Spreading Democracy Requires Vision, Optimism, Rice Says
American Forces Press Service
GARMISCH, Germany, Feb. 15, 2006 The key to spreading and sustaining democracy is for leaders to remain visionary and optimistic, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told more than 200 students from 49 countries here Feb. 10.
Rice addressed the students, faculty and staff of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in a late-afternoon teleconference from the State Department in Washington, D.C. The students were participants in the center's 12-week Program in Advanced Security Studies and its five-week Program in Terrorism and Security Studies.
"It really was an extraordinary event for our participants to not only interact with the U.S. secretary of state, but to engage in the kind of no-holds-barred question-and-answer session they did," said Marshall Center Director John Rose. Rice addressed those present for several minutes then took questions from the students at the joint U.S. and German center. She told the students that participating in a Marshall Center program gives them something she finds in short supply.
"The Marshall Center, I think, is one of the finest institutions that has been created in recent times," Rice said. "It really is very important ... after the end of the Cold War, to bring together leaders and future leaders of countries that are concerned about peace, concerned about democracy, concerned about prosperity."
Rice said the Marshall Center offers a "wonderful opportunity" for leaders from multiple countries to "get to know each other and spend some time reflecting on the tremendous events we are all witnessing."
As government officials in foreign affairs, defense or the interior for their nations, the students often are participants in the events that affect their home countries. Being a participant makes it hard to find time for reflection, but Rice encouraged the students to "step back and think about the big picture of history that is unfolding before us."
"When I do that, I think about the person for whom this center is named; I think about the people like George Marshall, who in 1945 faced a world that was really in ruin after the end of World War II," Rice said. "And I ask myself how those people must have felt every day when they got up and they went to work and thought about the tremendous strategic challenges to democracy that they were facing."
Those who are able to do that will help bring peace and prosperity to today's troubled regions in the same way that the work of George Marshall and his contemporaries led to the peace Europe enjoys today, she said.
"There is no doubt that the great challenge of our time now is to see liberty and democracy spread to places where it has not taken root, to sustain and nurture new democracies around the world to the place that they are self-sustaining and capable and able to deliver for their people."
Rice's comments prompted the Marshall Center students to ask a wide range of questions, including several about the participants' home countries and the U.S. position on issues in the news.
"She was very candid and answered any question that any of our participants cared to ask," Rose said. "I think both sides benefited, because our participants got to ask direct questions of someone who thinks and operates on a global scale, and the U.S. benefited because these are 200 men and women who, I really believe, are going to be the future ambassadors, general officers, parliamentarians and ministers for their nations. All are certainly among the very the best, most talented and brightest leaders from 49 different nations."
Rose added, "Secretary Rice made a difference and truly enhanced the image of the United States."
(Courtesy of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.)