275. Address by Secretary of State Shultz1

Progress, Freedom, and Responsibility

Thank you very much, President [of Harvard University Derek] Bok. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Mr. President, Governor, Mayor, of course, Mr. Speaker, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.2 Tip [Congressman O’Neill], we spend so much of our lives paying tribute to you in Washington that it’s a real pleasure to come here and pay tribute to you in your hometown.

And, Mr. Governor, I will deliver the message you requested to Jim Baker, but I’d like to make a request. If he turns down those World Series tickets, would you save them for me?3

In the introduction, President Bok mentioned my diverse career, but you didn’t mention the fact that my universities have been Princeton, M.I.T., Chicago, and now Stanford. So you can see how I feel right now—a chance to give a talk at Harvard. This magnificent institution stands for a great tradition of intellectual openness, free inquiry, and pursuit of truth. And as the nurturer of so many Presidents, Governors, Senators, Secretaries of State, and other public servants, Harvard also embodies a commitment to country—a devotion to the well-being of the nation and to its responsible role of leadership in the world.

So I know that I have come to the right place to voice a message of outrage at the detention of Nick Daniloff, Harvard class of 1956.4 [Page 1202] The cynical arrest of an innocent American journalist reminds us of what we already know: our traditions of free inquiry and openness are spurned by the Soviets, showing the dark side of a society prepared to resort to hostage-taking as an instrument of policy. Let there be no talk of a “trade” for Daniloff.5 We, and Nick himself, have ruled that out. The Soviet leadership must find the wisdom to settle this case quickly in accordance with the dictates of simple human decency and of civilized national behavior.

So I know also I’ve come to the right place to deliver a message of concern, to speak of some disturbing trends I see in this country, to tell of some important lessons America has learned in recent years and some lessons we apparently have not yet learned. These disturbing trends at home are all the more paradoxical because they occur against the backdrop of powerful positive forces at work today in the world at large, forces that offer us an extraordinary opportunity if we don’t throw it away.

Change and Its Positive Implications

Ours is a time of many seemingly contradictory forces at work: even as communications shrink the planet and economics increases our interdependence, nationalism is more potent than ever; technology advances at dizzying speed even as, once again, religious faith becomes a powerful political force all around the world.

But one significant trend is already discernible. The advanced nations of the world are already in the throes of a new scientific and technological revolution—one whose social, economic, political, and strategic consequences are only beginning to be felt.

The industrial age is ending; in some parts of the world, it is already gone. A century ago, our country moved from an agricultural to an industrial phase of our development. Today, we remain agriculturally and industrially productive. We more than feed ourselves. Over the last 20 years, manufacturing as a share of our gross national product has remained constant at 22% even as the proportion of the labor force needed to produce those goods has declined from 24% to 18% during these same two decades. But if we try to put a label on our era, we would have to call it an information revolution. And it promises to transform the structure of our economies and the political life of the [Page 1203] planet as thoroughly as did the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries.

I see this as a revolution of great promise. It’s a stimulus to a new era of economic growth. It’s a challenge that the free nations of the world, above all, are in the best position to meet. The President captured the essence of the essential relationship between freedom and progress when he noted:

Everywhere, people and governments are beginning to recognize that the secret of a progressive new world is the creativity of the human spirit. . . . Our open advocacy of freedom as the engine of progress [is one of] the most important ways to bring about a world where prosperity is commonplace, conflict an aberration, and human dignity a way of life.6

So it is no coincidence that the free nations have once again been the source of technological innovation. An economic system congenial to free scientific inquiry, entrepreneurial risk taking, and consumer freedom has been the fount of creativity and the mechanism for spreading innovation far and wide. A political system that welcomes, indeed, thrives on a free flow of ideas and information and people and goods across national boundaries finds itself the natural breeding ground of progress. The developing countries, seeking their own path to a better future, find the West their natural partner for cooperative endeavors. And even the countries of the communist world turn to the West as the source of advanced technology.

