The Baker Institute is celebrating its 20th anniversary tonight and there is much to be proud of. The Baker Institute study “Re-engaging the Israelis and the Palestinians: Why An American Role in Initiating Israeli and Palestinian Negotiations is Necessary and How It Can Be Accomplished”http://bakerinstitute.org/research/re-engaging-the-israelis-and-the-palestinians-why-an-american-role-in-initiating-israeli-palestinian/ has made a major contribution to the peace process, with the Jerusalem Post newspaper confirming that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is using the report to guide his efforts initiating peace talks. The Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies has also taken a leadership role in the debate on natural gas exports from the United States. CES Director Kenneth B. Medlock, III presented important research findings on the issue of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the U.S. Gulf coast to the U.S. Senate earlier this year. The non-partisan institute continues to play a critical role in raising the level of debate on sound US public policy — a role that is increasingly important with so much noise in the political arena.
The 20th anniversary gala provides a wonderful opportunity to honor and celebrate the work of the Institute is doing bringing fact-based, non-partisan research and expertise to the US public. And importantly, it offers our nation the opportunity again to honor and thank the Honorable James A. Baker, III for his public service to our nation. I do not believe that there are enough medals and awards in the world to acknowledge fully the contribution that Secretary Baker has made to our world and to future generations. His visionary leadership in the areas of conflict resolution, global financial crisis management and US foreign policy are so critical to our nation’s (and the world’s) successes that it would be frightening to engage in a Jimmy Stewart “It’s A Wonderful Life” moment and contemplate how worse a place the world might have been, had Secretary Baker not been here to guide events. He is our nation’s John Wayne, stepping in at each critical juncture to steer us away from (or through) dangerous engagements. Today’s political leaders need to take a lesson from the retired civilian James Baker, III: weigh in only when you have something important to say and provide reliable counsel when your voice is critical in times of pressing national security debate or crisis. The Republican Party would be wise to heed his recent advice to focus on winning elections rather than grandstanding on maximalist positions that have no chance of success, (taking civil service employees and stranded tourists to national parks as hostage).
The 20th Anniversary gala tonight will feature a conversation with former President George W. Bush. This is an exciting flourish for the event and a telling example of what great democracy looks like in practice.
Secretary Baker and the former President disagreed, sometimes very publicly, on U.S. Iraq policy. Still, President George W. Bush is giving his valuable time this evening to honor the non-partisan work of the institute, even though the institute’s publications were sometimes critical of some of his policies. In a healthy democracy, we debate and disagree but remain committed to the common purpose – the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and the contribution the United States can make as a great nation to technological innovation, economic progress and peace in our times.
The common bond of public service and dedication to American democracy are of the utmost importance to people of honor. President George W. Bush and James A. Baker, III, will show the world that tonight. U.S. politicians who think that they can ascend to power through acrimony should attend tonight’s gala to see what greatness of spirit actually looks like up close and personal. Let us hope our future remains in the hands of greatness that matches the legacy of James A. Baker, III. And a toast to Secretary Baker from me: May you know in your heart that we as a nation -each and everyone one of us- thank you personally for your sacrifice and service to the betterment of mankind.