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Pacific Council Presents Inaugural Warren Christopher Award to Hillary Clinton

May 15, 2013

Last Wednesday night, in a ballroom packed with a who’s who of west coast movers and shakers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Pacific Council on International Policy (PCIP) presented its inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Warren Christopher’s family, who helped established the award, filled the table next to the one where I was seated, the Women’s Initiative Table, which is part of the Pacific Council’s effort to encourage women’s participation in foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton Receives Inaugural Christopher Award

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Pacific Council on International Policy (PCIP) as the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award recipient. Photo/Ken Pagliaro

The award honors the lifetime achievements of Warren Christopher, the longtime chair of the non-partisan Pacific Council’s Board of Directors, who died in 2011. Christopher’s life was devoted to public service, from a young naval officer to secretary of state to a counselor to presidents, and the head of the Christopher Commission in the wake of the Rodney King incident. As deputy secretary of state, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1981 for his role in negotiating the release of American hostages held in Iran for 444 days. The criteria for the Christopher Award include: commitment to international affairs, to the highest ethical standards, to promotion of the common good, to equality and fairness, and to government service as a noble pursuit.

Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States from January 2009 until February 2013, after four decades in public service as an advocate, attorney, first lady, and senator. As first lady, Hillary Clinton traveled to more than 80 countries to represent the U.S., including her trip to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in September 1995, where she said, “However different we may be, there is far more that unites us than divides us. We share a common future. And we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world. There are some who question the reason for this conference. There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe. Let them look at the women gathered here … It is conferences like this that compel governments and people everywhere to listen, look, and face the world’s most pressing problems.”

In 2000, she made history as the first first lady elected to the United States Senate. In 2007 and 2008, Clinton made her historic campaign for president. In her four years as secretary of state, Clinton presided over President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in his Administration’s foreign policy.  And on Wednesday night she reminded the audience that: “Asia is home to half the world’s population. Future growth,” she said, “and our hopes for a less bloody century, depends on the Asia Pacific. The U.S. is an Asia Pacific power, and our alliances there are strong.” Clinton noted that Christopher “understood, profoundly, the growing importance of Asia,” and credited him with putting the U.S. alliance with Japan “back on firm footing,” bolstering South Korea in the face of provocations from North Korea, and putting the U.S.-China relationship “on a positive trajectory.”

Clinton told the story of how Warren “Chris” Christopher, as secretary of state, was one of the first diplomats to ever make it a priority to attend ASEAN meetings; one of the requirements was that he participate in a skit after the business meetings were adjourned. “Chris” dressed up famously as the Statue of Liberty and sang “Home on the Range.” Clinton said it was a gesture that went a very long way in demonstrating U.S. commitment to ASEAN, and to Asia, more broadly.

Amy Ovalle is The Asia Foundation’s senior director for Global Communications, based in San Francisco. She is also a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. She can be reached at aovalle@asiafound.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

View all posts by Amy Ovalle

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