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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks With Cultural Ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 18, 2012


SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello. Welcome to the State Department. I am thrilled about this.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I’m very happy to be doing it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, there’s a lot – as you can tell, there’s a lot of people interested. If you don’t mind (inaudible) for me, and we’ll just take a step over here, and maybe I could say a few words of appreciation and excitement about this.

We, from time to time, ask distinguished Americans to take on an additional responsibility in the midst of their very busy lives as a cultural ambassador for our country. And we’re thrilled that you have agreed to do this. I know you’ll be going to Brazil later, I think, in the month, and what a great opportunity to meet with and talk to young people. And since most of the world is now young – (laughter) – I think it’s especially timely. But I’m just very grateful to you for taking the time.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the opportunity, since I think it’s something – I remember when Louis Armstrong first did it back for President Kennedy, one of my heroes. So it’s nice to be following in his footsteps.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a great story that you not only tell but exemplify, from the streets of Harlem to the NBA, and now all the work you’re doing with your foundation to give back, which we also think is terrific.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Thanks. Thank you. It’s been a long ride.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, what do we have there?

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: We have a gift for you.



SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to be able to keep that away from my husband, you know. (Laughter.)

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Do the best you can.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s terrific.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: There you go.


MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: This is a copy of my latest book.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’ve heard about that. Thank you.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: For when you start to read to your grandchildren.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let us hope. From your lips to God’s ears, right? (Laughter.)

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: I hope that Chelsea doesn’t mind me putting that pressure on her.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, well, I won’t say a word. And I’m sure my friends won’t either. (Laughter.)

This is terrific, and what a long overdue story about all of these people who made such a contribution. You go through and you look at what they created, invented, gave to the world. It’s a good memory.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Yeah. It’s a – for me, doing was important because of the textbooks I remember when I was a kid. The only time that black Americans were mentioned, having to do with the issues of slavery or for civil rights, and there’s so much more to the story.

SECRETARY CLINTON: There sure is. Well, and that’s one of the great accomplishments of our country. It may have taken us a while but we keep opening those doors for African Americans, for women, for all kinds of people who get written into history finally after all these years.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Someone had to do it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Someone had to do it.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: That’s right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, sir.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for everything.

MR. ABDUL-JABBAR: It’s all my pleasure.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. Take care now.

PRN: 2012/069

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