Sitting in the office of the Secretary of State and knowing that I’m here in this position after so many luminaries in my own country have held it, it is a very humbling experience. And I often marvel at what they achieved. And I think a lot about George Marshall and Harry Truman and the Marshall Plan. What an amazing decision — to rebuild former enemies with an eye toward the future. And I think about it in very personal terms, because at the end of World War II, my late father had served in the Navy, so when he left service as so many men of that time did and returned to private life, the last thing he wanted to hear his president or secretary of State say was, “Guess what? We’re going to still be taxing you to send money to Germany, to Europe. We’re going to rebuild Japan because we believe it is in the best interests of your children.”
But it wasn’t only our public leadership who sounded that note. It was also our business leadership as well who basically said, “Okay, we get it. And we’re willing to do our part as well.” In fact, when support for the program was flagging, the White House and the State Department called the heads of large corporations and universities and asked them to fan out across the United States making the case. So the United States invested $13 billion over four years, which in today’s money would be about 150 billion.
Imagine leaders today in either government or business going to their people and saying something similar. When the Berlin Wall fell, Helmut Kohl said, “We’re going to pay what it takes to reunify Germany and we’re going to rebuild our neighbors because the wall is gone,” and people said, “Oh, what a incredible investment of our money. We won; we should be the ones getting all the benefits.” But no; it was a decision that was supported by both government and business.
We face a lot of similar challenges today, and we need visionary leaders in both government and business. But those leaders need to be guided by these principles. Whether we’re talking about politics or economics, openness, transparency, freedom and fairness stand the test of time. And in the 21st century, every citizen who is now potentially connected with everyone else in the world will not sit idly by if those principles do not deliver, and if governments and business do not make good on when we’ll provide long-term opportunity for all.
This agenda is good for Asia, it’s good for America, it’s good for business. Most importantly, it’s good for people. And I absolutely believe it will help us create more a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world for the rest of this century. Thank you all very much.