Douglas Dillon Award
for Distinguished Writing on American Diplomacy

In 1995, the Academy began to award an annual prize for a book of distinction on the practice of American diplomacy. The Academy hopes that this prize will stimulate further academic research on the way American diplomacy is exercised and will also deepen public understanding of the critical need for excellence in our diplomacy.

In 2001, this prize was presented to David McCullough for his book John Adams, published by Simon & Schuster.

The award recipient is selected by a committee of Academy members, headed by Leonard Marks, former Director of USIA.

His remarks are reprinted below.


NOVEMBER 28, 2001

Joseph J. Sisco: This year’s book award, as in the past, is presented to recognize distinguished writing in the field of American diplomacy. We particularly highlight books on diplomatic practice rather than on policies. The program is in it’s eighth year. Books were entered from interested writers, scholars, practitioners and others. The selection committee, under the able leadership of Leonard Marks, former Director of the USIA, has had the arduous, yet rewarding task of reading and reviewing them. The high quality of the books submitted, heavily researched and in many instances based on fresh archival information, are from the practitioner, the general reader, and the history buff.

The choice was not an easy one, because there were a good number of books worthy of recognition. Before making the major book award, the Academy wishes at this time to give special recognition to the Honorable Dennis Kux, for his timely book entitled The United States and Pakistan 1947-2000 – Disenchanted Allies. A scholar-diplomat, Mr. Kux specialized in South Asia during much of his foreign service. He speaks both Urdu and Hindi. He served both in India and Pakistan and also wrote an acclaimed history of US-Indian relations some years ago. Dennis would you please come to the podium, to receive your Certificate of Recognition.

And now the Academy is privileged to give its Book Award to David McCullough for his biography of John Adams, who can be seen as a father of American diplomacy for his extraordinary diplomatic achievements in Paris, the Hague and London. We have the good fortune to have with us on this special occasion members of the Adams family whom I would ask to rise for a moment. They include: Abigail Adams Manny, her son Timothy Manny, Mrs. Charles F. Adams, Mrs. John Quincy Adams and her son, John Quincy Adams, Jr., who is a Foreign Service officer currently assigned to the State Department.

We are pleased to have Abigail Adams Manny present the award to David McCullough. Abigail would you come to the podium please.

Abigail Adams: I thank Joe Sisco and the Academy for inviting me to present its annual book award to David McCullough for his extraordinary biography of John Adams.

Even in the backwaters of Maine where I live, the book is selling like mad.. no borrowing.. no lending.. everyone wants to OWN it. This is most amazing as we Mainahs like to hold on to our dollars.

For many, many years, it has been especially hard for us Adamses - proud descendents of the second President of the United States – to see him relegated to a rather lugubrious shadow – tucked in between the heroic George Washington and the glamorous Thomas Jefferson. Even in our family dining room, the Jefferson portrait was so much larger and certainly more sophisticated looking than those of John, Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa Catherine.

It seemed to me that President Adams would be forever portrayed as short, stout, stubborn, opinionated and unpopular. Well – even the remarkable prose of our honored author can’t make him tall and slim, but what an eloquent job David has done in showing us the whole man, whose opinions, so tenaciously held, helped found our country, and whose stubborn integrity, never tempered with either hypocrisy or flattery, stood him in such good stead overseas in key diplomatic efforts with France, Holland and Great Britain.

We are shown a man of exceptional loyalty, warmth and vigor – a man devoted to his country, friends and family and above all to his wife and true partner in life, Abigail.
On behalf of the Adams family and all lovers of history, I want to thank David McCullough for establishing John Adams’ star in its proper place in the firmament of American patriots and diplomats – and surely, thanks to you, David, Abigail’s shines there as brightly as his.

David McCullough: It is one of life’s great moments, believe me, to walk into the Harry S. Truman building… to be greeted by the likes of Sol Linowitz and Paul Sarbanes and to be seated next to the ambassador of Panama and Leonard Marks, former Director of USIA… where I first began what service I had in government…and then to be introduced by Abigail Adams. Life doesn’t get much better than it is right now.

