here? Yes?

QUESTION: General, will (OFF-MIKE)

POWELL: The president-elect has made a commitment to a national missile defense. I have watched the debates on national missile defense for many, many years.

And I think a national missile defense is an essential part of our overall strategic force posture, which consists of offensive weapons, command and control systems, intelligence systems and a national missile defense. And I still hearken back to the original purpose of such a defense, and that is to start diminishing the value of offensive weapons.

We have been pursuing the technology. I'm quite confident that when a secretary of defense is named, that person will go into the Pentagon and make a full assessment of the state of technology--where are we, what can we accomplish--and structure a plan that is consistent with the approach that then Governor Bush gave in Washington early this year.

So, we're going to go forward. We have to spend time discussing it with our allies, discussing it with other nations in the world that possess strategic offensive weapons and don't yet understand our thinking with respect to national missile defense.

POWELL: These will be tough negotiations; I don't expect them to be easy. But they will have to come to the understanding that we feel this is in the best interests of the American people, and not only the American people, the people of the world, to finally start to move in the direction where we can take away the currency associated with strategic offensive weapons, and the blackmail that is inherent in some regime having that kind of weapon and thinking they can hold us hostage.

BUSH: Thank you all for having us. God bless.

George W. Bush, The President-Elect's News Conference Announcing the Nomination of Colin L. Powell as Secretary of State Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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