Digital Town Hall of the Americas at FUNGLODE

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
April 17, 2009

Date: 04/17/2009 Location: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Description: Secretary Clinton conducts a digital town hall meeting in advance of the Summit of the Americas. © AP Photo from videoSECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you, Rodolfo Espinal. I appreciate very much your serving as our moderator today. This is an exciting venture here at FUNGLODE, the Global Democracy and Development Foundation, which is hosting us in Santo Domingo.


We are connected online from Brazil and Peru to Mexico, Jamaica, and far beyond even our hemisphere. I am personally honored that President Fernandez is here with us. I’ve had an excellent series of discussions with the president and his ministers. I’m also delighted that Margarita is here as well. I have known Leonel and Margarita for many years. We were – he was very young and I was younger. (Laughter.) And it is a pleasure to be with him.


I also want to thank your foreign minister. Carlos, thank you for your hospitality and the great cooperation that we have. And again, Monsignor Nuñez, who I was with earlier from the Pontificia Catholic University, mother and teacher for the excellent education leadership, and the Minister of Education, with whom I toured the Rosa Duarte School.


This digital town hall seems particularly fitting to hold here in the Dominican Republic on the eve of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Here in the Dominican Republic, I feel very much at home. We are linked by geography and history, by common values and cultural heritage. And now, we are finding new and innovative ways to engage one another, expand our dialogue, create new partnerships, solve the problems that we face together.


As someone who had the great honor of spending eight years representing New York in the United States Senate, I feel very close to this part of our world. And in particular, I think of the Avenue of the Americas in the middle of New York City. It has monuments honoring Latin American leaders, a square named for Juan Pablo Duarte, the great Dominican who helped this nation achieve its independence and whose sister, by the way, Rosa, started the school that I visited earlier.


As you travel across New York and America, you will find the influences of the Caribbean and Central America and South America in bookstores and bodegas, in films and fashion, in reggae and salsa and merengue. You will hear the sounds, you will eat the foods, you will smell the smells, you will watch baseball and cheer on so many major league players from Latin America.


My point is that whether we are from North America, Central America, South America or the Caribbean, we are all Americans, and we are of the Americas. We may speak different languages and have some different customs. We have different historical experiences. But we share this home, this hemisphere, and a future that will be what we decide to make it.


I will be meeting President Obama at the summit. This marks the first time that a Caribbean nation has hosted the summit. And we are grateful to Prime Minister Manning and his government for their hard work to make this a success. This will be the first regional meeting in the world since the G-20 in London. Leaders there pledged $1.1 trillion in resources for nations that were the hardest hit by the global recession. This summit upcoming today and the work we do in its wake presents an opportunity for us to further a recovery that reaches all of the people of the Americas.


In Port of Spain, President Obama and I will share that the United States is eager to listen to the ideas and concerns of our friends, partners and allies. But we are committed to working with you to keep our people safe and secure, to protect and harness our natural resources, and to widen opportunity and prosperity. To achieve the shared prosperity we seek, we must integrate our commitment to democracy and open markets with an equal commitment to social inclusion.


Rather than defining economic progress simply by profit margins and GDP, our yardstick must be the quality of human lives, whether families have enough food on the table; whether young people have access to schooling from early childhood through university; whether workers earn decent wages and have safe conditions at their jobs; whether mothers and fathers have access to medical care for themselves and their children so that children dying before adulthood is a rarity, not an accepted fact; and whether every person who works hard and takes responsibility has the promise of a brighter future.


Over the past 15 years, the rise of democracy and free markets has unleashed the potential of people across our hemisphere. It has ushered in new opportunities for economic and political progress – higher wages, rising school enrollments, healthier populations, citizens freely choosing their leaders are now hallmarks of this dynamic region.


