December 4, 2009 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Kennedy Caucus Room
United States Senate
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20510
Ambassador and Professor Marion Creekmore
(Read by Sang Hun Kim, ICAS Director.)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I regret that I cannot be with you this evening to pay tribute to a distinguished American, a truly world citizen, and a man whom I greatly admire. In his lifetime, Jim Laney has pursued with great distinction three different careers. As a minister, scholar, and teacher, he has profoundly influenced the lives of thousands of people, making them better individuals and inculcating in them a sense of service and concern for others. As an administrator, he built the Emory University's school of theology into one of the best in the nation, and then as the university president, he transformed Emory from a good regional school into one of the nation's finest research university. I tell my students each year that Jim Laney, more than any other person, is responsible for the superb education they receive at Emory and for the high value placed on an Emory education by the business, government, and nongovernmental communities. Emory has honored Jim on many occasions, most recently naming its graduate school for him.
Jim's third career was the world of diplomacy. No U.S. ambassador to South Korea ever loved his host country and its people more or achieved more for the bilateral relationship than Ambassador Laney. Respected in Seoul and Washington, he adroitly steered the relations of the two countries to new heights, and his achievements have been recognized by both governments. Jim played an indispensable role in defusing the nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994, a crisis that threatened to spiral out of control into military conflict. Let me highlight some of his contributions. Jim used his multiple talents and coordinating skills to urge restraint on the U.S. government and the South Korean government. He advocated sending a high level envoy to talk directly with the then dictator of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, to try to resolve the crisis peacefully. When both governments hesitated, Jim contacted his close friend, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and the two of them agreed that Carter might overcome the impasse if he traveled to Pyongyang as a private American citizen. Laney and Carter conferred at length during Jim's visit to Atlanta that summer, and when Carter arrived in Seoul a month later, Jim had arranged an excellent set of meetings with South Korean officials and U.S. military leaders. He and his embassy provided the best briefings the former president received before he crossed the DMZ in mid-June. Three days later Carter returned with an agreement with Kim Il Sung that set in motion the peaceful resolution o f the crisis and led to the Geneva Accord that successfully shelved the North Korean plutonium-based, nuclear weapons program for eight years. A number of us then and now believe that this Carter-Laney partnership prevented a second Korean war from erupting on the peninsula .
Like so many, I admire and laud Jim Laney-- as a person, as a role model, and as a man whose life has made our world a better place. Despite my absence, I am pleased to join all of you in celebrating tonight's recipient of the prestigious ICAS Liberty Award-James T. Laney.