Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic?
Armitage: Look, the future is clearly in our hands. We are still a relatively young country. We’re 36.9 or something years of age younger than a lot of other countries – Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia for that matter, New Zealand, others . . . Australia. We’re younger. This leaves us a lot of time to carefully and confidently move into the future while resolving our questions of social security as we gray, as we get older. I am not heartened by the recent discussion of immigration. I think that this was not our finest hour. I was proud of the president, and he stood up. I was proud of John McCain who stood up. But we have to think through this very carefully. Immigrants have been a source of strength. Immigrants to this country will be a source of strength and economic strength, having wage earners for pensioners, which is very necessary. We have got to get over our fear of immigrants. If we do, and if we go back to a more traditional view of immigration to the United States under some limits, then I think we can march confidently into the future; in which case I’d be optimistic. But if we continue with this bashing of immigrants and fail to be confident enough that we can have immigrants here who could keep their own cultures and customs while accepting fully our national values, then I’d be less confident. I think as a general matter, we still are able to turn out men and women who believe that this experiment in the United States is a worthy one, and one that is worth our sacrifice. I think further that we’re a nation of . . . a multi-racial, multi-religious democracy that is a beacon to others when we are consistent and faithful to our national values. But when we engage in things like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, or the suspension of Habeas Corpus, then we give lie to this great beacon which I think the world wants us to be.