At the same time, the global economic downturn threatens to erode these gains. What was already an unacceptable gap between rich and poor in Latin America – the greatest gap of any region in the world – is expected to widen as exports decline, credit tightens, family incomes level off, remittances dip, and growth rates slow. And the impact will be most acute for those on the bottom rung of the ladder of every society, the poor, the young, women. As tempted as we each may be to withdraw inward in the face of economic challenges, it is precisely in such moments that we must extend a hand outward. The failures and fortunes of every nation in our hemisphere are bound together, and so is our progress.


With this in mind, the Obama Administration is seeking a 17 percent increase in U.S. investment in Latin America and the Caribbean this year, even amidst our own economic hardships, because we think it is both the right thing to do and the smart thing. It is a down payment on the future we can build together as partners in so many areas from renewable energy to job creation.


There is so much to talk about, but today, I want to focus on just three areas where our work as partners can address the human cost of the global recession. As we take on these challenges, we must remind ourselves that in our diverse hemisphere, one size does not fit all. We need to look at the unique needs of each country and shape our effort to meet those needs in a spirit of openness and cooperation.


First, a principal area of investment must be education. And as I said earlier this morning at the school, that is the lynchpin of economic progress. The United States will invest $30 million in education projects in the region. While enrollments have swelled throughout our hemisphere, too many young people still don’t complete their studies, or they’re not benefiting from the quality of education they richly deserve.


This is true also in parts of the United States where students have lagged behind in math and science achievement, and in countries in Latin America where academic performance needs to improve. Today, as we are speaking in this beautiful setting, 22 million young people in our hemisphere do not study or do not work. They need training and skills to get a job and earn a living.


There are, however, solutions at hand. And what we want to do in our new Administration is look for the best practices everywhere, look across boundaries, ask people, what is working for you? We want to adjust American aid programs so that they are furthering what works, not just doing the same thing over and over again. If you look at programs in Mexico, if you look at programs in Brazil, similar efforts in Chile, Colombia and Peru, governments pay allowances to poor families to keep their children in school. They take them for regular medical checkups. Millions of children are in school as a result of these programs in Mexico and Brazil alone, and the dropout rate is expected to decline.


The success of these programs has even led New York City to devise a similar program of its own based on the Mexican model. When I was in Mexico with President Calderon, I told him that we wanted a reciprocal and respectful relationship. We have much work to do together and the United States thought we had things to learn. And I talked to him about the example of New York City borrowing a concept that was designed and implemented in Mexico.


I’m pleased to announce that the United States will host a conference to launch the Inter-American Social Protection Network. This network will bring together stakeholders from across our hemisphere to highlight best practices and new approaches. We should not be reinventing the wheel. We should be learning from each other. We should be borrowing the best ideas, successful programs, and then putting them to work right here. Earlier today at the school, I announced that the United States will add $12.5 million to a successful program we pioneered right here in the Dominican Republic, a program to enhance teacher training, to work on school curricula and supplies, in mathematics, and in language instruction, to help with school governance. This program is proving to be, in partnership with the Ministry of Education here, such a success that we’re not only expanding it to 450 schools in the Dominican Republic, but we want the Dominican Republic to serve as the model for the expansion of this program throughout the region. (Applause.)


The end goal of these efforts is to prepare our citizens to compete in the global marketplace, to secure good jobs, to lead productive lives. As diverse as our countries may be, people across the Americas yearn for the same thing – a decent job, a fair wage, the ability to hold their heads up as they provide for the safety and security of their families. And that leads me to the second challenge I want to address: the challenge of food security.


I was in Haiti yesterday. You know that the crisis in food access and cost was a very difficult political challenge for the government there. As the global economic crisis deepens, the poor face survival challenges. For some of us, it means we don’t take a vacation or we don’t buy a new TV or a new car. But for many people through our hemisphere and around the world, it means the difference between food on the table or nothing at all.


Our hemisphere produces bountiful harvests. This is a very fruitful region of the world. But in places of extreme poverty where people subsist on less than one dollar a day, hunger stalks them. It malnourishes children. It stunts growth and mental development. The consequences of hunger show up in homes, workplaces, and schools. We have seen the effects of malnourished people too weak to work, chronically hungry children struggling to learn. So food security is not only a source of suffering. It is a direct threat to economic growth and global stability.