Our adversaries, indeed, face an inescapable dilemma. They see the new postindustrial era coming, and they see the West well poised to take advantage of it. And yet, opening themselves up to the information revolution and its benefits risks what is the essence of their political power—the effort to control thought and behavior through the tight monopoly they maintain over information and free communication. They fear losing control over what their people read and see. How can a system that keeps photocopiers and mimeograph machines under strict control and surveillance exploit the benefits of the video cassette recorder and the personal computer? With each innovation, the leaders of the totalitarian world are reminded of their agonizing choice: they can either open their societies to the freedoms necessary for the pursuit of technological advance or they can risk falling even further behind the West. In reality, though, it may be already too late for them to catch up with the future.

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So we are learning that the information revolution holds out profound promise for America. And yet, it’s only one of the positive forces at work in the world. Let me give you some examples of other things we have learned in recent years.

First, we have learned once again that freedom is a revolutionary force. Dictatorships—left or right—are not permanent. In Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, and Nicaragua, imperialism, oppression, and regimentation have given rise to resistance movements that struggle for the rights denied them by communist rule. In South Africa, the structure of apartheid is under seige as never before. In Latin America, the yearning for democracy has transformed the political complexion of the entire continent. Contrary to the expectations of many only 5 or 6 years ago, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have joined Costa Rica in the democratic trend in Central America—leaving only Nicaragua as the odd man out. In the Philippines, the same yearning brought a remarkable, peaceful transition to a new democratic way. And Thailand has not received the notice it deserves. Sharp political differences there led to vividly contested recent elections, and they have re-formed their government on the basis of that election result. Not so many years ago, democratic nations were thought to be a dwindling and embattled minority; today, the vitality of the idea of democracy is the most important political reality of our time.

And we have learned again that there is a connection between freedom and economic progress. Few countries around the world now dispute that entrepreneurial initiative in a market environment is the engine of development and growth. At the economic summits, all the leading industrial nations have acknowledged that structural rigidities imposed by government are the main obstacle to renewed growth. At the UN Special Session [on the Critical Economic Situation in Africa] in May, the African nations—including those hardest hit by experiments in collectivist planning—issued an extraordinary document calling for more open markets and less intervention by the state.7 These truths, too, are now being acknowledged even in the communist world, as reforms in China and Hungary demonstrate.

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Closer to home, we have rediscovered the truths that, as America’s weakness makes the world a more dangerous place, America’s strength deters aggression and encourages restraint and negotiation. We have seen how the rebuilding of America’s defenses in the early 1980s gave the Soviets an incentive to return to negotiations on arms control. Our ability to project power abroad has helped us protect our vital interests and defend our friends against subversion and aggression. Our military strike against Libya8—undertaken as a last resort after years of Qadhafi’s terrorism—has sent a powerful signal to friends and enemies alike. This morning our prayers and our all-out efforts go to the hostages on Pan Am Flight 73.9 Clearly, the day has not yet arrived when terrorism has taken its place among other vanquished barbarisms of our time. But that day will come—and when it does, history will show that American resolve, backed up by our power, tipped the balance in favor of peace and security.

And the past few years have reminded us of another truth: America is a powerful and constructive force in the world for progress and human freedom. Throughout the three centuries and a half we mark today, Americans have believed this country had a moral significance and responsibility that transcended our military and economic power. There is an irresistible current in our national character that impels us to serve as a human example and champion of justice.

Part of America’s positive role has to do with our history. Our fight for independence and for political freedom began not far from here—with more than a few Harvard men in the vanguard. A century or so ago, we fought the bloodiest war in our history to try to eradicate the curse of oppression based on race. Today, that epic struggle for justice continues here at home. As our nation emerged as a world leader, especially in the past 50 years, we always sought to apply to our international endeavors the same high standards and high moral goals that we set for ourselves. From the founding of the United Nations, to the Marshall Plan,10 to the formation of our democratic alliances, to our support for decolonization and for economic development, to our stance [Page 1206] as a champion of human rights—this nation can be proud of what it has accomplished in the world. And we should find special satisfaction in seeing the trends I described earlier—the spread of democracy and economic freedom, the new technological revolution—trends that once again mean history is on our side.

