Roundtable on the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative

Bruce Wharton
Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Vice President's Ceremonial Office
Washington, DC
January 11, 2017

As prepared for delivery

It is a privilege for me to be here in this historic building to celebrate the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative and the outstanding public-private partnership that has made the program such a success – the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative Innovation Fund.

The 100,000 Strong initiative and the Innovation Fund have an admirable track record for increasing bilateral and regional partnerships in the Western Hemisphere that have benefited educational institutions, students, faculty, and businesses alike.

The flexible and dynamic nature of the Innovation Fund is the key to its effectiveness and makes it a model for building innovative and sustainable higher education and exchange partnerships in the Western Hemisphere – and beyond.

From my experience serving in countries like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Guatemala, I have seen firsthand how important programs like the 100,000 Strong initiative are for providing underserved young people a peaceful, brighter pathway to the future.

Equally important, these programs connect American students with their counterparts around the world, links that are critical to our shared security and prosperity in today’s interconnected world.

Since its inception by Vice President Biden in January 2014, the Innovation Fund has awarded 86 grants that have benefitted 188 colleges and universities in 20 countries.

Additionally, more than 1,600 colleges and universities – 1,000 of which are U.S. institutions – have joined the Innovation Fund’s network.

These numbers are a powerful illustration of the far-ranging impact the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative is having in the region.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the appropriate financial backing, so I am happy to note that – through the generous support of our donors – funding for Innovation Fund grants is secured through 2019.

As part of the “public” aspect of this partnership, I am also pleased to announce that my office is funding operational costs for the 100,000 Strong initiative into Spring 2018, which will allow the Innovation Fund to continue leveraging private-sector commitments to strengthen and grow the program.

I want to sincerely thank our partner donors not just for their financial backing, but for their deep interest and commitment in helping the Department of State build bridges between the United States and our neighbors in the hemisphere.

These partners are ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, CAF Development Bank, SEMPRA Energy, Chevron, and Met-Life.

Your investment in education not only makes business sense – you are of course helping to build networks and capacity that will benefit your companies in years to come – but it is also the right thing to do. There’s nothing more gratifying than doing well by doing right.

To potential new partners who are here today, I invite you to join our team and help ensure the sustainability and growth of this tremendously beneficial endeavor that is increasing opportunities for educational institutions and students, while promoting the best of American ideals.

Finally, I want to express my deep appreciation to our founding partner organizations: Partners of the Americas and NAFSA. Your unwavering support and commitment to expanding and strengthening the sustainability of the Innovation Fund since late 2013 have been vital to its success.

Thank you.