Ambassador Baker Addresses 177th Executive Luncheon Meeting at Okura Hotel

March 10, 2004
Hotel Okura, Tokyo

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before this distinguished audience, and for having the privilege of hearing that generous introduction. When I hear that introduction, I am reminded of two things. One is how old I am, and the other is that I have now failed retirement three times.

But I am pleased to be here, notwithstanding that I never planned to be a diplomat anywhere, and was totally surprised when President Bush asked me to assume this job in Tokyo. I can also report to you that both my wife and I enjoy our time in Tokyo. We, frankly, enjoy some days more than others, because the relationship between our two countries, while close, cordial, and profitable, is also sometimes difficult. But that's our job: is to try and deal with those difficult issues and to bring our two nations even closer together.

I can also say, however, that I never planned to be the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. I had served 18 years in the Senate. I had safely retired to private life when President Reagan called and asked me to come to Washington. At the time, I was with my family in Florida. He did not say what he wanted, but I traveled to Washington the next day. I was met at the airport by a White House car that took me to the Southwest Gate of the White House, which is the entrance you use if you want to avoid the press. I went inside through the Diplomatic Reception Room entrance, was escorted to the little elevator on the ground level that goes up to the third floor of the White House, which is where we keep presidents. And the elevator door opened and there stood Ronald Reagan, who said, "Howard, I have to have a new Chief of Staff and I want you to do it." And I heard myself say, "Alright." And that was the end of my determination to return to private life.

But I must tell you that I cherish that experience of serving on a daily basis with President Reagan. I am a great Reagan admirer. I believe he was a great president. That's the subject for another speech, but I will tell you that my service with President Reagan as his Chief of Staff only reinforced my conviction. And by the way, I am convinced, on the basis of my long experience in public service, and particularly with my experience with him as Chief of Staff, that a successful President of the United States has three fundamental attributes, and Reagan had them distinctively.

Number one, to be a successful President of the United States, you must know who you are. Being President of the United States is unique, not yet fully defined, challenging, sometimes dangerous, but you've got to know who you are. You've got to be at peace with the fact that you are President of the United States. You're the head of state, you're the head of government, you're the leader of the, perhaps, strongest nation on earth, and the richest. You've got to know that that's your responsibility. You must not shy away from the realization that these are your duties. You've got to know who you are.

You've got to know what you believe, is the second thing. It's a little late to figure out your political philosophy after you reach the Oval Office. And Ronald Reagan understood what he believed. He had a lifetime commitment to his philosophical, democratic views, and they're fairly simple to define. President Reagan believed that America was overtaxed, overregulated, and that he must see, that America must see, that it is never successfully challenged in its security and prosperity and future, by any other nation on earth. So he knew what he believed.

You might disagree with Reagan, as many did, that his views were too simplistic (I think they were just fundamental, not simplistic), or too conservative - he was undeniably conservative in his social policies and fiscal policies - or that he was not inherently capable of serving in this great job, which is totally wrong. I think he ranks as one of the great presidents in our history. But over those three things - you've got to know who you are, what you believe, and what you want to do. And Ronald Reagan did all three of them in very successful style, and it was my privilege to serve with him as his Chief of Staff.

As Chief of Staff, I met with him every morning at 9:00 in the Oval Office. He's a man of punctual habits, and he would arrive in the Oval Office immaculately dressed not at 9:01 or 8:59 but promptly at 9:00. And he took his place behind his desk in the Oval Office, and it was just the two of us. As his Chief of Staff, that was the beginning of the day. And I was there to tell him what schedule had been arrived at for his day and what issues he would have to try to deal with, and who he was going to see. This is the function of a Chief of Staff.

But there's one other function I had not anticipated. He's a man of great good humor and every morning at 9:00, without exception, he had a little funny story he wanted to tell. And they were good little funny stories. They were wonderful stories. But it was also clear to me that when he finished, he expected me to have a funny little story. And the greatest danger in my career as Chief of Staff, I determined, was that I might run out of funny stories before he did, which would've been disastrous. But we had a happy relationship. It was a pleasure to serve with him, and I think he served America well.

