WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Newly-confirmed Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice held her first townhall meeting on Monday in the Dean Acheson Auditorium. Rice, who began her State Department career as an intern in 1997, was introduced by one of the department’s newest interns.
My name is Sarah Beale,” the intern said during Sec. Rice’s introduction. “I’m sure almost all of you might say, ‘Sarah who,’ and for good reason. I started at the department only two weeks ago, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, where Sec. Rice began her State Department career, also as an intern in 1977. I’m sure all of the interns were as thrilled as I was when, in the first few sentences of her welcome address last Thursday morning, she mentioned that fact.”
Prior to taking questions, Sec. Rice reiterated her statements from her congressional hearings by saying that the “time for diplomacy is now.”
“We have fought two wars in the greater Middle East, in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Rice said. “We face a world in which we recognize after September 11th that we have to have change in the Middle East, change based on democratic values, change based on the spread of liberty, because without the dignity and the hope that liberty and freedom bring, we’re going to see nothing but the kind of hopelessness that terrorism brings. And we now understand that we have to have a different kind of Middle East. It’s a time, again, when America’s values and America’s interests are completely linked.”
Rice quoted noted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as saying that democracy is “something for infidels” and that a vote for democracy is “something that we will oppose.”
“Well, the Iraqi people answered that and answered it resoundingly,” Rice countered. “So this is a time when democracy and freedom can be on the march. This is a time when we can demand good governance for people who are trapped in hopelessness and poverty.”
Rice added that America’s foreign policy is based on values.
“Yes, we have interests, and we know that there is a world out there that looks a certain way, that we have to deal with the world as it is,” the secretary of state said. “But you know, the thing about the Trumans and the Achesons and the Kennans is they didn’t just accept the world as it was. They believed that it was possible to change it.”
Rice added, “That’s why this is an extraordinary time. That’s why the Department of State is going to be leading a tremendous effort to use our diplomacy literally to change the world.”
John Limbert, president of the American Foreign Service Association, asked Rice about the upcoming State Department budget and urged that the department “not repeat the bad days of the ’90s, which really … crippled … our operations.”
“We can’t afford to go back to the ’90s when we were missing whole classes of people,” Rice responded. “That is really not something that we can countenance. I realize how important the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative is. And we will try to continue it at a pace that meets at least the need to continue to bring fresh blood into the Service and to make sure that people are well trained and well taken care of. So you can be assured that I’m most dedicated to making sure that we have a steady flow of people coming in.”
Rice also addressed the issue of international law and said that the Abu Ghraib prison incident in Iraq was a “horrible blot on America and on our reputation.”
“The United States, though, is a country of laws,” Rice said. “And as a result, there have been investigations of what happened there and people are, indeed, being punished for what happened there. But I want to be very clear: This Department, along with the rest of the Administration, will be a strong voice for international legal norms, for living up to our treaty obligations, to recognizing that America’s moral authority in international politics also rests on our ability to defend international laws and international treaties.”