A partnership for regional prosperity and global peace.

AuthorNegroponte, John
Position35th Annual Henry T. King Conference: The US-Canadian Border Action Plan



My name is Davis Robinson. I am on the Executive Committee of the Canada-United States Law Institute. (1) John Negroponte and I, we go back so many years. We do not really want at this moment to admit how many years it is, but it is almost sixty years. John Negroponte, in our generation of foreign service officers, I was a foreign service officer myself for several years, he is the most distinguished, and has the most incredible record of any foreign service officer. I do not think there is anyone else who has come close to the number of senior appointments.

His first ambassadorial post, as I recall, was in Honduras, and that actually, I think, became one of the more controversial things in his lengthy career because of the Contras. I was the legal advisor at that time. He was the Ambassador to Mexico, he was the Ambassador to the Philippines, and he was the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science at the time of the Gulf of Maine negotiations, the Fisheries Agreement, the Boundary Agreement, and the Law of the Sea Convention. (2) He was the Deputy National Security Advisor. (3) He was the first Director of National Intelligence. (4) As you know, in the United States, often when we have turf fights, the way to solve them has been not to solve them but to create something new. So when the Commerce Department, State Department, and the Treasury Department were fighting over foreign trade, what did John F. Kennedy do? He set up the United States Trade Representatives Office, (5) so then there were four in the fight rather than three. John was then made the Ambassador to Iraq, (6) and his last assignment was as the Deputy Secretary of State, (7) the "#2" in the department. So it is a real honor and indeed a personal privilege to introduce this old friend who has had such a fabulous life, so I introduce you to John Negroponte.



I am going to take Davis with me wherever I give a speech. Thanks, Davis, very much. Let me start out, first of all, because I do not want Ambassador Heather Hodges to get the wrong impression. I want to acknowledge her presence here. She is our former Ambassador to the country of Ecuador, (8) and she now runs the World Affairs Council chapter here in the Cleveland area. (9) Heather is a very distinguished former senior personnel officer in the Department of State.

I want to thank Davis for having initiated this invitation to me, and I want to thank the organizers of the conference, the Canada-United States Law Institute. I am really delighted to be here. Frankly, I was not as aware as I should have been of the work that you do. And so I think this is a real eye-opener for me and something meaningful that I will take back to Washington. I want to say how delighted I am to see both the current and former Ambassadors of the United States to Canada, delighted that they are here today, and I want to thank everybody else for being involved, and to the number of Canadian friends, some of whom I have renewed acquaintance with after a certain period of time.

I have some prepared remarks, but before I do, I wanted to try and give them a little bit of context. We have emerged from a very difficult decade, the period 2000 to 2010, with these two wars which are not yet fully resolved by any means (one less so than the other) and a financial crisis that has really put the U.S. economy in a very challenging situation. So I think in summary terms, one could say that the epithet or the characterization of a sole remaining superpower, which Secretary of State Madeline Albright used in the 1990s, is clearly no longer apt. I think we find ourselves in a period of some question back home and some self-doubt. I also think around the world people are looking at us and saying, "what is the role of the United States going to be in the world going forward in the future?" What kind of place are we going to have over the next couple of generations? I always like to say it is a little like Mark Twain's famous epithet about rumors of my death being premature, and I think that is probably what one could also say about the United States' role in the world.

I think there is an awful lot going for the United States. It is today, and will be in the year 2050, still the third most populous country in the world. (10) And it is certainly going to be either the largest or the second largest economy in the world. (11) I think its entrepreneurial system and its innovativeness give it a great deal to commend it, and I think that perhaps a factor that we do not think about that much, but when you look at China's "One Child Policy," (12) and you look at the aging of Europe, (13) and then you look at the United States demographic picture, (14) the replenishment of our youthful population is really quite dynamic. So, I challenge my own students when I teach and I always say, well, try and imagine what things will be like in the year 2050? I mean, it is not so far off. Forty or fifty years back does not look that long a time ago to me. And so, you have to challenge yourself in that same way looking forward, and I think we can look forward to a fairly bright future, provided we do a couple of things.

I think probably the two most important ones involve putting our own fiscal house in order. We must at least come up with a plan that puts us on a trajectory, say over a ten year period, or at least a period of time that is reasonably well defined. And if we can get on that track, I think we are going to have to be more measured with regard to the international engagements, particularly military ones that we undertake. And I think, and very much along the model that President Obama has suggested to us, we are going to have to take more multilateral approaches. We are going to have to do more with other countries that are willing partners, and that, I think, is going to put an even greater premium on alliances, strong bilateral relationships, and close friendships. We are going to have to be more...

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