Based on President Obama’s initiative announced at the G-20 conference to double food assistance, the United States will be providing nearly $100 million in food assistance to countries most affected by hunger in the Western Hemisphere. But our goal must be to reach the roots, the causes of food insecurity. There’s an old proverb – yes, alleviate hunger by giving someone a fish, but alleviate long-term hunger by teaching them how to fish.


What we must do is to build up the means of sustainable production and distribution. For this, we must harness the power of agriculture to reduce hunger and drive economic growth. I can give you two examples. In the 1980s, as recently as then, Haiti was self-sufficient for food. It even exported. Today, it imports food. And anyone who has, as I have, flown across this great island going from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, you see starkly, the erosion, the lack of trees, the lack of cultivatable land. And then you cross the border and you see green.


We can look at Brazil and its success through investments and agricultural research and entrepreneurial farming to see the possibilities. Through our collective efforts, we can bring to bear technical assistance, research and technology, education and training to increase agricultural productivity and access to markets, to reduce food insecurity. This is one of our goals throughout the hemisphere, and in particular, Haiti. And it’s one of the areas that we are going to look to partner with the Dominican Republic in helping to achieve progress.


The third area is perhaps the most fundamental of all. It is hard for people to escape poverty or fulfill their potential when they’re not physically safe in their homes and neighborhoods, their schools, their workplaces, or on the roads traveling for commerce or pleasure. So none of the advances that we make can be achieved without improvements in public safety and efforts to stem all forms of violence, including violence in the home. We all think about the violence that the drug traffickers bring with them, and this must be our highest priority. The United States must work to reduce demand for drugs and stem the flow of guns and drug profits traveling from our country for use in the drug trade.


To that end, President Obama recently announced measures to ensure that our country is doing all we can along the Mexican border. In Mexico, when I had the privilege of visiting, I announced that the United States was pledging additional resources to support training, equipment, and other means of bolstering President Calderon’s courageous struggle against the drug traffickers. This is part of the Merida Initiative, to improve security in Central America, an $875 million dollar commitment over two years.


As we do more in Mexico and Central America, however, we know we face threats in the Caribbean. I had discussions about this with both President Preval and President Fernandez. That is why we are planning a strategic security dialogue with the Caribbean countries to confront rising crime, illicit trafficking, and border security issues, like disaster preparedness.


The organized criminal networks operating throughout the hemisphere are adapting, and we must adapt as well. We have a very high proportion of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean. These young people are on the front lines, as those watching us today on the internet are, for online civil society. And I believe the young people of this hemisphere have untold power to stop the drug trafficking that goes on that undermines their communities, their safety, intimidates and corrupts governments and institutions.


In Mexico I announced that the United States will support a summit, the Alliance of Youth Movements, to connect young people working to end violence throughout Latin America. We can all learn from the example of Colombia, where an unemployed, 33-year-old engineer, armed with his laptop computer, was able to organize the largest public protest in history against the drug cartels, and diminish their power. People talking to one another across the internet, saying, enough, we will not take any more of this, coming together intimidated the drug traffickers. This is something that we can do and empower across our hemisphere. And it engages people at all levels of society, of all backgrounds and groups. All you need is to be able to log on to be part of civil society.


And it’s not only with respect to drug traffickers, but also domestic violence, local criminality, corrupt public officials. We need to be sharing information that comes to the attention of alert and active citizens.


Now, these three areas are just a part of our broad, shared agenda. There are so many opportunities for us to work together and to learn from one another. In Port-au-Prince yesterday, in meeting with President Preval and Haitian leaders, I listened to what they need to help their country recover from the combined devastation of four hurricanes last year, plus the global recession. Earlier at the Haiti Donors Conference in Washington, I announced that the United States will offer non-emergency, targeted assistance to help Haiti regain its momentum.


