Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 15, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: For an American performer or group to come gives people a chance to – in their own imagination, at least, think about what might be.

MS. SMITH: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Are there times when a musician can do your job better than you can?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there are certainly times when music conveys American values better than a speech.

MS. SMITH: It’s not a new idea. Beginning in the 1950s, the State Department sent musicians like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and others to diplomatic hotspots overseas.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The interesting thing is at that time a lot of those guys didn’t agree with the policies of our government, but they still represented our government overseas.

PARTICIPANT: Right, because they weren’t representing the government; they were representing the people and they recognized that many times a government does not necessarily act with the will of its people.

MS. SMITH: Why would the State Department pay to send a hip-hop band overseas?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hip-hop is America. I mean – and so is jazz, and so is every other form of music with American roots that tell a story.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I know it sounds like it’s very basic, but sometimes you’ve got to get back to basics and we have to rebuild the image of our country – who we are as a people. We are the most incredibly diverse, successful, freedom-loving people in the history of the world, and I want everybody to understand that.

MS. SMITH: You say it sounds a little basic. To some people it sounds a little kumbaya – like, oh, come on, let’s go to Syria and throw on a free concert and join hands in peace.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It may be a little bit hopeful, because I can’t point to a change in Syrian policy because Chen Lo and the Liberation Family showed up. But I think that we have to use every tool at our disposal. So we move a lot of different pieces on the chessboard every day. It’s multi-dimensional chess, if you will. Hip-hop can be a chess piece, absolutely.

PRN: 2010/889