Secretary Rice Delivers Remarks on Zoellick's Resignation

CQ Transcriptions Wire
Monday, June 19, 2006; 11:28 AM

RICE: Good morning, everyone.

When I became secretary of state, our country had fought two wars, we were waging a global war on terrorism, and President Bush asked me, using America's diplomacy, to try and help consolidate the gains of the past four years.

Immediately, I set about assembling a first-rate team that would help carry out this historic mission, a mission that others have referred to as transformational diplomacy.

The first decision -- really the most important decision -- was to find a first-class deputy. I knew that the State Department needed a deputy who was an experienced policy-maker, a seasoned diplomat, a masterful strategist and an intellectual leader, someone who was known and respected in every foreign capital around the world.

We needed a deputy who would be a full partner for me in the formulation and implementation of our entire foreign policy agenda, someone who would take American diplomacy on the road with a vigorous will to travel and who would serve as my alter ego here in Washington.

And, of course, we needed a deputy who would get up his courage and roll up his sleeves and occasionally even hug a panda.


The president and I agreed that the only person who fit that bill was Bob Zoellick.

I was deeply honored that Bob accepted the job. And in the past year and a half, Bob has been greater than ever -- Bob has been greater than ever whenever we've faced challenges.

And today it is not without considerable sadness that I announce that Bob Zoellick will be leaving the department in the coming weeks.

Today, America's diplomacy is on track, it is stronger than ever, and that is due in no small part to Bob Zoellick.

I first met Bob back in 1989 when we both served another President Bush at another challenging time for American diplomacy. Together, we participated in historic events: the unification of Germany, the liberation of Eastern Europe, and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.

Those were heady times, to be sure, and I remember how well Bob helped to craft and steer America's foreign policy with his characteristic brilliance, his tireless work ethic and his impeccable judgment.

I had the pleasure of serving again with Bob in the first four years of the administration when I was national security adviser and when he was U.S. trade representative.

RICE: What most people don't know, however, is that Bob and I had lunch about every week or two. We talked, of course, about all the vital issues at the nexus of foreign policy and trade, yet we also shared stories and talked about our common passions, like exercise and reading, and we solidified a decades'-long friendship.

My close person relationship with Bob has been the foundation of all our work together here at the State Department. You know that when you travel as much as I do, you need someone who can step comfortably and confidently into the role of secretary in your absence, a deputy who can coordinate with the White House and manage the daily work of the department and make countless decisions about every aspect of foreign policy.

Bob has done this and more. He has been one of my closest and most valued advisers on every single international issue, from advancing security and democracy in Iraq to checking the nuclear weapons ambitions of Iran, from forging a new partnership with a changing India to expanding our common agenda with old allies in Europe and the Americas.

In particular, Bob has led the way to success on a handful of really difficult challenges. He has been indispensable in our efforts to bring peace to Sudan and to end the violence in Darfur, personally leading the U.S. delegation that helped to secure the Darfur peace agreement last month.

Bob has also helped us to launch a wide-ranging strategic dialogue with China and build on the progress that he achieved as our trade representative. Bob has helped our partners in Central and South America to tackle the twin challenges of democracy and economic development.

Here in this building, Bob has been a leader and an advocate for all of the members of our Foreign Service, our Civil Service and our Foreign Service nationals. He's been a demanding boss to be sure. Everyone who has been exposed to Bob's questioning and his probing will tell you that. And Bob always says we have to be relentless in our attention to implementation.

But I know everyone would agree that they appreciate how Bob has held us all to high standards and encouraged us all to succeed. And I know how much everyone appreciates Bob's deep engagement with our daily work, which is hard to deny when your memos consistently return from the deputy secretary of state with twice as much writing as you sent him.

Bob, you have helped to guide American diplomacy with principle and prudence, at a time when there are few precedents for action. Our nation is stronger and safer because of your work.

So on behalf of President Bush, on behalf of all members of the administration, on behalf of the men and women of the State Department, and on behalf of the American people I want to thank you for your wise counsel, I want to thank you for your dedicated service to our nation.

RICE: And, on a more personal level, I want to thank you for your friendship, which I know we will continue to build and enjoy in the many years ahead. And I look forward to continuing our tradition of dinners with you and Sherry at your wonderful home.

Thanks so much.

And now if you'd like to say a few words.

ZOELLICK: Well, thank you, Madam Secretary, for your extremely gracious remarks.

When the secretary asked me to join her as deputy secretary, I appreciated her confidence and her friendship. I knew that with the guidance of the president, she wanted to give fresh impetus to U.S. diplomacy, and we certainly have done so, with the excellent colleagues at State and other departments.

I am pleased to have helped to build a first-rate team at the State Department, offer counsel on a number of initiatives, back up the secretary given her active agenda and travel schedule, and taking personal charge of some issues, especially with China and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Sudan, international economic topics, and helping with the Congress.

As the secretary said when we first talked about this assignment, my experience at the State Department from 1989 to '92 helped give us an inside perspective on the great talent and energy here. We've been colleagues and friends for a long time, so we knew we could work well together. And were able to build on the firm foundation laid by Colin Powell and Rich Armitage, two excellent leaders.

I began service with the president as U.S. trade representative in early 2001, so I'm now well into six years in public office. I've accomplished what I've set out to do, and it's time for me to step down.

I'm pleased to be joining Goldman Sachs, which will be making an announcement shortly.

I will, of course, miss my very dedicated colleagues at the State Department. I have worked with them over the years: during my earlier tour here, when I was in the private sector, during my service at USTR, and most recently as deputy secretary.

They are superb public servants and patriots. Many, many are good friends. Whether presidential appointees, Foreign Service, Civil Service, Foreign Service nationals, it's been an honor to serve with them.

When I've traveled around the world, I try to stop in -- even if only quickly -- to thank the embassy staffs. In fact, I did so two weeks ago in the Dominican Republic.

In these visits to our embassies, big and small, I've seen firsthand the extraordinary service our colleagues provide to the American people.

ZOELLICK: Many risk their lives in dangerous posts. The public can be very proud of their representatives abroad.

And I've certainly learned very much from our colleagues at the department, not only in policy, but in character and duty.

The development and execution of foreign policy also depends on the contributions of the host of other departments across the U.S. government. We get things done together as a team.

I've tried to support the president and the secretary through my work with our partner agencies. So I want to thank those colleagues who have been generous and very cooperative.

Of course, the backing of the U.S. Congress is vital for a sustainable and effective American foreign policy. (OFF-MIKE) of our relations with the Congress from the very start of our work together. So I'd like to thank the many members of Congress of both parties who have offered me support, counsel and encouragement in this post and others.

In closing, I'd like to thank this final time both President Bush and Secretary Rice for the opportunity they've afforded me.

When the secretary spoke at her confirmation hearing, she said, quote, "The time for diplomacy is now." And so it has been. The effect of the secretary's work is evident, and I'm pleased to have been able to contribute. And I'm confident that she and the department will have and leave an even stronger mark in the months and years ahead.

So thank you very much.


Source: CQ Transcriptions © 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved.

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