We need to rebuild their infrastructure and create jobs and enhance security. This is in the Dominican Republic’s best interests, in the interests of the people of Haiti and the United States, and the entire Caribbean region.


In the 15 years since my husband first hosted the very beginning of the Summit of Americas process in Miami, our world has become more connected and interdependent. We live in a globalized society. It shrinks distance. It collapses time zones. It erases borders. It transcends oceans. It integrates people from every country and every continent through media, travel, trade, and popular culture.

Now, while some bristle at the challenges this new global landscape presents, it also offers unprecedented opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and fresh approaches to solving problems from extreme poverty to climate change, from drug trafficking to trade. I see that at work right here in the Dominican Republic. I asked President Fernandez earlier today to work with us and other leaders in Central America and the Caribbean, to be a bridge so that we can begin to build that bridge to the future, to a better tomorrow. Our leaders are essential for that process, but it is people who will decide what progress we make. It is people who will either be complacent or active; people who will be acquiescent or protesting of what they see as unfair conditions or poor governance or corruption that literally takes food from their tables and undermines their futures.


I want to see a hemisphere in which, working together, we give every single boy or girl the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. That is our promise and that is our hope. And I look forward to working with you to achieve it. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


MODERATOR: We will now open the floor for those who placed a question prior to today’s events on the town hall website, and for those attending that have previously requested to place a question.

Our first question comes from the Republic – attending. Mr. Armando Manzueta has the first question.


QUESTION: (Via interpreter) In Latin America, there are more than 30 million people who have never gone to school. In addition, there are not a sufficient number of schools to correctly transmit the necessary knowledge base to reach a universal primary education level. Given this, what policies will the Obama Administration promote regarding education for the region?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much for that question. And I think, as I said, education is the lynchpin of progress. It unleashes the potential of young people and, with lifelong learning, even older people. That’s why we will commit $30 million in education projects in the region, because we are well aware, Armando, of what you said. You said that there are people out of school, there aren’t enough schools. We would like to see a commitment in the hemisphere, by countries that are willing to participate with us, to an education planning process, where each country could come with what the needs are, and we could borrow from one another about what the answers could be. For example, I mentioned programs in Mexico and Brazil that have solved some of the problem of getting children into school and keeping children in school by literally paying the families. And the families – the children have to attend school, their report cards have to be reviewed, they have to have medical checkups to make sure they can see and they can hear and they don’t have other problems that interfere with learning. That’s a model that we are very interested in.


In the building of schools, what is the most cost-effective way to build schools? It may differ in the Dominican Republic than it does in Haiti or in Bolivia, but we need to find the most cost-effective ways to build, equip, and provide for actual schools.


We need to do more online. We need to have more online learning. Now, that may not reach the poorest children, but eventually, over time, it could. There are decreasing costs associated with electronic equipment that if we had a curriculum and we had people able to access that, we could reach more people in that way.


Finally, we’re going to launch this Inter-American Social Protection Network. Education will be part of it. That’s why I’m talking about a sort of summit within that to be able to look to see what we can do, how we can do it, what role the United States can be of help. But let’s learn what’s worked. There are many different approaches to the same goal. And let’s make this a very high priority. We should aim to meet the Millennium Development goals. We should aim to make sure that no child is without education in our hemisphere as soon as possible. We should set a realistic goal and benchmarks toward achieving that.


But we also have to do something else. We have to make sure that families appreciate and respect the role of education. One of our challenges in the United States is that Hispanic youngsters drop out of school at a much higher rate than any other group of American children in the United States. Many of them drop out – we have about a 50 percent drop-out rate in high school of Hispanic youngsters. Many of them drop out because families want them to go to work. We have to persuade families that investing in the education of their children is a good payoff for them, which is why these programs in Mexico and Brazil actually pay families so that they don’t forgo the income. They get paid to send their children to school.


So let’s come with good ideas, and let’s try to come up with a plan, and then work toward achieving it.


