Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for coming. It’s my great honor to welcome President Obama and President Clinton. And let me also thank very personally Congressman Charlie Rangel for his extraordinary leadership in getting this building named for Ron Brown. I’m also glad that we’re joined today by Martha Johnson, the Administrator of GSA. This building’s architects, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, wanted to design an iconic tower that would become a landmark in New York City, and they have done a truly remarkable job. I want to pay particular tribute to this project’s lead architect, Charles Gwathmey, who died in 2009 at the age of 71.
It’s fitting that this building, in which we represent America to the world, is named in memory of a man who represented America so well. And I’m so moved to see the Brown family here today, especially Alma, Michael, Tracey, and their families.
So let us begin the program today by asking the incomparable Patti LaBelle to sing our national anthem.
After singing of the national anthem:
It’s a particular personal honor for me to be the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to work in this magnificent new building, with its beautiful architecture and its extraordinary art provided by the Foundation for the Preservation of Art in Embassies. And the reason is because Ron Brown was very special to me. When I was 4, my family moved into a house that backed on the Brown family home. So I knew Secretary Brown well and I grew up with Michael and Tracey. In fact, what very few basketball chops I have I got playing on the basketball court in their backyard.
I later had the great honor of serving with Ron Brown in the Clinton Administration. I particularly admired the way he mentored an entire generation of young African-American policymakers. Secretary Brown made the Commerce Department an incubator for extraordinary talent, and we are honored to have so many of those colleagues here with us today.
Secretary Brown was also great company. I’ll never forget how much fun it was to travel with him to Africa in 1995. And I’ll never forget the powerful reaction he engendered when he said, “The United States will no longer concede African markets to traditional colonial powers.”
Secretary Brown was more than a great American commerce secretary. He was also a great diplomat and he was an extraordinary role model. His life was cut far too short, but he lived more in his 54 years than most of us ever do. It’s a wonderful testament to Ron Brown that we dedicate this magnificent building in his honor.
Now it’s my great pleasure to welcome Secretary Brown’s dear friend and old boss, President Bill Clinton.
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