Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Charles Z. Wick, Director of the United States Information Agency

 

November 17, 1988

 

Thank you, Harold. Thank you all very much. It's a delight to join you tonight as we honor a dear friend of mine and Nancy's. But what brings me here is a lot more than our friendship. It is to recognize and express my gratitude for the remarkable job Charles Wick has done at USIA. To put it simply: Charles is the man who brought our international communications agency into the 20th century. And you know, this happens to be one of my favorite centuries. [Laughter] Charlie and I have shared a considerable portion of it together. [Laughter] Over the years, Charlie has distinguished himself as a businessman and entrepreneur, an attorney, a musician, an ardent and devoted patron of the arts, and a passionate patriot and lover of freedom. And now he can add to this litany the unique distinction of being the longest serving director, as you've been told, in the history of USIA, certainly one of the very finest. And boy, has he worked hard! Charlie is a man who loves puns. But I'll tell you, this Wick has been burning his candle at both ends. [Laughter]

 

It was Charlie who introduced the revolutionary concept of WORLDNET, successfully launched Radio Marti, gave us RIAS TV -- the television counterpart to our radio station in Berlin -- in modernizing the Voice of America, and helped the United States get its message out to the world with a degree of technological sophistication never seen before.

 

Now, people have asked me how I discovered this very effective public servant. Well, I just looked for someone with the balance of two qualities: a greatness of vision, yet still able to understand Washington. [Laughter] And when I found the man who would produce the classic film that combined Snow White and the Three Stooges -- [laughter] -- I said, I have found that man.

 

But the truth is that Charlie has played a central role in making U.S. information policy, a key part of our international activities in foreign policy. He's worked in concert with the top policy officials at the State Department and on the National Security Council and has served as my principal adviser on international information and cultural matters.

 

In 1983, when Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down, it was USIA, under Charlie's direction, that produced the dramatic video presentation we took to the United Nations to show the world what happened in the final minutes of that doomed flight. And as the Soviet Union began to introduce glasnost, Charlie arranged the U.S.-Soviet information talks to address key issues on the bilateral flow of information. With his ongoing efforts, new understandings were reached on disinformation and on the exchange of films and publications. The Voice of America is no longer jammed by the Soviets. And they have granted permission for the first time for Voice of America to open a bureau in Moscow.

 

The genius of Charlie Wick lies in his ability to recognize how changing information technology, especially satellite communications, has transformed the international political landscape. He understands the need for the United States to convey its message to the people of the world if we're to succeed internationally. And he knows how to do it better than it's ever been done before.

 

One thing that he also knows so well is that the United States Government can't do it alone. We couldn't have done it without you. All of you who have participated in the private sector committees and been so generous in your support have been a critical part of our success. Private sector volunteers, people like you working in such areas as medicine, labor, publishing, public relations, marketing, engineering, radio, television, and other fields have done much more than help USIA to do its important work. You've made it possible for us to show the world the essence of the American idea and to present to the planet our truest face: the one that says, ``We the People.'' Only in a country in which it really is the people who rule would the Government depend so greatly on private citizens like yourselves to help America share our message with the world. And only in a country as great as America would the response be as great as yours has been.

 

We've accomplished great things these past 8 years. Under Charlie's inspired leadership and with your strong support, USIA has undergone a rebirth of vision and a renewal of capability that will guide it well into the next century and for which America is truly grateful.

 

So, my good friend Charlie Wick, and to all of you, thank you, and God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:57 p.m. in the Hall of Flags at the Organization of American States building. He was introduced by Harold Burson, chairman and chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller and chairman of the dinner.