MODERATOR: The second question comes from Juan, writing from Cuba. Juan asks: Don’t you think that if you suspend the embargo of the Government of Cuba, it would put an end to leadership’s excuses for hiding the failures of the regime?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Juan, as you probably know, earlier this week, President Obama announced the most significant policy changes toward Cuba in decades. And we are continuing to look for more productive ways forward in dealing with Cuba, because President Obama and I and the Administration view the present policy toward Cuba as having failed.


You are familiar with President Obama’s view that engagement is a useful tool to advance our national interests and the goals of promoting human rights and democracy and prosperity and progress. And I don’t know if Juan, who I hope is watching and listening to us, knew that earlier today Raul Castro made some comments, comments which we have seen. We welcome his comments – the overture that they represent – and we’re taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond.


So I’m very aware of the point of Juan’s question about how both sides need to address the differences that exist between us, and we see Raul Castro’s comments as a very welcome overture.


MODERATOR: The following question is from Pedro Reynaldo Peyton in Brazil and was submitted online. Pedro writes: How can we strengthen our commercial relations in the Americas when we are living with an international crisis that has significantly weakened consumption and when countries are retuning to protectionist practices greater than ever before?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very concerned about the substance of Pedro’s question – because I think he accurately describes the dangers that we confront right now. However, I believe that the collective action taken at the G-20, the pledge of $1.1 trillion, the emphasis on protecting vulnerable populations, has made a very strong statement of commitment by the major economies in the world.


We are going to work very hard at the Summit of the Americas on the follow-up work coming out of the G-20. We’re also working very hard under President Obama’s leadership to get our own economy working again, to get it to recover, so that we can contribute to prosperity in the region.


We will guard against protectionist measures and trade barriers, and we think every country should. I mean, it’s natural in a time of such economic insecurity for people to look inward, but we can’t afford that. The way we will get this world back working and producing prosperity and jobs and rising incomes is if we stay open with one another.


And we have called on the Inter-American Development Bank to maximize lending at this time. We have to restart the flow of credit in our hemisphere. I know that Luis Alberto Morales, the president of the IDB, will be at the Summit of the Americas. And we’ve got to take collective action within our own hemisphere. And then, of course, we have to put into place regulations that prevent this from ever happening again. That is something that will be critical.


But let me just add one other point. Even as we deal with this crisis, we’ve got to think about the future. That is why we think it’s so important to invest in clean, renewable energy, to take action against climate change, to invest in education, even when times are as tough as they are. Because that will set us up so that when the recovery happens, we’re not behind where we were when the crisis hit.


So part of what we are hoping is that as countries think about what each can do, investing in clean, renewable energy is a win-win. It puts people to work and it cuts energy costs over the long run. Dealing with the effects of climate change, reforesting areas. I think of Haiti again. Reforesting the watersheds in Haiti will save Haiti money if we can figure out a plan to be able to do that.


So we have to make investments today that will pay off tomorrow.


QUESTION: The following question will be placed by Mr. Alan Fernandez in the Dominican Republic.


(Via interpreter) Given the consistent presence of organized crime and drug trafficking in many of the countries present at the summit, what is the role that United States will play in combating these scourges in the region?


SECRETARY CLINTON: This is such an important problem, and I thank you for raising it. We spent a lot of our time in my meeting with President Fernandez and ministers of his government talking about this.


Well, first of all, we all are making it a priority. We’re going to talk about it at the Summit of the Americas, and we’re going to begin a process of coming up with specific plans that will enable us to address it.


Secondly, the United States has acknowledged we share responsibility for what is happening in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. I said when I was in Mexico that the demand for drugs in my country fuels the lawlessness that President Calderon and the people of Mexico are fighting, and the movement of guns and the money laundering from my country south enables the drug traffickers to pose such terrible threats to so many. So we have acknowledged that we have a responsibility and we have to act in concert with you to try to address this.