But while I had no expectations of serving as his or anyone's Chief of Staff, it was a pleasure to look back on it and realize that I was an extraordinarily fortunate man to have this opportunity to see government first-hand at the presidential level and to serve with a man of such inspiration as President Reagan, who, by the way, as you know is not well. He is suffering from a disease that has a debilitating effect on his mind, and his general ability, but he now also has a broken hip. President Reagan really deserves better. But Tom Foley, one of my predecessors, was introduced once and said, after a generous introduction, "I really don't deserve that introduction," but he went on to say, "but on the other hand, I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that, either." So, he doesn't deserve it, President Reagan doesn't deserve it, but he endures it, and his wife, Nancy, is an extraordinary person. She's strong, patient, supportive. I talk to her from time to time, and the nation owes her a debt of gratitude for the good care she takes.

The one exception to the surprise, this career surprise, is that I was not surprised when I was elected to the United States Senate from Tennessee. As the introduction pointed out, I was the first Republican ever elected to the Senate from Tennessee, and I count that a great honor and a great privilege. But no one wanted me to run. My father was in Congress years ago. He had died by this time, and was succeeded by my mother, by the way, so that makes me a Congressional brat. There are others in this room who enjoy a family relationship in government and politics in the Diet. But no one wanted me to run. My children didn't want me to run. My father's political supporters did not want me to run. My mother did not want me to run. I was all alone in my determination to run for the Senate. And, indeed, when a New York Times reporter came down to interview my mother about my race for Senate, which happened to coincide with a speech I was making that night, the reporter, Al Hunt, said, "Mrs. Baker, are you going to hear your son's speech tonight?" and she said, "Goodness no. I heard everything he had to say years ago." Not really encouraging, my friends. But I was determined, and the people of Tennessee honored me with the privilege of representing them in the United States Senate and, as I say, as the first Republican.

But all of this to say, I have been an extraordinarily fortunate man. "Lucky" is, perhaps, not a sufficiently serious word, but I have been a lucky man. I am lucky to have done these things, that is, to be Chief of Staff, to be Majority Leader, to be in the Senate for all those years. I'm fortunate to have been successful in my law practice. And the practice was very good to me. I'm lucky to have had a loving family and two great children, and now five or four grandchildren. I really am most fortunate, and I am grateful for that.

But I have also been fortunate, and I realize it more every day, to have this opportunity to live in Japan and to serve as the American Ambassador here. It is little short of a religious miracle that Japan and the United States now are not just allies, as, indeed, we are, but that we're friends, which is far more important. America and Japan understand each other. We disagree, sometimes, on trade policy, on foreign policy, on a dozen other policies, but almost always, they yield to common sense and careful examination, and a common purpose. We are friends. That's the way friends are, and that's the way friends act. And that's one of the things I enjoy most about Japan. Both America and Japan are understanding people, and we speak, not just in words, but in understanding. And there is a decent respect for the other's point of view, which may be the very essence of friendship. But America and Japan are not only allies, we are friends.

We have accomplished much together. I live in the American Embassy residence - this is an historical house, built in 1931, by the way, and occupied by General Macarthur at the end of the war, as his residence. And one of our prized possessions is a picture of General Macarthur and the Emperor standing in our great reception room for their first meeting. It's a pointed thing to see that Macarthur is there in his wrinkled khakis and no tie. The Emperor is turned out in his morning coat and his striped trousers. They could not be more different. But as a result of that meeting and subsequent meetings, there was a spoken and an unspoken communication between General Macarthur and the Japanese Emperor.

And I think it contributes then and contributes now to the understanding between our two countries and the success of the administration of the period immediately after the war. When you compare the administration of the occupation in Japan with that in other countries it's extraordinary. And the rapidity with which Japan recovered its economic prowess and its status in the world, compared to some of our other friends, is remarkable indeed.