Trends That Threaten Our Future

And yet now, when we can see for ourselves that a better future is likely to take shape if, and perhaps only if, America is there to help shape it, pressures are mounting within our country to turn our backs on the world. Ominous developments are on the all-too-near horizon, and most of us may not even realize it.

And this is not the first time. Our nation more than once has swung from involvement to isolation. And even in the decades since we supposedly put our isolationist past behind us, we have at times been tempted again by the illusion that we can promote justice by aloof self-righteousness, that we can promote peace by merely wishing for it. We are an impatient people. We sometimes have seemed to feel that problems should be solved quickly or not at all, that we best serve our principles by striking the right pose or doing what makes us, for the moment, feel good.

It’s time to wake up—before we endanger the world’s future and our own. These dangers take many forms, but they all have in common a thoughtless escapism, a retreat from responsibility, an attempt to evade the reality of our dependence on the world and the world’s dependence on us. As such, whether we admit it or not, they amount to nothing less than an isolationist throwback that could once again propel the world toward catastrophe.

One danger sign is the evil of protectionism. Not since the days of Smoot-Hawley have the forces of protectionism been as powerful as they are today in the U.S. Congress.11 We should have learned from the experience of 50 years ago how protectionism only impoverishes us along with our trading partners, spurs inevitable retaliation, and shuts down the engine of world trade and, therefore, of world growth.

In our earliest days as a nation, the founders of the United States understood that free trade was the key to growth and prosperity. Within the borders of our nation, they created one open trading system, and the world’s biggest—and, because of that, most prosperous—economy was the result. Similarly, the statesmen at work after World War II knew well the lessons of the 1930s. They put in place a more and more open world economy, and generations benefited from the growth and stability that [Page 1207] followed. In today’s global economy, our prosperity and that of other nations depend even more on an open trading system.

Yet now we see a new spiral of protectionism, and the spread of other anticompetitive practices like subsidies, endangering some of our most important political and security relationships with other countries. The new democracies in the Philippines and Latin America, the poorer countries burdened by debt, and many key friends around the world—who all wish to earn their way back to prosperity—find the road ahead threatened by protectionism in this country. Since our economy is the biggest—and since we have always been the pillar of free trade—if we succumb, we will do untold damage to the world’s hopes for prosperity and peace. And our own citizens of the future will blame us for foolishly failing to uphold our own nation’s interests.

Another form of escape is self-righteous moralism. I have to say I see signs of this in the fervor for punitive sanctions against South Africa. The reality is that the United States has imposed increasing sanctions against South Africa from President Kennedy’s bar on military sales in 196212 to the array of measures in President Reagan’s Executive order of 1985.13 And now the free market itself is slowing the pace of the South African economy. But sanctions are not solutions. Those on whom political sanctions are imposed grow more defiant and can evade their own responsibilities by pointing to so-called outside influences as a scapegoat.

White South Africans must recognize that apartheid is a disaster of their own creation and that it must be done away with in an active and orderly fashion if their own interests are to survive. The wide-ranging sanctions now proposed in the Congress would do America a double disservice—by enabling proponents of apartheid to blame South Africa’s disastrous economy on us while, at the same time, drastically reducing our presence, our leverage, and our example as a force for economic and political change. In a delusion of increasing our influence over events, we could find ourselves quickly on the verge of virtual powerlessness as a result of our absence from the South African scene.