There are many aspects of fighting the drug gangs and the narcotraffickers that we have to address. On the supply side, we have to do a better job in the United States. But countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and others, you must get on top of this supply issue very soon. Because what drug traffickers will do is try to get people in your country addicted to drugs, so that if times are tough or they want to make extra money, they don’t just have to think about the American – the United States market. They can think about the market nearer to home, safer. So there must be a public outcry against the drug traffickers trying to addict young people in all of the countries of the region.


We are looking at better ways to deter and divert and treat and prevent drug addiction and continuing drug use in our country. We need to share those ideas.


We have to do a better job training and equipping and preparing police. We have to root out corruption in police forces, in the military, in government. It is very tempting – I know that, I had a long conversation with President Calderon – very tempting when these drug traffickers offer people money. But the problem is, once you take money from a drug trafficker, they own you. They own you and they own your family. You can never escape their reach.


And part of what we have to do is prevent people in our institutions from falling into that temptation. That means rule of law, tough judicial systems, good policing, corrections systems that work.


So we’re going to have a summit on security in this area in May. The Dominican Republic, President Fernandez, are leaders of this effort. We’re going to come up with plans – very specific. The United States will do what we can to support the plans that individual countries come up with. But we have to work together. It doesn't do us any good to drive the drug traffickers out of Colombia if they find a safe haven somewhere else. President Uribe and the people of Colombia have been incredibly courageous in battling the drug cartels, so now the drug cartels are not doing as much business out of Colombia, but they have found other places. So we must work together on this. We have come too far, too much progress has been made, to see it corrupted and undermined, and to create conditions of lawlessness and insecurity for honest, hardworking people. I know because I remember what it was like when the drug trade was out of control in New York. And some of you who have gone back and forth to New York, and some of you who have family in New York, you remember that. People were afraid to go out of their homes. They had 20 locks on their doors. Thankfully, we have beaten that back in the United States, but we can’t ever, ever take a break from battling these ruthless criminals. We will do the very best we can, working with you.


QUESTION: The next question is from Gilles (inaudible) from Canada and was submitted online. Gilles wants to know what the U.S. objectives are for the fifth summit.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we hope that President Obama and my presence at the summit will clearly illustrate the change in American policy. We have only been in office a short time, but we have tried very hard to illustrate clearly the change in direction that we are pursuing. And this is an important opportunity for us to address some of the major issues that confront our hemisphere, where we all face these drug trafficking, insecurity, lawlessness issues. We face poverty, social inclusion problems, inequality. We face energy and climate change challenges. We face economic and other difficult issues that have to do with prosperity and security and sustainability.


So we are eager to listen and to consult. And we want to be sure that we come out of this summit with some very specific plans. It’s important to use this summit, even at this time of economic downturn, to renew our commitment to shared prosperity, to good governance and the rule of law, to working together in partnership, and that’s what we intend to do.


MODERATOR: Due to the fact that both Secretary Clinton and Dominican President Fernandez will be shortly boarding their respective air transportation to Trinidad and Tobago – (laughter) – we only have time for another two questions.


The next question will be placed by Ariel Roberto Contreras Medos in the Dominican Republic.


QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) In spite of the agreements achieved, especially in the framework of the Fifth Summit of the Americas and in reference to the promotion of sustainable environment, what initiatives will be taken to guarantee the implementation of the agreements achieved?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that first of all, the United States, with the new Administration, has recognized our responsibility as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. This is an abrupt change from the prior administration. It enables us to take the problem of climate change and sustainable development seriously and begin to address it.


Secondly, President Obama is committed to pursuing domestic legislation that will equip the United States to play our role in combating greenhouse gas emissions. In the stimulus package that President Obama introduced and that was passed, we had a lot of money set aside for renewable energy, to begin becoming more energy efficient, to refit – retrofit houses and commercial buildings, to weatherize them, to take what are long overdue steps to begin to do our part. We also are looking at an economy-wide approach with a cap-and-trade system that we think makes a lot of sense, that would enable us to reduce our emissions significantly by – we hope 80 percent by 2050.


