Art in Embassies 40th Anniversary Reception Opening Remarks, May 2004

Art as Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Art in Embassies’ 40th anniversary celebration features opening remarks by AIE Director Anne Johnson, Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations General Charles Williams, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Full Transcript

0:08ANNE JOHNSON: Thank you all for spending the day with us to help us celebrate the 40th
0:13anniversary of Art in Embassies. I’m sure you’ve not forgotten what I told you this
0:18morning, that the program would not be possible without everyone in this room participating.
0:24We are very grateful to such a generous art community.
0:29I think the conference today went really well, I want to thank Elizabeth Ash, I want to thank
0:34Virginia Shore on the curatorial team and Becky Clark for installing the wonderful sculpture
0:39exhibition that’s in the South Courtyard and also upstairs in these fabulous rooms.
0:45This contemporary art is quite wonderful. Thank you very much for coming. We won’t
0:51be doing this every year but we’re glad that we could celebrate our 40th together.
0:57I want to thank Secretary and Mrs. Powell for so generously hosting this beautiful reception,
1:03this is a very special place in Washington. Not everyone gets to come here, so we are
1:09extremely grateful for their generosity. The Art in Embassies program is part of the
1:15Overseas Building Operations. My boss is named General, too, General Charles Williams and
1:23I would like him to come forward and introduce our speaker. Thank you.
1:29CHARLES WILLIAMS: Well I have the best job this afternoon. Good afternoon, as Director
1:40of the Overseas Building Operations of the State Department I have the privilege of managing,
1:46the great privilege of managing the $12 billion portfolio of the department’s property overseas.
1:56We buy, we sell all property, we lease, we design, we build, we maintain thousands of
2:02buildings, in fact, 15,000 properties US government wide. My work gives me the opportunity to
2:12work with some talented, very talented architects, designers, builders and artists as you are,
2:20so delighted to see you today. Oversight of one of the areas of responsibility
2:26that gives me particular pleasure is the wonderful Arts in Embassies program. Originally conceived
2:35as a program to make our embassies look more American and beautiful, the program has over
2:41the last 40 years has evolved into one of the most effective diplomatic tools for the
2:47State Department. You as lenders make that diplomatic effort possible. Because of your
2:55generosity, foreign audiences each day have the opportunity to experience some of the
3:02best aspects of American culture which is communicated to them through your works of
3:09art. We thank you for helping us in our efforts to make friends for the US government and
3:15we look forward to your continued support. Anne Johnson, who just spoke, our director
3:21of the program, has been very innovative, and I don’t say this lightly, in her approach
3:27and has brought forth the Artist of the Month program for visibility and recognition. She
3:36has energized the effort with the expansion of our Artist Abroad program, bringing artists
3:42to local communities in 10 countries this year alone. This is the first year we launched
3:50this, so I can’t say enough about our director who you’ve met and you’ve worked with.
3:58Now, what I was supposed to be doing, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you someone
4:07who has given our organization and me all of the support that could be asked for to
4:14allow us to start the building of 28 new embassies around the world since 2001. Before that,
4:27we did 1 embassy every 2 years, around the world. And one who strongly believes in the
4:35Arts in Embassies program. My good friend, my boss … (laughter) … our Secretary of
4:45State, Colin Powell. COLIN POWELL: Thank you very much, General.
5:08(laughter) You make a guy a general, he starts to take over, you know what I mean? (laughter)
5:13But it is a great pleasure to welcome you all here this evening, the artists and lenders
5:19to the Art in Embassies program. And I would like to begin by saying how fortunate I am
5:28to have General Williams and his lovely wife, because they come as a team, Marjorie, as
5:36the head of our Overseas Building Operations. It happened this way when I became Secretary
5:41of State was designated to be Secretary of State in the fall of 2000 just before the
5:48inauguration in 2001 but that December/January winter period I was looking around and discovered
5:55that one of my responsibilities was to run a building program that spent about $1 billion
6:01a year and no one was really in charge of it. So my old friend General Williams, Corps
6:09of Engineers, brilliant officer, distinguished leader, man who knows something about building
6:15stuff. I called him and said “Come over here”. At that time, he still remembered
6:21that I was a 4-star and he wasn’t. So he showed up and I said, you have 3 weeks to
6:27tell me about this program. So he went out, did a three week study, came back and said,
6:33“You have one heck of a problem. Everything is over cost, overrun, over everything, and
6:41I don’t know what you’re going to do about it.”
6:43I said, “I do” and for the last three plus years Chuck has been by my side working
6:53for me and Rich Armitage, my deputy, and Grant Green, the undersecretary, has done a great
6:58job saving the taxpayers money, bringing the cost of the embassies down, and getting them
7:04finished on time and under cost and I am so pleased to have him with the department.
7:10I also want to express my thanks to Anne for all the terrific work she does in this program.
7:17Isn’t she a real star for this program? (applause) I want to welcome you to this wonderful
7:29room that you’ll hear something about in the course of the evening and Alma and I are
7:33so honored to honor Art in Embassies on its 40th anniversary. This wonderful program was
7:40founded as you know in 1964 making it 1 year older than both the National Endowment for
7:47the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And for 40 years Art in Embassies
7:53has helped to tell America’s story to the world and it has told our story in the most
7:59vivid and compelling language that is available to us, the beautiful wonderful language of
8:04American art. For 40 years, the art exhibited in our diplomatic
8:08posts around the world has helped people across the globe to understand America’s rich cultural
8:15diversity and to appreciate our deep belief in freedom of expression. For 40 years, Art
8:22in Embassies has exemplified the idea that art and diplomacy go hand in hand. Indeed
8:29since our nation’s earliest age, art and diplomacy have complemented one another.
