Well, I welcome you all to the Benjamin Franklin Room here on the eighth floor of the State Department. And it’s a real pleasure to host this event. As Jo Carole so generously said, I have been involved with FAPE for a long time and am delighted by the results of the dedication and generosity that all of you have evidenced over those years. Jo Carole has done a marvelous job with FAPE, just as she has with the Museum of Modern Art and so much else that she has nurtured herself.
I really appreciate all of you who have contributed to FAPE. And it is a special pleasure to welcome back to the State Department Colin Powell, who is being immortalized in this 40-foot mural in Jamaica. There’s another story about the stars that someone was born under and three wise men and all of that. (Laughter.) But I think we have the closest to the modern equivalent here. (Applause.)
I have to say that my interest in FAPE during the ‘90s as First Lady was sparked by the dedication of a number of you who made a convincing case that we really needed to step it up and get American artists and their work exhibited as a real symbol of American culture and the arts. It was also quite wonderful for me because in the White House, you could not accept any gift from a living artist. So the fact that we could accept all these gifts for FAPE from all of the artists who are here tonight was a special treat. And I do well remember the day in Ottawa when we were able to dedicate Joel Shapiro’s wonderful sculpture. And I’ve seen the results of your work and your contributions throughout the world.
And actually, the work of FAPE became even more important after 9/11, and here’s what I mean by that. Not only as a sign of our outreach and willingness to engage the rest of the world, but because of security, so many of our embassies began looking like bunkers, and that was the price we paid. Beautiful buildings that had once housed our ambassadors and all of our consulates and missions were now being replaced by very forbidding, often unwelcoming buildings. We’ve gotten better over the last several years in trying to combine our security needs with a more inviting edifice. But were it not for the arts and the work that you have done, it would have been difficult.
I recently visited our new embassy in Beijing. It’s a masterpiece, an absolute masterpiece, and made so in large measure because of the strategic location of the work of the artists who are here and many others. And I want to extend my congratulations to Justice Breyer. Justice Breyer and Joanna are such great citizens of Washington. They have not stayed in the Ivory Tower of the Supreme Court, but in fact have been involved in the life of this city. And I really appreciate especially Justice Breyer’s commitment to making our federal buildings more aesthetically pleasing, and you will hear more about that in a minute.
There are so many wonderful ways that FAPE has worked to expand America’s reach and to recognize American arts and culture. And I hope that you really appreciate the importance of the role that you’re playing. The State Department, working in conjunction with President Obama and the White House and the rest of our government, is reaching out around the world at a breakneck pace to try to make it clear that we will protect America’s security while advancing our interests and exemplifying our values.
And we have a number of ambassadors here who have joined us, and we welcome all of you as part of this celebration tonight. And I’m grateful beyond words, Jo Carole, to you and everyone involved with FAPE for really helping us exercise smart and artistic power around the world. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)