Former Secretary of State Outlines Principles for World Leadership

Episcopal News Service. February 24, 1994 [94033]

Alice Macondray

"The long-lasting institutions in our society are not the great businesses, but our universities and our churches. [They represent] our commitment to learning and our commitment to God. We have internal work to do in these institutions -- we need to make parallel what we say and what we do. The churches must give us leadership."

With that strong admonition, George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State, past president of the Bectel Group, and a "faithful eight o'clocker" at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park, California, concluded his remarks to more than 160 people attending the Business of God lunch in San Francisco, on the theme, "The Struggle for the Future." The lunch was sponsored by the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Addressing the problems with Russia, Bosnia, North Korea, Muslim terrorists and domestic discord, Shultz stressed that our nation's political actions must align with the values we claim to espouse. We get those values "from our experience, and right out of the Scripture," Shultz said. "The church teaches us about values."

World leadership requires values

Failure to identify and uphold values, Shultz said, hinders our world leadership. "The U.S. has stood for ideas that people around the world basically like." But when "words and ideals don't match, even remotely," people in other nations lose faith in us.

Sometimes we declare our values but don't apply them consistently, Shultz said, citing our current relationship with Russia. We have backed Yeltsin "because he seems to be our best hope and ally for democracy." Yet Shultz also believes that our determination to support Yeltsin at all costs has been unwise. When Yeltsin does things "not in the interest of true democracy, we should speak up," he said.

In Bosnia, Shultz observed, "We're complicit in the mess -- we're involved in ridiculous diplomacy because one side has all the power." We say that using force will upset the negotiations. "But territory was acquired by aggression. Human rights violations are rampant.... (and) The other Eastern European nations are scared to death. Will anyone protect them if Russia comes back?" he asked.

The struggle for the future requires decisive leadership because, as Shultz sees it, we have the prospect of an "incredibly bright economic future... [about which] we can feel wildly optimistic." Thanks to the rapid pace of communication, "what happens in one place is soon known everywhere" and economic development can thus spread rapidly. Improved economy, Shultz noted, would bring rising standards of living. A "drift in the direction of democracy" tends to follow economic improvements, and "rarely do we see democracies, in an aggressive way, declaring war on each other."

Although economic growth prospects are "sensational," they can be destroyed by political tensions like terrorism and the availability of nuclear weapons, Shultz contended.

"How do we think about these problems?" Shultz asked. He suggested that we follow four principles. "Ideas matter," he said. "If your principles are right, then the tactical things fall into place." Among Shultz's principles:

  • First, domestic and foreign policy must be considered together; President Bush's mistake was a "neglect and lack of interest in what he called domestic affairs." President Clinton, Shultz thinks, has erred on the other side, letting foreign affairs slip away from him.
  • Second, strength and diplomacy are complementary, not in opposition. Strength doesn't mean being trigger-happy; but if your hands are tied behind your back, they'll hand over your head on a platter every time.
  • Shultz's third and fourth principles are to "get a habit of global thinking," and to have actions that match ideals. "Have a sense of vision, of conviction, a willingness to stand behind your principles when the going is tough."

Following his talk, Shultz was asked how we can "be all things to all people." "We can't manage the rest of the world," he responded, "But we can say what we stand for and choose good people."