by Richard Boucher

Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesman
Remarks to the Pilgrims Society of Great Britain
London, United Kingdom
November 28, 2002

from ListServ@ListsStateGov Website

My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen.

I am honored to be here tonight. However, I was a little wary of being in England on Thanksgiving day. I was afraid that I might be the turkey at this dinner.

It can be difficult for an American to be overseas on this holiday. Thanksgiving is about family, friends, too much good food, and falling asleep while watching football on television. I feel more at home, though, thanks to this wonderful dinner. But the football games on BBC are not the same. And I usually do not wear a white tie to eat turkey.

I understand there are people in England besides you who celebrate Thanksgiving. They do it in their own way, and a little earlier—September 6th, the day the Pilgrims finally left England.

The Pilgrims and England were not on the best of terms when the Mayflower set sail. Fortunately, our nations moved past that point and today we are strong partners, allies, and friends. President Bush has said many times that the United States has no better friend than Great Britain. Our relationship proves an old axiom—children cannot really appreciate their parents until they move out of the house. Great Britain’s extraordinary response to the September 11 terrorist attacks confirms our abiding friendship. We are deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Family, Prime Minister Blair, other political leaders, and the British people.
What makes our bond so strong? True, we are cut from the same cloth. But people like you and groups like the Pilgrims Society link our countries at a tangible level. Over the past 100 years, you have deepened and strengthened our relationship at its core—among our individual citizens.

Our relationship is also strong because our nations developed and remain today bound together by certain principles. In a farewell letter to the Pilgrims, their pastor John Robinson alluded to some of these principles. He talked about the Pilgrims becoming a “body politic” with a civil government, choosing their governors themselves. The Pilgrim’s voyage was about breaking the shackles of intolerance. It was about cleaving to the ideals held in self governance and the rule of law. Simply put, the Pilgrims’ voyage was about freedom. And freedom is the foremost principle that binds together America and Great Britain. Freedom makes us strong.
I declare myself an unabashed simplistic American. I believe in freedom as a right, a responsibility, a destiny, a force that cannot be vanquished. And, in my line of work, it is more than a faith—freedom is a foreign policy. It is just that simple.

In the National Security Strategy of the United States President Bush stated:

“America must stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.”

We stand for something—that is our strength. We stand for the rights of individuals to decide how they live. We stand for economic opportunities without discrimination. We stand for protecting those who voice their grievances. We stand for societies free from the grip of disease, corruption, and crime. Again simply put, we stand for freedom, and more freedom is better.

President Kennedy said it well in his inaugural address:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Forty years later, his immediate cause, our cause, has been won with the end of Soviet communism. And yet, our task, our purpose, and our policy remain the same.

Today the light of democracy shines brighter than we ever dared to hope. The curtain that divided ideologies in Europe has rusted out and crumbled. Gone is the force that stymied the potential of generations. Now fledgling democracies are seeking paths to security and prosperity. They are reforming, adapting, and retooling. They are becoming trustworthy partners and friends. As proof, seven new democracies were invited into NATO last week. And the European Union is growing.

The people in these new democracies are building civil society. They are demanding rule of law and respect for human rights. They are participating in the global economy. They are insisting on good governance from their leaders. This is not a fluke, nor is it easy. It is proof that freedom works, and political and economic freedom work together.

Even people not living in democracies are still subject to the same truths. They are touched through the media, travel, and the Internet. Democracy’s promise burns inside them and they seek new opportunities. I have seen again and again in my time overseas, that once people begin choosing between brands of shampoo, they eventually realize they deserve to choose their leaders. I agree. No censor can squelch every radio broadcast or shut down every printing press. No regime can prevent its citizens from thinking about things they hear and see in a different land. No Internet filter can block every byte of information. This is the power of democracy. This is the reality of freedom.

The United States of America is united with others who understand this power.

Together we will assist countries that want to be free, open, and prosperous. As Secretary of State Powell said during his confirmation hearings:

“...this is a time of great opportunity for us. We have the strength to take risks for peace. We must help a world that wants to be free.”

Each region, each country has its own challenges to success. But together we can reverse years of oppression, rebuild from war, escape the clutches of disease, or whatever it might take to bring change. And change in the right direction is the key to stability, prosperity, and safety for our world, and that of our children’s children.

Tearing down trade barriers is change in the right direction. Open markets are inherent aspects of free societies, because freedom comes in both political and economic flavors. The ancient Silk Road opened routes not only for goods and services, but also for ideas. America does not intend to supplant other countries’ cultures with its own. What a boring, drab world that would be. Rather, we hope that closer trade ties will give people in other countries a taste of freedom. And freedom in no way is an American creation—it is a human creation.

America is willing to put our money where our mouth is to help bring change. With a war on terrorism, the challenge of Iraq, and everything else going on, perhaps it is not surprising that the new push for freer global trade proceeds relatively unnoticed. The Doha Development round is built on a simple premise - more open markets bring benefits to both developed and developing countries. Implementing trade commitments could add hundreds of billions of dollars to annual Gross Domestic Product in developing countries alone.