Thirdly, we are very actively engaged in the international arena. There will be the summit on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of this year. The President and I jointly appointed a Special Envoy for Climate Change who’s working with his counterparts around the world. We are going to do everything we can to get an agreement that includes everybody. Nobody can be left out. There may be different requirements and maybe different timetables for developing countries and for the developed world, but everybody must be in the agreement. And we’ve had very productive conversations with a number of nations from China to Russia to the European Union and beyond.


And let me just say a word about some of the steps that can be taken by countries in this hemisphere. We’ve got to stop the destruction of the rainforest. The destruction of the rainforest is a double whammy. It reduces our capacity in the world through what has been referred to as the lungs that the rainforest represent to absorb carbon dioxide. And the substituted uses of the land, primarily for agriculture, emit more greenhouse gas emissions. So we have to do more to figure how to protect these very precious resources that are within national boundaries, but have global consequences.


We also have to do more to help all of us become energy efficient. The cost of electricity, however it is generated, is a significant drain on both family and government resources. How do we get more energy efficiency? We believe, in the United States, that we could go a long way toward meeting our global goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if we were more energy efficient. No new source, no new generation, but just use more efficiently what we currently have. So we will be discussing this at the summit. We’re going to be looking to work with our partners in the region to chart a clear path toward a low carbon economy for the future.


MODERATOR: The next and last question comes from Susana Finger in Argentina and was submitted online. You probably answered this question already in your opening statement. But probably it would be good to widen and broaden your opinion about the question which reads as follow: What strategies have the Obama Administration elaborated to support improvement in quality and equality of education in the Americas? And also, does the U.S. have views toward developing policies of cooperation for education in the Americas, principally through supplying technological, professional, and financial resources?


SECRETARY CLINTON: And the answer to all those questions, Suzanna in Argentina, is yes. We do intend to be a strong, effective partner on behalf of education. I mentioned earlier in my remarks, and in response to one of the prior questions, that we believe in education. We have invested in education in the region. And we want to make sure that our investments are as effective as possible. USAID programs have focused on strengthening primary education. I saw that in action today at the school I visited. And we want to do more to take best practices.


Two other programs that I would mention, because they’ll be part of what we look at when we have our summit meetings, is there’s a program in Jamaica called Expanding – I think it’s Expanding Educational Horizons – that works with families to try to help families educate their own children and to help schools that have child-centered learning programs.


You know, a child’s first teachers are that child’s parents. And we have to do more to help parents understand both the value of education and to feel that they have something to teach their children. I worked for years in a program that I learned about in Israel that helped train mothers, illiterate mothers, who had never been to school. They were mostly immigrants to Israel from Ethiopia and other African countries. And they were given skills to teach their own children, very basic skills that paid off once they got to school.


The program in Jamaica has proven results in literacy and better mathematical skills. There is a program in Mexico that I have seen the results of where we help young people get better trained as teachers. And of course, the seed programs where we try to bring more people together to universities so that they can get trained. We want to do all of that.


And I think it’s important that we hear from people who are watching us and following this online, as well as here in the audience, what works, what have you seen? Because too often in education, we go from fad to fad to fad. We don’t take enough time to let something take root and actually bear fruit. If somebody has a new product to sell, everybody doesn’t want to be left behind.


But there is no substitute for a well trained teacher interacting with a child encouraged to learn by that child’s family. That’s where the magic takes place. And so we have to do more to help train our teachers and prepare them and provide them the equipment, the materials they need. And we have to do more to change the culture, the mindset in a lot of families, so that children are encouraged to learn, encouraged to do well in school, they’re rewarded for that. And I think that we’ll find some very positive programs that we can help expand and that the United States stands ready to support.


Rodolfo, thank you so much for moderating it and asking the questions. I appreciate you.


MODERATOR: My pleasure.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/T6-5