But I charge much of that, perhaps even most of that, to the perhaps instinctive understanding between Macarthur and the Emperor on that occasion. They became friends. That may sound strange to historians and perhaps, strange to your ears, but I am convinced on reading of that time immediately after the war and during the occupation that Macarthur and the Emperor became friends, and that they worked together to assure that the occupation would be successful, and that the creation of the new and free Japan would be successful as well. That's where I live, or, that occurred [where I live], and it's symbolic of the friendship between our two nations, in that single picture that was taken of Macarthur and the Emperor.

But America and Japan have many other things in common. We both have a fully-functioning, democratic government. We both have populations that are fully participatory. People in America speak their voice in politics, people in Japan do the same. And it is the most fundamental concept of democracy that it's function is to hear and understand what people have to say and to translate it into useful public policy. That's what democracy is about. And Japan does that. America does that, and we have that in common. We have a dedication to the free enterprise system and the cultivation of the opportunity for the individual to prosper. We put impediments in their way from time to time, but basically, we're both committed to that system of personal initiative and free enterprise. It has created vast wealth in Japan, but it's created vast wealth in America. And today, we stand as the two richest nations on earth. It is not accidental. In my view, it is because of these and other attributes that we share - that is, democratic government, a commitment to democracy, to an intelligent, well-educated population, and to an intrinsic understanding of the importance of innovation, of diligence, and of understanding of the responsibility of individual citizens.

For a few moments, my friends, I'd like to give you another illustration of the basis of the friendship between America and Japan. That's one that's not often spoken of, and that is our respective success and our continuing progress in the fields of science and technology. Japan is a leader in science and technology. Probably more than Japanese usually acknowledge. America is a leader in science and technology, and it's exhibited in a thousand different ways in a thousand different companies, enterprises, and personal endeavors. With new inventions, with new ideas, new concepts, with basic science, both America and Japan are great scientific nations.

But Japan is not often thought of in that respect, I'm sorry to say, and I have written a speech which I'm not going to give today, but which I'll give someday if I can find the right forum for it, trying to point out the fact that Japan is a great scientific nation. Perhaps most of you don't know that Japan has the two largest telescopes in the world for astronomical purposes. They happen to be in Hawaii, but they're still Japanese telescopes. Subaru telescopes. The two largest in the world. Perhaps you do not know that Japan has the most advanced ocean drilling program in the world. This is not a matter of curiosity, but a matter of trying to understand the crust of the earth and its impact on us and especially on our climate, but it is true. And Japan has an Earth Simulator, which houses the largest vector computers in the world to analyze that and other data for scientific purposes.

Some of you may know, perhaps most of you know, that Japan is a bidder for the new ITER [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor] project, which will be the world's next big science project, and that America supports that. We don't support it just out of friendship between Japan and the United States, but because it deserves to be here to build on the advances you've already made with your tokamak systems, with your examination of fundamental particle physics, and the prospects for the generation of energy - electricity in particular - from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei.

These are only some examples of why Japan should be thought of as a great scientific nation, and you are. You have many other programs in process. You continue to be deeply involved in the fundamental sciences and in the applied sciences. We were talking at our table here a moment ago about Japan's commitment to digital technology. Digital technology is an American concept that was devised many many years ago, principally at the Bell Labs, a private enterprise in the United States, that has been translated into the dominant physical application of modern science today. Digitizing everything is the rule of the day, and Japan is well advanced in that field, not only in theory, but also in its application.

Your great manufacturing companies, your great electronics companies, are leaders, are in the vanguard in the creation of new products and adapting digital technology to the future, whether it's communications or otherwise.