The transition from tyranny to democracy is a delicate process. Sometimes it goes badly wrong, as in Iran or Nicaragua. Sometimes it goes well, as in Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, or in Latin America. We should be clear about what we are for: we are for a rapid end to apartheid and for a peaceful transition to a democratic system. It is not [Page 1208] our job to egg on a race war or to accelerate a polarization that will lead to such a result. Our morality and our values must have a strong presence in our foreign policy. But we must guard against a self-righteous morality which can be self-defeating and thereby run counter to our moral objective.

Other examples of our native inclination toward withdrawal can be found in our impatience with diplomacy. The pursuit of practical political solutions in this world calls for perseverance, understanding of ambiguity, and a recognition of the need for compromise. Negotiation is how we engage other nations for positive purposes. But the very concept of negotiations is assaulted today by an array of misconceptions.

Some call urgently for negotiations but deny that diplomacy requires strength to back it up. Others argue—correctly—that we should never negotiate from weakness, but then assert that when we are strong, we need not negotiate. Some would deny us all leverage or would legislate unilateral concessions; others are fearful of negotiations because they assume for some reason that we are bound to be taken advantage of. Many despair of the United Nations and the disturbing trends within it—but some would walk away from its challenges and opportunities rather than make use of our ability to improve its operation. We must strengthen our role in the United Nations for affirmative reasons and also lest others whose interests are adverse to ours step into our place.

Thus, whether the issue is regional conflict, arms control, or trade, elements far apart on the political spectrum combine in counsels of escapism. They are denials of reality. The reality is that efforts to resolve problems among nations are essential and, in the end, inevitable. The reality is that democracies will not support policies of intransigence. The reality is that many practical, realistic objectives can be attained by hardheaded negotiations. Negotiations can work.

There is, finally, another extraordinary development: the congressional attack on the foreign affairs budget. We are about to witness the dismantling—indeed, butchering—of the most important instrument of our foreign policy: our ability to represent and support strongly our interests and ideals. We face a self-inflicted crisis which, if not reversed, will gravely damage the ability of the United States to maintain its leadership in the world, to bolster international security, and to support the cause of freedom, democracy, and human progress.

It pains me to speak of this at Harvard, where George C. Marshall proposed a plan that committed the United States to the future of Europe. We all heard him only a few minutes ago [by recording]. He spoke for a generation of statesmen, of both political parties, who had learned the lessons of the 1930s and who committed the United States to the world, to an open economic system, to the defense of freedom against [Page 1209] tyranny. They established the pillars of the postwar system: the Bretton Woods monetary system that tied the world together; the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its successive rounds; the Marshall Plan and World Bank—mechanisms for international reconstruction and development—the Marshall Plan then made up 11% of the total Federal budget; and NATO.

The achievements of the postwar statesmen were an assertion of thought and learning and leadership, foreseen and set out in the broadest scale. They became the foundation stones for the democracy, the prosperity, and the security of the West that we know today.

In January of this year, President Reagan submitted to Congress an international affairs budget for fiscal year 1987 that we had stripped to the bone.14 It amounted to only 2% of the total Federal budget. Yet the current congressional budget resolution cuts that minimal and considered request by 27%. And recent congressional actions would reduce and restrict the remaining amount even further.

These reductions, and the earmarking of aid levels to a few countries, will deprive us of over half of all our security and economic assistance to many countries of the world. These are nations who are key to our interests and security or where we must help in the transition to democracy and economic freedom. The dollars we spend on such assistance are the most cost-effective bargain among all of our national security activities.

  • It will mean the closing of diplomatic posts and the reduction of our personnel abroad—to an overall personnel level that will then be below that when George C. Marshall was Secretary of State.
  • It will mean a one-third cut in funding for the multilateral development banks, which are crucial to Third World economic progress.
  • It means a severe setback to our effort to halt the production and illegal export of narcotics from abroad, just as our programs are gaining momentum.
  • And it means the closing of American libraries and cultural centers overseas and curtailing Voice of America broadcasting.

