WASHINGTON, DC – I grew up in the shadow of World War II, and at the dawn of the Cold War.
My father’s work as a Foreign Service officer gave me an opportunity to see history up close in a searing way: I will never forget walking the beaches of Normandy with him and seeing the burned hulks of Higgins’ boats still on those shores, just a few years after so many young men went to their graves so the world could be free. Likewise, I will never forget the eerie feeling of riding my bike through the Brandenburg Gate from West Berlin into the East, and seeing the contrast between people who were free and those who were trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
What strikes me now, all these years later, is that a generation of leaders won not only a war, but also the peace. They did it together. The United States and our partners worked to create alliances that brought prosperity and stability to Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea. Old enemies became new allies, and together pioneered a new global economic system that made the world more prosperous. And even as the Cold War raged, leaders found ways to cooperate on arms control and prevent a nuclear Armageddon.
In short, by building effective and indispensable international institutions and strategic partnerships, we did not just avoid another catastrophic world war; we ultimately ended the Cold War and lifted global living standards for hundreds of millions of people.