8:34It especially fitting that we are celebrating tonight here in my favorite room in the department,
8:40the Benjamin Franklin state dining room. Not only is this one of the most beautiful rooms
8:45in all of Washington, this magnificent room bears the name of a man who embodied the art
8:52of diplomacy and the diplomacy of art. Franklin was one of our first foreign envoys, his brilliant
8:59diplomacy convinced the French to throw their weight behind 13 scrappy colonies in our fight
9:05for independence. Europeans really loved Ben Franklin, they
9:09were charmed and fascinated by this gentleman. They saw him both as a philosopher and as
9:15a New World savage. Noble yet common, attractive and coarse, all at the same time. Franklin
9:22represented the hope and promise of America, he was a man from ordinary beginnings who
9:27realized his extraordinary potential and freedom and it was literally the image of Benjamin
9:34Franklin who inspired people in France and across Europe to champion America’s cause.
9:41Artists fought each other tooth and nail for the chance to render Franklin’s likeness.
9:47Old Ben sat for so many artists that it’s surprising he ever found time to get around
9:52to diplomacy. (laughter) His humble face was carved into marble, painted in oils, etched
9:59into metal, sketched onto paper, and fashioned into lady’s jewelry even. Franklin must
10:05have been delighted, absolutely delighted, by the sight of his image resting on the finest
10:10décolletages in Europe (laughter) I can handle that! (laughter)
10:20People everywhere could sense Old Ben’s spirit and through him they joined with the
10:25American colonists in a shared optimism, dreaming of a world that was freer and more democratic
10:32than the world they knew in Old Europe. Communicating America’s principles to countries
10:37all over the world mattered in Franklin’s time and it matters so much more today. Because
10:45in our globalizing world, nations large and small, developed and developing cannot being
10:50to tackle 21st century challenges by themselves, they can’t do it alone. We must reach out
10:56to them, we must reach out to one another, understand one another and find ways to work
11:02in concert with one another. Whether it’s fighting the war on terrorism or stemming
11:07the HIV/AIDS epidemic, lifting people out of poverty or building healthy democracies,
11:13we must join hands, we must join forces. And none of these challenges can be done by
11:18government alone. The private sector and the actions of individual citizens are crucial
11:24to our efforts. That’s why public private partnerships are an important component of
11:29so many of President Bush’s foreign policy initiatives. American needs public private
11:34partnerships that develop bonds between our citizens and the people of the world. And
11:40so after 40 years, American needs Art in Embassies more than ever. America needs cultural ambassadors
11:47whose voices reach beyond the apparatus of government and all of you, all of you here
11:54tonight, are answering our call, answering America’s call.
11:59You are launching the Artists Abroad program, an initiative that will enable us to send
12:04America’s art and artists directly into local communities overseas. This is the kind
12:10of diplomacy that America needs in the 21st century, people to people, direct diplomacy.
12:17Our world may be changing but the democratic principles American embodies are eternal and
12:23art’s ability to express those principles is unfailing. Like nothing else, America’s
12:30art expresses the creative spirit of our citizens and the power of our democratic ideals. Now
12:36more than ever, art and diplomacy must work together. We in government look to you to
12:42continue telling America’s story in the language of art, tell that story to the people
12:49of the world. Like America, Art in Embassies values and
12:54gives expression to diversity. Like America, Art in Embassies believes that liberty is
13:00a universal learning. And like America, Art in Embassies believes that human creativity
13:07is a powerful source of hope for all mankind. Ben Franklin knew all of this in 1776. The
13:17founders of the Art in Embassies program knew it in 1964. And those of you who continue
13:24to make Art in Embassies a success, know it today. The Art in Embassies program is stronger
13:30than ever and a grateful nation, and a very very grateful Secretary, thanks all of you
13:37for the work that you do. The President and Mrs. Bush extend their thanks to you. And
13:42on behalf of the men and women of the State Department who have the privilege of serving
13:47in front of your wonderful gifts to our wonderful nation, Alma and I thank you from the bottom
13:54of our heart. I would now like to take this opportunity
13:57to dedicate a new book, the Art in Embassies program. I want to thank Mr. Andrew Soloman
14:03who wrote the book’s insightful and informative central essay. This book and Mr. Soloman’s
14:09contribution to it chronicle how enormously successful Art in Embassies has been in helping
14:15our diplomats make lasting friends for the American people and now I would like to invite
14:21Anne Johnson and Andrew Soloman to the podium for the presentation.
14:26There you are! The book! (laughter) Andrew, would you like
14:38to say a word? SOLOMAN: That’s very kind.
14:46POWELL: Go ahead! SOLOMAN: I wasn’t prepared to say a word
14:51but I just wanted to say that I first came to be involved in the Art in Embassies program
14:56when a friend of mine was working for it some 17 years ago and the accomplishments of the
15:02program have perpetually thrilled and excited me. I think the presence of America’s high
15:07artistic tradition in the countries with which we have diplomatic relations eases those relationships
15:13and conveys the passionate freedom of America in a way that would not be possible without
15:18it. And I pay tribute to Anne Johnson and to Secretary Powell and all of the others
15:23who are responsible for the extraordinary achievements of this program. Thank you. (applause)
15:30JOHNSON: I have to say two more names from Art in Embassies, Marsha Mayo and Sally Mansfield,
15:38thank you very much for all your editorial things. And our government printers are actually
15:46here from Vienna, Austria to celebrate with us tonight. We have a book for each of you
15:50on the way out, please enjoy and continue painting and sculpting and making beautiful
15:57quilts. Thank you so much (applause)