I have not come to Harvard to tell you of just one more bureaucratic budget battle. The impact of these cuts combined with fierce reductions in our defense budget, rampant protectionism, and moralistic instincts toward withdrawal from the world, will be devastating to our foreign relations. They mean undoing the last 50 years of America’s positive [Page 1210] role of leadership in the world; it is simply mindless to do so when so many positive trends are at work in the world and so many opportunities open before us.

History shows that in this century American withdrawal only heightens global dangers and the risk of conflict. The strategic and economic consequences of the Smoot-Hawley tariff—along with the illusions of isolationism and lowered defense preparedness—helped ignite the international tensions that exploded in World War II. Even in the 1970s we saw that when America retreats within itself, the advantage goes to our adversaries, whose purposes in the world are antithetical to our most deeply held principles.

Why then look inward just as the gains of remaining engaged are most profound? We are a nation of unprecedented strengths—strategic, economic, and political—and unprecedented blessings. When our economy is strong, when our position in the world is secure, it is easy to forget that much of the world around us is still ruled by a ruthless few, who will not hesitate to fill the vacuum created when we pull back.

An Open Window to the World

I began by noting that this great university was a proper place to talk about what America and the world have learned in recent years. Today, as we all gather at Harvard—where higher education in America began—we think not only of what Harvard has meant to its own but of its meaning to the building of America and to our engagement with the world in years ahead.

To me, America’s past can be characterized by the great theme of openness. Our universities lead the world because we possess a society that is open—to peoples, to ideas, to enterprise, and to the forces of change.

I have spent a large part of my life in the university. I taught, but I also learned a lot. One of the things I learned—and it’s been reinforced very much as I’ve traveled around the world—is that our colleges and universities are one of America’s greatest assets. There is nothing like our system of higher education anywhere else in the world.

So today, the world turns to the United States precisely because of our openness. At Harvard, as at all our great universities, students from every corner of the globe come in search of new dimensions of understanding and analysis, new currents of thought and innovation, new developments across the range of human knowledge. Today, over 340,000 young men and women from overseas are studying in the United States—just to take a few numbers: 21,000 Malaysians; 18,000 from Nigeria; 6,000 from the United Kingdom. It is especially gratifying that China—a country that for so long tried to cut itself off from [Page 1211] the world and to develop itself in the totalitarian mold—now sends upwards of 15,000 students here each year.

America is inextricably engaged in the world through its great private institutions and through its people—whose international interests, travels, and ties continue. How paradoxical it is that we may now be drifting—stumbling, perhaps unconsciously—out of phase with our outward-looking citizens and their wide-ranging interests.

Today, our ideals and interests converge. We face a choice. My call today is for a reawakening to the reality that America—government and people—must remain open to the world and engaged or risk diminution of our essence as a people and our vocation as a nation.

I believe that those disturbing trends I mentioned are not representative of what this country and its people really believe. As the greatest democracy in the world, America is a reminder to all that there is an alternative to tyranny, oppression, and despair. Those who built this university were not a fearful, timid people. They did not shirk their responsibilities. They were practical men and women. They were earthy and realistic, and their lives were guided by a dream, by a vision, and by a sense of duty toward coming generations.

