Media Center



June 21, 2004 - Washington, DC

It is with great pleasure that I welcome U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Richard G. Lugar to the Organization of American States. This is truly a special occasion for our Organization as it marks the first time that the Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee has addressed our Permanent Council. Indeed, this may be the first time a member of the U.S. Congress has addressed this Council.

Senator Lugar:

We live in a historical moment in which it seems the entire focus of the world’s attention is on the Middle East and the war on terrorism. This single-minded concern has unfortunately been to the detriment of many other regions of the world which undoubtedly merit significant consideration. To have the most senior foreign policy member of the legislative branch of the United States government visit the OAS is a clear demonstration of your commitment to the region and your determination to promote positive relations among the peoples of the Americas. This of course comes as no surprise as it is fully in keeping with both your personal and professional record.

At a time when the world seems more divided than united, it is a particular honor for us to have here in the house of the Americas a legislator who, in his long and fruitful career, has distinguished himself as a builder of bridges, as someone who tirelessly looks for and builds on agreement. Someone who, even in challenging times, has always remained a statesman.

Senator Lugar, who was first elected to his post in 1976, is the longest-serving U.S. senator in Indiana history. He has served as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since January 2003, regaining a chairmanship he originally held between 1985 and 1986. Senator Lugar has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was a staunch opponent of apartheid in South Africa spearheading efforts to secure passage of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Perhaps his greatest achievement in the Senate was his sponsorship, along with Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which became law in 1991. This innovative program to decommission nuclear warheads in the former Soviet Union has resulted in the destruction of more than 6,000 warheads to date. Senator Lugar also holds 38 honorary doctorate degrees and has been named Outstanding Legislator by the American Political Science Association.

Senator Lugar’s support for democracy around the world has been marked by deeds and not just words. He has observed elections in Guatemala and was co-leader of the official U.S. Election Observer Delegation in the 1986 Philippines election in which Corazon Aquino became President. In the Philippines, Senator Lugar highlighted the systematic electoral fraud committed by the Marcos regime and convinced the U.S. government to recognize Mrs. Aquino as the rightful winner of the elections.

Senator Lugar understands that democracy means more than just the holding of elections. He understands too that in the Americas we cannot hope to have fully consolidated democracies until we address the problems of corruption, inadequate social safety nets, inefficient states and widespread poverty.

He has been a vocal advocate of sensible US engagement and leadership in the world and a steadfast champion of the benefits of free trade seeing in it an antidote to the poverty that threatens so many of the citizens of our Hemisphere. He has backed bilateral free trade agreements with Chile and Uruguay and has also supported the Andean Trade Preference Act.

From our privileged vantage point here in Washington, we at the Organization have admired his tireless work and deep commitment to fostering cooperation and promoting democracy throughout the Hemisphere. His leadership has both impressed and inspired.

Senator Lugar, we are delighted to have you here.