You spend a lot of money here on basic technology, and it's also a measure of the commitment of the nation, in my view, to science and technology, that you spend much of it on basic science, that is, where there is no obvious payoff. You do it because you're establishing physical or chemical principles on which to build. It takes a lot of courage to do that. In America we do it; we do it often and well. In Japan, you do it, but in some cases you spend billions of dollars on projects that have no immediate and obvious payoff, but that's where it comes from - that's where knowledge of mankind is advanced, and where you can translate that into new products, new concepts, new devices, a new and better way of life. A commitment to basic science and technology, which is awarded by an accumulation of Nobel Prizes to people here in Japan, and by others, such as the Japan prize and the Kyoto Blue Planet award and others, you are positive stimulators of basic science. And that will serve you well in the years to come and America wishes to be involved with you as a partner in these endeavors.

My friends, I could go on. Some of you fear that I will. But let me conclude by telling you that I have a vision of the future. I believe the good times have only just begun. I believe that, as a result of advancements in science and technology in the free world, in Japan and the United States and other parts of the world including many of our friends here in Asia, that in the future we can reasonably expect that we will be able to eliminate, at least, abject poverty, from the face of the earth, by creating more wealth and devising new ways to distribute it more equitably. And from that may flow the lifetime ambition of every nation, to eliminate poverty, but also to eliminate the seeds of conflict and war. I believe that. As a result of our scientific prowess, I think mankind has, at least, the opportunity, to advance beyond our present state of development, not only in science, but also in personal and national relationships.

I believe that as a result of our advancement in medical practice and chemistry and the physical sciences that it may be possible, not only to extend the useful life span of mankind, but also to make sure that it's worth living. That we eliminate, not only poverty, but we eliminate much of the pain and suffering that afflicts mankind now, and that we do it in a way that will benefit the most people the most time.

I believe, perhaps, the greatest thing for the future is the possibility that, as a result of attainments in education as well as science and technology, we may be able to develop the place where mankind itself is able to harness its native talent for discovering new things, whether it's in astronomy, or physics, or chemistry, particle physics, aviation, or whatever. I think the way you solve those problems is to harness the collective genius of the people. You do that best through a democratic system, and to translate it not only into useful public policy, but a useful policy for humanitarian purposes. I believe enhancement in educational opportunity will increase the chances that we can reach that plateau and realize on that promise. I think we have, through science and technology, the opportunity to improve the quality of our lives and improve the quality of our environment.

It is a matter of some pride to me that the modern environmental movement really began in America, and really began in the American Congress, and really began in the 1970s, and really began, actually, in my view, in the Air and Water Pollution Subcommittee of the Senate of the United States. My good friend Ed Muskie was chairman of that subcommittee, I, by the way, was ranking Republican on that subcommittee. But that was the origin of the Clean Air Act, of the Clean Water Act, and of so many other pieces of environmental legislation that have now been adopted and expanded on and elaborated on by other nations in other parts of the world. And I think, as a result of that effort, as a result of science and technology, there is a realistic chance that we can make a quantum leap forward in the quality of our environment in terms of air, water, and the human condition.

My friends, the last one is the possibility that we can make a major improvement in the quality of representative government, how we govern ourselves. It's an ongoing process. It is not complete. The American Constitutional Convention did not devise a perfect system, only the best that we've ever had, in my opinion. But it's an ongoing process that is constantly changing and adapting to modern times. And so it is in Japan. And so it is, as I see in the newspaper, that Japan is talking about changing your statute law or your constitution, and other fundamental changes. Of course you will. Exactly how you do that is up to you. But you will change, because change is the dynamic for forward motion. But I think that change in our governing system, as with education, will enhance our opportunity to harness the collective wisdom, indeed, the collective genius, of the people of Japan, the United States, and the rest of the world.

So you see, my friends, I am an optimist. I like being an optimist, and I urge you to be optimists, because optimism drives the future. Pessimism deters the future. So let's work together. Let's not be blindly optimistic, but let's be realistic and optimistic at the same time. No two nations are better suited to that, in my view, than Japan and the United States, and I'm pleased to be here, and to have the chance to say these things. Thank you very much.