I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have had anything like the life I’ve had or the writing life I’ve had, if it weren’t for my editor in chief, who is also here today, and I would like to have you meet her too. We are, as you say in the State Department, tandems. She is both my editor in chief, maybe I should say my editor and chief, my mission controller, Secretary of the Treasury and chair of my ethics committee – Rosalee McCullough.

This award is for the book John Adams, which I had the good fortune to write. In many ways I feel this award today is an honor and tribute not to me but to John Adams. And it’s been a long time coming.

If he were here today – and of course he is here today in so many ways – he would be as touched, perhaps, as by any honor possible. John Adams, as Abigail just said, was short, stout and abrasive at times, sometimes tactless, stubborn, always full of purpose, but he was also a man of greet integrity, a profound patriot, honest as anyone I’ve ever known anything about, and full of irrepressible determination. He loved to quote a line from LaFontaine; “In everything, one must consider the end”.

It was he who saw that the revolutionary war was going to last a very long time and be very costly. It was he who saw that the French Revolution was going to turn into a blood bath and eventually give rise to a dictatorship. As an ambassador, as a minister of his country in Europe, during the revolution, he never ever lost sight of the fact that he was there to serve his country in time of war, to further the war, and while he has often been criticized for his rather unrelenting, sometimes bothersome approach to the Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister, to get the French to commit their Navy to our cause, unrelenting in his pestering of the great Vergennes, it was in the last analysis the decision of the French to commit their Navy because of Adams’s perseverance that turned the tide, that sealed the bag, if you will, at Yorktown, because the French Navy was there, in combination with the French army under Rochambeau and General Washington’s army – one of the crucial moments, not just in the war, but in all of history.

I think one of the great moments in our history is when John Adams, the son of a Braintree farmer, stood before George III at St. James’s Palace and introduced himself ass the new representative of the new, independent United States of America. And if there’s a lesson in the life of John Adams, it is the transforming power of education. And we must never forget that, particularly now in a time when we are up against enforced ignorance.

John Adams, the farmer’s son, got a scholarship to Harvard, where he discovered books and, as he said, read forever. And that, in combination with his most salient qualities of honesty, intelligence, determination and abiding, true patriotism were as important as any of the other qualities which made him so valuable in our story.

When he was first assigned to go to France, to help Ben Franklin to bring the French more into the war, there were many who questioned the decision to send Adams – because he seemed so undiplomatic – but the man who understood him better than any other, Benjamin Rush, the great physician of Philadelphia and a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote an extremely important letter to Adams. Certainly it was an important letter to Adams himself, in which Rush said the following: “I’m aware that your abilities and firmness are much wanted at the Court of France, and after all that’s been said about the advantages of powdering and bowing and dressing well, as necessary accomplishments for an ambassador, I maintain that knowledge and integrity, with a common share of prudence, will out weigh them all. I am willing to risk the safety of our country upon this single proposition – that you will baffle and deceive them all by being perfectly honest”.

In France last fall, Rosalee and I led a delegation of Americans who were all interested in and involved with the Massachusetts Historical Society, where the great body of the Adams papers – the papers of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams reside – and we went out to see the house at Auteuil where John and Abigail had lived, and which still stands. All 36 of us were crowded onto a very narrow Paris sidewalk and it was noontime, lunchtime, and people were coming and going and I had my back up against the wall of the building and was explaining the importance of the building, about how, in many ways, it was as happy a time as any in their entire marriage and their political life, and two French gentlemen walked by, quite annoyed, as was apparent, by the way these Americans were crowding the sidewalk, and one turned to the other and in French asked, “Who are these people?”. And the other said, “Oh, they’re all descendants of John Adams”.

Well, we are all descendants of John Adams. I thank you for this very high honor, but I thank you most of all for your professional recognition of the vital part that John Adams played in the creation of our great country.


1800 K Street, NW, Suite 1014
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202/331-3721
Fax: 202/833-4555

Modified on: Wednesday, February 9, 2005

© Copyright 2004

Home | From the President | Mission | History | Funding
Membership List | Board of Directors | Charter Membership
Merrill Fellowship | Marks Essay Contest | Internships
Diplomacy Award | Media Award | Book Award | Articles
Academy Newsletter | Ansary Program | First Line of Defense
COALITIONS | Commercial Diplomacy
Brad Steiner