0942 GMT November 13, 2019
I’m proud of many things that we accomplished together during my four years as President Obama's Secretary of State – from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to finding the path for a unity government in Afghanistan, to raising the American flag over our embassy in Havana for the first time in six decades – but I don’t think anything looms larger than reaching the historic deal. In that case, diplomacy was a fancy word for avoiding a war – and this week 38 retired Generals and Admirals reminded us that it's working, and that "the only good wars are the ones you don't have to fight."
Getting to the Iran nuclear agreement wasn't easy. It required steadfast faith in the power of determined diplomacy, when many dismissed it or denied it or were ready to give up.
We had to start with no trust – from the trip in 2011 when President Obama sent me to Muscat as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to 2013's first face-to-face meeting between an American secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister since before the 1979 Revolution. We spent long hours at the negotiating table over years to find the path to get everyone to agree to a tough and fair deal. We had to bring the international community together.
And then, of course, we had to convince Congress that the deal passed muster -- something we couldn't have done without grassroots support from people like you who made your voices heard.
We demanded that Iran meet tough, verifiable obligations, and they are complying – as even the new administration, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency has acknowledged. They've shipped out more than 98% of their enriched uranium, shut down two-thirds of their centrifuges, permanently disabled their heavy water reactor, and abided by unprecedented verification procedures.
When we began, many people thought we were crazy for even talking to them. But in the end, what we proved was that diplomacy works.
So, I hope you will feel proud on this anniversary – but I also hope you'll be filled with purpose.
To protect what we all did with President Obama.
To remember that as tough as it may feel today, we've all got to keep speaking out.
I know I am, and I know you will.
Former US Secretary of State