Ambassador Baker Addresses America-Japan Society

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
America Japan Society Annual Gala Dinner
Hotel Okura, Tokyo

November 12, 2004

AMBASSADOR BAKER: My friends, I am delighted to be here. Nancy and I have looked forward to this for some time and it was a complex situation because with Governor Schwarzenegger in town and a demanding schedule, this is my third event tonight. It's been a very good visit by Governor Schwarzenegger. After one of the meetings, I was sitting next to him and after he spoke, I leaned over and said, "You're really as good as George Schulz said you were." And he is. He's very good. He communicates efficiently, and he has things to say. I've been very impressed. He's very, very talented. My guess is that we'll hear a lot more from him as time goes by.

Mr. Prime Minister, I'm delighted to be here with you. Prime Minister Nakasone and I have known each other for a long time under many different circumstances, and I'm pleased once more to be at the table with you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Ambassador Okawara, and others in this audience, it's a pleasure to be with you. I have many friends in Japan - I've been here now for almost four years. There are many high points, the travel, the culture - all of these things have been remarkable, and you know, as a photographer, it's also been a great opportunity. But the thing that stands out most in my mind is the warmth and friendship of the Japanese people.

I think sometimes - when I have a moment to think - about why that's so. America and Japan are very different places. We are separated by a giant body of water; we have a different heritage, different cultures. It hasn't been so very long ago when we were fighting each other in the Pacific in a great war. But why, then, have Japan and the United States grown so close? I've told President Bush, and I will repeat to you, that I think it is not an exaggeration to say that Japan and America are closer than any other two major powers in the world. That's a great tribute to both countries, especially to Japan (applause).

There are probably a thousand reasons why that's so, but I'm going to suggest one that perhaps you'd like to think about. We have a highly developed industrial system in both countries; we have an educated population, by and large; we're committed to the advancement of science and technology; we have an appreciation for culture - our own and others. But there's one thing that stands out in my view, about Japan and the United States, that I believe has an effect on our friendship and our togetherness. We are perhaps the most efficient and effective participating democracies in the world.

There are many democracies in the world in name. There are many who profess to be democracies. But democracy to me means a structure of government and society that honestly tries to hear what people have to say, and then to translate it into useful public policy. I think Japan does that to a remarkable degree. I think we do in America the same, to a remarkable degree. We fight, quarrel, debate, agree, disagree - but the final analysis, either at the polling place or debated by Congress - our Congress or your Diet - in the final analysis, we reach a solution, and we establish a policy. But that policy is great not just because it is right, but also because it represents the distillation of the combined genius of our people. That, my friends, is the greatest asset, in my view, of America and Japan. We hear and we understand what our people have to say. We have a democratic system that is very efficient at translating that into useful public policy.

I give you that thought for whatever it's worth. I've thought a lot about it - what makes Japan and the United States so close? Ifm sure youfll have your own ideas, and there are no doubt many other reasons that we should consider. But we must treasure this relationship. We must grow to understand it better. We must extend it and improve it and embellish it, because as we are the greatest and richest nations on Earth, we have obligations that arise from that. We are perhaps as powerful as any two nations on Earth, now.

It comes as a great surprise to many of my Japanese friends to know that this country now has the second largest navy in the Pacific, devoted to peace and security and the protection of Japan. But it does not go unnoticed in a troubled world, whether in North Korea or elsewhere. So we stand together in the search for peace. We stand together in the hope that we can contribute to the stability, not only of the Asian-Pacific region, but to other regions of the world as well. We have to do that as the discharge of part of our responsibility for having been so blessed with the democratic system and rich rewards in our personal and professional lives.

Might I say just another word about Governor Schwarzenegger? I do not know him well, but I must tell you that he came to me well recommended - not only by my friend George Schultz, the former Secretary of State, who is one of his real champions, but also, my friends, because I served with another former governor of California, Ronald Reagan. And Ronald Reagan impressed on my mind the native wit of Californians and the quality of judgment, and my friend Governor Schwarzenegger carries on that tradition. I repeat, youfre going to hear a lot more about him. To use the words that he uses: gIfll be back!h (laughter) And I think he will (applause).

You are involved in many worthwhile activities. Perhaps none is as important as your scholarship fund, and my apology to the speaker, when I came in, for interrupting that magnificent dissertation in Japanese. I admire you for what you do to advance the cause of the education of young men and women.

By the way, as some of you know - or perhaps you donft - I have a grandson who spent a year here going to college. Hefs a senior now at the University of Tennessee, but I think he has so fallen in love with Japan, and almost certainly - one way or the other - ghefll be backh (laughter). And thatfs a tribute, my friends, to this country, that it appeals to young men and women from America, and I think it says something important about the quality of the friendship between our countries in the years ahead.

I have much more I could say, but my wife is looking at me, and saying, gyoufve already exceeded your allotted timeh (laughter). But once again, itfs such a pleasure to be with you and to be here among friends, Japanese and Americans, and to express my admiration for what you do.

And one final thought: What you do - for the good of mankind, for the education of young people, to alleviate poverty and suffering - is unique. Itfs unique to Japan and America. The independent sector of society, the non-governmental side, exists nowhere else as well advanced and developed as it is in America and Japan. And I admire it. I admire what you do here. I commend you for your work, now and in the future. I pledge my admiration, and also whatever help I can offer.

And I thank you very much (applause).