Trade is a key driver for economic development, but countries still need official development assistance. President Bush wants to ensure that America’s assistance is invested in countries that are committed to helping their own people. He unveiled the Millennium Challenge Account, which, within three years, will total $5 billion per year. But we will not let this assistance be devoured by corruption or greed. The Account will specifically support countries that govern justly, invest in the health and education of their people, and promote enterprise and entrepreneurship. Countries choosing these paths are making changes in the right direction.
These kinds of changes help freedom and democracy take root. But freedom has its enemies—those who lead by fear, oppression, and force.

America stands ready to defend freedom in every corner of the world. We are prepared to use military force, but it certainly is not the only tool nor the first choice. Democracy is the best defense of freedom, and we hope the best antidote to extremism.

Just two weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council challenged Iraq to disarm, to let its people and its neighbors live free from the fear of further attack.. We now have a strong, principled resolution that makes clear what the Iraqi regime needs to do. The goal is simple—to fully and finally end Iraq’s illegal programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The onus is on Iraq to disclose its programs fully by December 8 and then to destroy them completely under the watchful scrutiny of the inspectors.

In this matter, the international community is speaking with one voice. We will not be blackmailed or terrorized by a murderous tyrant armed with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

As Prime Minister Blair said,

“Saddam must now make his choice. My message to him is this: disarm or you face force. There must be no more games, no more deceit, no more prevarication, obstruction or defiance Defy the United Nations’ will and we will disarm you by force. Be under no doubt whatever of that.”

The Iraqi people deserve to live in hope, not in fear. They deserve to spend their money on development, on their children, on their future, not on weapons or palaces. Standing together, we will remove this common threat to peace and end the theft of opportunity imposed on the people of Iraq.

We defended freedom with your country and others to liberate Afghanistan from the brutal control of the Taliban. We remain in Afghanistan working with a new government to rebuild the dreams and unleash the potential of the Afghan people.

Tremendous potential resides in the women and girls of Afghanistan. Today, five thousand Afghan girls attend a brightly-painted high school in Mazar e-Sharif that only months ago was a bombed out shell. Afghan women are learning new skills and finding new jobs. Medical care is improving. And more and more women are traveling, even sometimes without wearing a burqa. We want to improve the rights of women in Afghanistan. We want to increase their participation in Afghanistan’s society. We want women in Afghanistan to be able to live fulfilling, happy lives. This is a small part of a massive agenda that requires massive resources. But every penny is money well spent because it means more freedom for more people.

Coalition partners are defending freedom in the fight against terrorism. We have made significant progress. Nations across the globe have strengthened law enforcement and intelligence cooperation. They have tightened border controls to make it harder for terrorists to move. And they have strangled the financial flows of terrorist organizations. Even with these accomplishments, we must not become complacent. False comfort makes a perfect target for terrorism.

Terrorists are still plotting, still scraping together money, and still finding opportunities to murder. Terrorists can use all the tools of the Internet age and advanced technology to communicate, plan, and carry out attacks. We must be vigilant and steadfast.

We are pressing freedom in the Middle East. The terror and violence must stop.

Palestinians and Israelis both have a right to live outside the shadow of fear. Our goal is for Palestinians and Israelis to have the opportunity - the freedom - to raise their children in peaceful democratic states living side by side. President Bush laid out his vision in June, and said:

“It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation.”

The situation in the Middle East must change, and freedom for both sides will unlock the door to peace.

The United States will defend freedom relentlessly. It is in our blood and in our souls. But fighting for freedom does not always come in the context of war, bombs, or suffering. In this age, unlike in President Kennedy’s, it has an enormously wonderful, enormously positive aspect as well: expanding the community of freedom.
NATO is the strongest security alliance in history and will be even stronger with its new members. A growing European Union expands the community of freedom as well. As Americans, we look forward to the Copenhagen enlargement as much as many Europeans.


We want Europe’s new democracies to be rooted in good governance, the rule of law, and human rights - membership in the European Union is the best way to cement those values. We want this for their benefit, but also ours. More countries in the folds of NATO and the European Union, and our new relations with a new Russia reinforce peace, prosperity, and democracy across the greatest swath of democracy the world has ever known—from Vancouver to Vilnius and all the way around to Vladivostok. For those of us who grew up in the Cold War, who practiced putting our heads under our desks in case of nuclear attack, there is nothing more wonderful in our age.

You may be tired of hearing me talk about freedom -so I’ll stop soon. But being that unabashed simplistic American, to me that is what it is all about—plain and simple! The United States stands for freedom, defends freedom, advances freedom, and enlarges the community of freedom because we think it is the right thing to do. We are grateful to have allies and friends such as the United Kingdom that believe the same and are willing to fight the tough battles with us.

I cannot say what full freedom around the globe would look like. I believe freedom is more an aspiration than a state. The preamble to America’s Constitution begins: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...” That statement implies an ongoing effort, always stretching towards perfect. In a similar way, people of nations like yours and mine are all still pilgrims enduring the rough seas and the hard first winter in the quest for freedom. The trials and tribulations are worth it. Why? The answer is the one the Pilgrims sought—Freedom.

My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, thank you again for the honor of addressing you this evening. Happy Thanksgiving, God bless America, and God save the Queen.