[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book II)]
[November 7, 1996]
[Pages 2089-2091]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Resignation of Secretary of State Warren Christopher and 
an Exchange With Reporters
November 7, 1996

    The President. We are truly about to make a new beginning. 
Yesterday, at the wonderful welcome home that Hillary and Al and Tipper 
and I had at the White House, I saw a remarkable sight: Warren 
Christopher was wearing a T-shirt. [Laughter] He did have it on 
underneath his Saville Row suit. Nonetheless, it was there. This is the 
same Warren Christopher, I would remind you all, who made People 
magazine's best dressed list, the only man ever to eat Presidential 
M&M's on Air Force One with a knife and fork. [Laughter]
    Yesterday Secretary Christopher gave new meaning to my conviction 
that we are entering an age of new and remarkable possibility. Today it 
is with great regret at his departure but deep gratitude for his service 
to our administration and to our country that I have accepted Warren 
Christopher's decision to step down as Secretary of State.
    He has left the mark of his hand on history, not in some 
theoretical, intangible fashion but in concrete ways that have made a 
real difference in the lives of the American people and people around 
the world. He has served three previous Democratic administrations, as a 
trade negotiator, a Deputy Attorney General, a Deputy Secretary of State 
when he brought home our hostages from Iran. These past 4 years, I have 
been proud and privileged to have him by my side as Secretary of State.
    Today, if the children of the Middle East can imagine a future of 
cooperation, not conflict, if Bosnia's killing fields are once again 
playing fields, if the people of Haiti now live in democracy instead of 
under dictators, in no small measure, it is because of Warren 
Christopher. The cause of peace and freedom and decency have never had a 
more tireless or tenacious advocate.
    Those of us who have worked with Chris know that his quiet dignity 
masks a steely determination. Let me cite just one example.
    History will record that Bosnia's peace was secured at Dayton. It 
will also recall that, literally, until the last minute the outcome was 
in doubt. Our negotiators had their bags packed and were ready to head 
home without an agreement. But Chris refused to give up. And the force 
of his will finally convinced the Balkan leaders to give into the logic 
of peace.
    For all Secretary Christopher's skill at diffusing crises, I believe 
his lasting legacy was built behind the headlines, laying the 
foundations for our future. Under his leadership we've taken on new 
threats like terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and 
environmental degradation. We're seizing the opportunities to make the 
21st century more secure and prosperous for every American; working 
toward a Europe that is undivided, democratic, and at peace; building a 
new partnership with a strong and open Russia; meeting the challenges of 
change in Asia with strength and steadiness; opening more markets abroad 
and helping

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American businesses to take advantage of these new opportunities.
    Perhaps most important, Warren Christopher's life provides powerful 
proof that America has a unique responsibility and a unique privilege to 
lead. He has helped the American people understand that we cannot lead 
on the cheap; it takes time, energy, and resources. And as we go 
forward, I pledge to protect and preserve the resources for our 
diplomacy that Warren Christopher has put to such good use.
    Finally, let me say, as all of you know, I owe Warren Christopher a 
debt that extends far beyond the broad range of his responsibilities. 
Few individuals did more to shape my first administration. He chaired 
our Vice Presidential search committee, and I'd say he came up with a 
pretty good recommendation. [Laughter] The American people have him to 
thank for my selection of Al Gore and the subsequent development of the 
most unique partnership in the history of the Presidency and the Vice 
Presidency. And I think it is clear that the Vice President has been the 
most influential and constructive force ever to occupy the Vice 
Presidency's office.
    Warren Christopher directed the 1992 transition, in particular, in 
building a Cabinet team that helped to put America on track as we enter 
the 21st century, one which a scholar of the Presidency wrote me and 
said was the most loyal Cabinet since Thomas Jefferson's first 
    These past 4 years, time and again, I have reached out to my friend 
for his counsel, his judgment, and his support. It is no exaggeration to 
say that Warren Christopher has literally been America's elder 
statesman. It's also no exaggeration today that he retains the energy, 
the vigor, and the capacity of a person half his age.
    I thank Secretary Christopher for agreeing to stay on until we 
select a successor. I will consult closely with him in that process. In 
the weeks ahead I may have a hard time finding him, however. The 
Secretary is continuing to do the vital business of our Nation, 
participating next week in the Cairo conference, traveling to China and 
throughout Asia, moving on to Europe to work on Bosnia, and adapting 
NATO to the future.
    Secretary Christopher already has set a 4-year record as America's 
most traveled diplomat-in-chief. If you could earn frequent flyer miles 
for Government travel, we would owe him at least a round trip on the 
space shuttle. [Laughter] The Vice President says that with the travel 
he's already logged in, he could go to the Moon and back and back to the 
Moon again. I want him to travel a few more miles so he will finish on 
the right planet. [Laughter]
    Through dignity, determination, hard work, and skill, through an 
unbelievable, powerful collection and combination of his intellect, his 
integrity, and his good heart, Warren Christopher has earned our 
Nation's admiration and a debt that can never be fully repaid. From the 
bottom of my heart, I thank him for his service to the Nation and his 
unique friendship to the President.
    Mr. Secretary.

[At this point, Secretary Christopher made brief remarks.]

    Q. Mr. President, how will you go about choosing a successor? What's 
your plan for doing that?
    The President. Don't sit down now. It won't take long for me to 
answer this question. [Laughter]
    Let me say to all of you here in the press, I intend to have a press 
conference tomorrow afternoon, and I'll be more than happy to answer all 
of your questions in greater detail.
    But I will go about selecting a successor, first of all, by 
soliciting the Secretary of State's advice and the advice of others on 
our national security team and others beyond that with whom I have 
worked and whom I trust. And I'm sure I'll get some unsolicited advice 
as we go along, and that's a good thing. I believe that the Secretary 
will be difficult to replace, but I think there will be worthy Americans 
who can contribute, who are willing to serve. And with all these places 
where we have vacancies, I want to cast a wide net.
    And I think the American people sent us another message on Tuesday. 
They want us to work together. They like it when we try to have 
principled compromise. And they want us to create a vital center, that 
is, not one that just splits the difference but one that moves the 
country forward in an aggressive way, Republicans and Democrats and 
independents alike. And I will be looking, in all these personnel 
decisions that I have to make, across a broad span of American people to 
try to get the best people to create that vital center and take this 
country into the 21st century.

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    And I'll see you all tomorrow and look forward to answering your 
questions. Thank you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the Cross Halls on the State 
Floor at the White House.