Let us honor that tradition. It is a tradition of practicality and realism, of dedication to the progress of open societies. It is a call for us for confidence in the future that only openness and freedom can bring.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, November 1986, pp. 11–14. All brackets are in the original. Shultz spoke before Harvard University’s 350th anniversary convocation. Excerpts from the address are printed in the New York Times, September 6, 1986, p. 7.
  2. References are to Bok, Dukakis, Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, and O’Neill.
  3. Presumably, Dukakis suggested that the Boston Red Sox would win the American League championship and the Houston Astros would win the National League championship, pitting the two teams against each other in the World Series. However, the New York Mets won the National League and defeated the Red Sox in the World Series in October.
  4. Soviet authorities detained Daniloff in Moscow on August 30, following his meeting with a Soviet acquaintance who handed him a package containing maps classified as Top Secret. For additional information, see Philip Taubman, “A U.S. Journalist Is Held in Moscow: Seized After Being Given Maps by a Soviet Acquaintance,” New York Times, pp. A1, A18, and Gary Lee, “Soviet KGB Arrests U.S. Reporter: State Department Protests ‘Contrived’ Detention of Daniloff,” Washington Post, pp. A1, A30; both August 31, 1986. At a September 29 Senate campaign rally for Christopher Bond in Kansas City, the President announced: “Now, before I get into my remarks, I have—if you’ll just wait a second—I have something of a news announcement I would like to make, that—in case you haven’t heard it already—that at 12 p.m. central time, a Lufthansa airliner left Moscow bound for Frankfurt, West Germany, and on board are Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Daniloff.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1986, Book II, p. 1284) Documentation on Daniloff’s seizure and release is in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. V, Soviet Union, March 1985–October 1986.
  5. Shultz is referring to the late August arrest in New York of Soviet physicist Gennadi Zakharov, assigned to the United Nations Secretariat, on charges of espionage. In his memoir, Shultz wrote: “We had arrested a real spy in a sting operation, and the Soviets had taken a reporter to use in bargaining for a swap. The wire services soon were carrying a story, datelined Santa Barbara, indicating that the United States would consider a ‘swap’ of Daniloff for Zakharov, a breathtakingly stupid thing to say. Someone in the California White House had blundered badly.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pp. 728–729)
  6. The President offered these remarks within the context of his September 24, 1984, address before the United Nations General Assembly; see Document 206.
  7. The thirteenth special session took place May 27–June 1. On June 1, the General Assembly approved a five-year program of action for African economic recovery and development. (Elaine Sciolino, “U.N. in Agreement on Steps to Bring African Recovery: A Pledge of Partnership: No Specific Aid Commitments Made at Special Session, but a Path is Charted,” New York Times, June 2, 1986, pp. A1, A8) For the text of the United Nations Programme of Action for African Recovery and Development 1986–1990, printed as an annex to S–13/2, see Resolutions and Decisions adopted by the General Assembly during its Thirteenth Special Session, 27 May1 June 1986, General Assembly, Official Records: Thirteenth Special Session, Supplement No. 2 (A/S–13/16), pp. 3–9.
  8. See footnote 8, Document 271.
  9. On September 5, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked while on the ground in Karachi, Pakistan. The flight had arrived from Bombay en route to Frankfurt and later New York. (Steven R. Weisman, “2 Terrorists Held: Shots Erupt on Pan Am 747 in Karachi After Its Lights Go Out,” New York Times, September 6, 1986, pp. 1, 4) Shultz wrote in his memoir: “I had hoped to go back to the farm [his farm in western Massachusetts] for the weekend but returned to Washington to deal more effectively with the Daniloff case and with the hijacking of a Pan Am jet in Karachi by Arab terrorists. By the time I was back in my State Department office Friday afternoon, we had reports that the Pan Am plane had been stormed by Pakistani commandos. Later, passengers said they escaped after the terrorists panicked when a generator failed. The terrorists opened fire and survivors escaped in the chaos through emergency exits. This incident was over.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, p. 729)
  10. See footnote 3, Document 177.
  11. See footnote 10, Document 248.
  12. The date is in error. On August 2, 1963, UN Ambassador Stevenson informed the UN Security Council that the United States would suspend sales of military equipment to South Africa by January 1, 1964. (Sam Pope Brewer, “U.S. Tells U.N. It Will Halt Arms Sales to South Africa,” New York Times, August 3, 1963, pp. 1, 6) See also Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXI, Africa, Document 411.
  13. See footnote 3, Document 248.
  14. For the President’s February 5 message to Congress transmitting the FY 1987 budget, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1986, Book I, pp. 131–136.