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U.S. Department of State
93/04/21 Address at Dean Acheson Stamp Dedication Ceremony
Office of the Spokesman


Address by
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
at the Dean Acheson Stamp Dedication Ceremony

Washington, DC
April 21, 1993

It is a very great pleasure to be here this morning with David Acheson, 
Mary Bundy, Jane Brown, Eleanor Acheson, and other members and friends 
of the Acheson family.  And I would also like to thank the Postmaster 
General, Marvin Runyon, for being with us and the US Postal Service for 
having produced such a fine new stamp.

The day I was nominated to the office I now hold, I began my acceptance 
remarks by invoking George Marshall and Dean Acheson.  In my law school 
days, their examples inspired me to try to have some time in my life for 
public service.  My law school dean, Carl Spaeth, called my attention to 
a 1946 Acheson speech entitled "Random Harvest."  Frankly, I've been 
hooked on Acheson ever since.  I still think about the haunting question 
that he asked in that speech:  "What do I know, or think I know, from my 
own experience and not by literary osmosis?"  That's a good question to 
remember if you should happen to get overconfident some day.

Of course, it was beyond my imagination that one day I would be asked to 
serve in the office that Marshall and Acheson held.  And I must say it's 
tough, four decades later, to seek to follow in their footsteps.  Their 
legacy was immense:  not only the policies they put in place but the 
dynamic forces they set in motion.

The measure of Dean Acheson's greatness is that he took history as he 
found it, and then he made history.  As Under Secretary, Mr. Acheson 
liked to quote a rule which he attributed to Secretary Marshall:  "Don't 
fight the problem.  Decide it."  Dean Acheson didn't flinch; he decided.  
And what he decided preserved our freedom and security.

Mr. Acheson titled his memoir of his years at the State Department too 
modestly.  He was far more than "present at the creation."  He was a 
creator:  a creator of policies that were supported and sustained by 
Presidents of both parties and by both houses of Congress; policies that 
saw their final vindication in the victory of freedom; policies that 
give us, in the last decade of the 20th century, a historic opportunity 
to start afresh.  Because of Dean Acheson and the Presidents he served 
and the people he served with, we have the chance--and the 
responsibility--to create new policies for a different world.

In Acheson's postwar world, the United States stood proudly with its 
Western allies in victory but nearly alone in power.  Americans saw 
European democracies teetering between reinvention and extinction, 
economies lying in ruin, communist dictatorships consolidating their 
hold in Eastern Europe, the Iron Curtain descending, and a Cold War 
chilling the new peace.

An exhausted Europe turned to America for leadership.  And President 
Truman turned to George Marshall and Dean Acheson to shape and execute a 
foreign policy that would defend America's interests and advance the 
cause of freedom.

Together they put the pillars of peace in place:

--  At Bretton Woods, an international economic framework that enabled 
countries to trade, grow, and prosper again;

--  With the Marshall Plan, an investment in peace and prosperity that 
showed America at its soft-hearted and hard-headed best;

--  For Greece and Turkey, military aid that fended off the communist 
threat;

--  Through the founding of NATO, an institution dedicated to collective 
security and the defense of freedom that still is our mainstay.

They put those pillars in place.  And those pillars still stood as the 
Berlin Wall fell.  Communism was contained.  Freedom was defended.  Our 
values were upheld.

Unfortunately, Dean Acheson did not live to see Solidarity on strike or 
the Velvet Revolution in action or to meet a President Walesa or a 
President Havel--or to know an elected President of Russia named 
Yeltsin.  Nor did he witness the ratcheting down of the nuclear threat.  
But it was Dean Acheson's life's work that helped to make these historic 
events happen.

President Truman called Acheson "the top brain man" in his Cabinet.  But 
it was more than a piercing intellect that made him as close to 
indispensable as a public servant can ever be in a democracy.  Acheson 
exemplified what one admirer called "an inner integrity in public life."

Mr. Acheson appreciated the value of working with the loyal opposition.  
The partnership he forged with Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg had 
both practical advantages and a deep patriotic purpose.  It demonstrated 
that bipartisanship can be an indispensable element of a successful 
foreign policy.

Mr. Acheson was a man of character and complexity.  Literate and 
learned, witty and wise, he had style and he had substance.  He had an 
easy elegance and a hard-hitting directness.  He was a patrician and a 
Democrat.  He was compassionate toward people but unsentimental about 
using power on behalf of principle.

For all his elegance, Mr. Acheson had an attractive earthiness.  He was 
fond of the remark that "Statesmen are not architects but gardeners 
dealing with such materials as only nature can provide."  Earthier 
still, he also liked to say, "To hell with the cheese, let's get out of 
the trap."

Even in the jungle of Washington, he practiced a certain etiquette and 
projected a distinct elan.  That's why, when it came time for someone in 
his Administration to move on, President Roosevelt said, "Ask Dean 
Acheson how a gentleman resigns."

Dean Acheson was also a man who knew where he stood and how to stand his 
ground.  As Lord Jenkins, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
wrote recently, "The late 1940s and early 1950s were as dangerous as 
they were creative, and Acheson's nerve as good as his vision."

Today we are starting over again in a changed world without sure 
guideposts or certain guidelines.  We face a post-Cold War period in 
international relations that represents as sharp a break for us as the 
postwar period was for Dean Acheson.

Mr. Acheson showed us that we can act in light of our constant values 
and vital interests without being knocked off our stride by the passions 
and burdens of the moment.  He showed us that as a great nation, the 
United States can make judicious use of its great power on behalf of 
great principles.  Mr. Acheson's life, his service, his work showed us 
that the world can be made a safer, freer, and better place.

Mr. Acheson liked to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes' remark that "the 
United States is the least exclusive club in the world, but it has the 
highest dues."  Mr. Acheson more than paid his dues; and now the United 
States is giving him his due with this handsome stamp.

Thank you, and let us today honor the centennial of the birth of this 
great American and distinguished Secretary of State. (###)

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