Subject: Kissinger speech on Xanana's UNESCO prize

Remarks for 2002 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize Award Ceremony June 10, 2003 By Henry Kissinger

As Chairman of the Houphouët-Boigny Prize Committee, it is my pleasant duty today to present to President H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao the UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize awarded him unanimously at the Jury’s meeting in Paris on 9 October 2002.

This award to President Gusmao reflects our hope to strengthen the memory of the past for the future, to remind the leaders of this generation—and the next, and the next—of the struggles and the triumphs, of the sacrifices and victories, which others before them have recorded in the name of human dignity and peace. By honoring President Gusmao, we are raising a statue, not of stone but of memory in the minds of men and women, a symbol of courage, dedication and persistence in the service of peace.

The moral imperative to which President Gusmao responded will also persist for future generations. Those generations will find no better model for their own struggles than President Gusmao

In accepting the award, President Gusmao joins a small band of men and women who have made their singular contributions to peace and human dignity, men and women who became voices for entire nations.

Timor’s colonial anguish lasted four centuries. Its struggle had to be conducted on behalf of a small country amidst nations following imperatives they considered more immediate. President Gusmao assumed the leadership of the struggle for liberation almost three decades ago. He carried the burdens of that leadership into prison with him when a decade ago he was tried and convicted for his efforts to turn back colonial rule. From prison he spread the liberation strategy which his admirers pursued so diligently and effectively—and in the meahwi8le, in a demonstration that those who lead freedom’s struggle represent other values as well, he learned several languages, painted, and wrote some of East Timor’s most important modern poetry. His courage and human dignity earned the respect even of those who opposed his cause.

When the Portuguese army evaporated in November of 1975, it was replaced in Timor by another foreign ruler. The human impact of that event was not immediately understood by most of the nations of the world, including my own.

That makes the significance of the Timorese accomplishment all the greater. For 24 more years, the people of Timor bore the greater burden, and earned the greater share of the honor, for bringing that rule to an end, under the brave leadership of the man we celebrate today. Americans can take pride in the role their country has played in the ultimate culmination of these efforts.

The liberation struggle led by this remarkable man finally succeeded in late 1999. It did so against all odds—against overwhelming military power, against indifference abroad and fear within East Timor, against deprivation, and poverty. Magnanimous in victory, his first act was to extend the hand of friendship to those who had for a long time sought to frustrate his cause.

By his life, President Gusmao reminds us that power is not its own justification, that force alone will not in the long run suffice unless it is called forth in the service of human dignity and freedom. We honor President Gusmao and the nation which he now leads and which he inspired before it was a nation. They have achieved freedom by the moral authority of their cause, for which we thank them in the name of peace.

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