Our Leaders Speak for Themselves:
Otto J. Reich's Remarks during his Swearing-In as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere AffairsOn March 11 in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC Otto J. Reich said the following during his remarks at his swearing-in as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs:
As much as I appreciate your presence, my first words of gratitude, on behalf of myself and my brother, my family and my fellow Cuban- Americans, must go to this most generous of countries, the United States of America.
As most of you know, my country of birth, Cuba, lost its liberty to a totalitarian dictatorship forty-three years ago. My family, like so many other nonpolitical families, was in danger simply because of our love of liberty, which ran counter to the communist ideology being imposed by force on that island.
The United States of America opened its doors to us, as it has done for millions yearning to breathe free. It did not ask for anything in return, except allegiance and respect for the laws. It protected our lives, gave us liberty and the opportunity to pursue our happiness....
...where else but in the United States of America could the son of Jamaican immigrants rise to be the National Security Advisor to the President, then become the highest-ranking officer in the most powerful Armed Forces in the world and then Secretary of State. Where else could he administer the oath of office to another son of the Caribbean-- half-Cuban, half-Austrian, half-Catholic, half-Jewish--and charge him with directing our country's relations with the 34 nations of our home hemisphere? But I don't want you White Anglo Saxon Protestants out there to despair. There is room in our society for you, too.
....Much has been written in the so-called "prestige press" about my previous work. Some of it even true! There were charges of "covert propaganda" by the office I headed in the 1980's: the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, Mr. Secretary, today I have a confession to make about the work of that office. Now that the Statute of Limitations has expired, I think it is safe for me to confirm what so many on the other side suspected: Yes, the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean was single- handedly responsible for the downfall of the Soviet Union!
....I am part of a great team of professionals, both career and non-career. I am both excited and apprehensive about this assignment, because seldom have we faced as many challenges and opportunities simultaneously in the Americas as we do today.
This is a continent of contrasts: incredible wealth and unbearable poverty; freedom and repression; world class literature and high illiteracy; abundance and injustice. It is a continent where peasants and workers and laborers work from dawn to dusk, but reach the end of their lives in misery. What is the reason for that? It is not for lack of resources. This continent has all the natural and human resources necessary to achieve levels of development like those of Europe or North America.
The creative forces of all the population must be allowed to flourish. Governing elites must encourage, not discourage, individual initiative. People must be given the freedom to produce and then to enjoy the fruits of their work. ....We must battle a number of threats all at once: terrorism, drug trafficking, common crime, disease, ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, apathy, racism, despotism, selfishness. As Secretary Powell mentioned--corruption. Corruption is the single largest obstacle to development in the developing world. Those who steal from the public purse are doing as much harm to their country as a foreign invader would.
Whether it is the policeman who takes a $2 bribe to tear up a traffic ticket or the Cabinet official who takes $2 million to rig a government contract, they are doing untold damage to their countries. But in adversity there is opportunity. For each financial collapse there is the possibility of recovery. For every war there is the prospect of peace. The Mexican patriot, Benito Juarez, said "El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz." Peace, he said, is achieved through respect for the rights of others. And when governments and persons follow Juarez's advice and respect the civil, political and economic rights of others, we will have peace.
The U.S cannot solve all the problems of this Hemisphere. But we can help those who help themselves.
Finally, as I said earlier, questions were raised about my ideology. If you want to know what my ideology is, you need not go far. Just drive a few blocks from here to the Jefferson Memorial.
Inscribed in the largest letters at the highest point of the inside of the monument is a quotation from that great Virginian and first Secretary of State: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." That is where my American ideology is founded.
As Thomas Jefferson's words remind us, our struggle against tyranny is not finished. Since September 11, exactly six months ago today, we are more determined and indivisible than at any time since World WarII.
Whether they are terrorists in Afghanistan or Colombia, or despots in Baghdad or Havana, anyone trying to impose tyranny over the mind of man has earned our eternal hostility.
Thank you all for sharing this very important day with me and my family.
God Bless you and God Bless this great country of ours.
For the complete text of this speech, and other Department of State statements and testimonies, see this web page.
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This story was published on April 4, 2002.