Few people did as much to shape the trajectory of American diplomacy and American influence in the 20th century as George Shultz. He was a gentleman of honor and ideas, dedicated to public service and respectful debate, even into his 100th year on Earth. That’s why multiple presidents, of both political parties, sought his counsel. I regret that, as president, I will not be able to benefit from his wisdom, as have so many of my predecessors.
For a man so inked into the pages of our history, his mind was always keyed toward the future. He focused on the possibilities of what could be, unhindered by the impasses or deadlocks of the past. That was the vision and dedication that helped guide our nation through some of its most dangerous periods and ultimately helped create the opening that led to the end the Cold War. And, while he and I sometimes argued the opposite sides of issues when I was a young senator, I was proud to often find common ground on issues vital to the security and prosperity of the American people.
As the driving force behind the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, Secretary Shultz made real the critical concept that we should work to negotiate with our adversaries where possible in order to make life better and safer for our people. I also admired Secretary Shultz’s commitment to pressing for the rights and release of Refuseniks, raising them directly with his counterparts in the Soviet Union.
He was a man of incredible courage. Whether it was donning the uniform of the United States Marines to defend the cause of liberty in World War II, or speaking out directly to the President of the United States when he disagreed with a policy, George Shultz knew when to stand and fight. For the young women and men whose minds he helped shape throughout his career, there was no better role model for a life of integrity and service than George Shultz.
Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Shultz family—his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Our nation mourns his loss along with you even as we honor his lifetime of patriotic service.