Remarks at the American Pakistan Foundation's Inaugural Gala Benefit

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Cipriani 42nd Street
New York, NY
December 11, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very, very much. I am deeply touched by Moeen Qureshi’s too kind introduction, but I think I’ll ask him to introduce me wherever I go from now on. (Laughter.) It was especially privileged to be introduced by someone who has served Pakistan so well. And even though he held the position of interim prime minister for only a few months, he accomplished a great deal to stabilize the economy, tackle corruption, and help to set Pakistan on a better path to the future. And thank you for honoring us, my being the honorary chairman of this new foundation. (Applause.)

And of course, for any American, it is an honor to appear alongside by friend and predecessor General Colin Powell, who has dedicated – (applause) – he has dedicated his life to protecting and advancing this foundation’s mission of cooperation between and among nations in pursuit of progress, prosperity, and peace. And I am very pleased that General Powell agreed to serve as the honorary co-chair of the American Pakistan Foundation. (Applause.)


I also want to thank my friends Nafis Sadik, whom I have known for a number of years and have admired even longer. She has served on the world stage in many different settings, but she is particularly well-known now for her fight to end HIV/AIDS and improve maternal and child health. And we are so grateful that she was willing to assume leadership of this foundation in these exacting and exciting days. Thank you so much, Dr. Sadik. (Applause.)


I thank Riz Khan for being the MC. I’m still thinking about the fly joke. (Laughter.) I’ll try to remember until I can get home to tell my husband. (Laughter.) And of course, we are especially honored to have a number of ambassadors, certainly Ambassador Haqqani and Ambassador Haroon. Thank you for being with all of us this evening. And Ambassador Holbrooke, thank you for your extraordinary efforts on behalf of the mission that President Obama and I asked you to assume at the beginning of this year. (Applaud.)


Two members of Congress have already been recognized – Congressman Jerry Nadler who represents a part of New York City, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who has been the co-chair of Friends of Pakistan, and I think personally knows every Pakistani American not just in Houston, but in Texas and for miles around. We’re so pleased that Sheila is here.


There are two other members who joined us after the introduction. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke -- where is Congresswoman Clarke? If she would – (applause) – if she would stand up – (applause) – thank you. And Congressman Anthony Weiner, also from New York City. Congressman Weiner and Congresswoman Clarke share the largest Pakistani American constituency in New York, and I am so pleased that they are here.


There are so many of you who contributed to making this evening a success, and it represents the culmination of months of hard work. And I join in welcoming people who traveled great distances to be here, from California, from Pakistan, from Abu Dhabi, from London, from Canada, and from every American state from here to our West Coast.


I think you’re here because you understand and recognize that Pakistan is at a critical juncture, and we are here to show solidarity with the people of Pakistan. Whether we hail from the government or the private sector or academia, the not-for-profit sector, whether we have family ties in Pakistan or just wish that we did, we all have a stake in Pakistan’s future. And I believe that you are helping to lay the foundation for a new era of partnership not only between our countries, but between our people.


I want to recognize the young Pakistani-American volunteers who are staffing this event. They represent the enthusiasm and the civic-mindedness that young people in both nations bring to the work of building a stronger, safer, and more harmonious world. With young people like these getting engaged in global affairs, we can be optimistic about the future they will inherit.


Pakistan is a nation close to my heart. As First Lady, senator, Secretary of State, I have made five visits to Pakistan. I have a number of my close staff who have Pakistani heritage. I was honored as senator of this great state to represent the largest community of Pakistani Americans in the United States. And I have learned firsthand what a special country Pakistan is – a place rich with history and culture, blessed with natural beauty, and home to people of unforgettable warmth and strength. (Applause.)


And I have seen the contributions that Pakistani Americans have made to the United States in every field – as scholars and scientists, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, as artists, public servants and private citizens.


And I have been deeply moved by the strength of the Pakistani American community’s commitment to Pakistan, and how generous and creative you have been in finding ways to give back, whether by mobilizing local NGOs to respond to humanitarian crises or sending aid in the aftermath of natural disasters or calling on the Congress and the State Department to send more.


You have also provided help directly. In June, when the military offensive in Swat displaced many from their homes, many of you responded. The State Department even heard from a group of Pakistani American women doctors, some of whom are here tonight, who knew that families would need medical care and would have a hard time finding it. And we were glad to help these women physicians travel to Swat to provide essential care to people in crisis. And I want publicly to thank them for having done that. (Applause.)


Other contributions by this community are less measurable but no less valuable. As senator first, and now as Secretary, I have benefited in my job from the advice and insights of Pakistani Americans on how the United States can do a better job of working with Pakistan across a range of issues, from fighting extremists to strengthening regional stability to meeting the needs of the Pakistani people. And I know that others in Washington and in the Obama Administration feel the same.


But this foundation represents a new potential for this community’s impact to multiply. By harnessing your energy and coordinating your efforts, even more people can benefit. But more than that, a very clear message can be sent from right here back to Pakistan that we are in this together. It is not just the United States Government, which has policies and strategies, but it is the hearts of Pakistani Americans and other Americans that are going to be put to work on behalf of our common mission.


Now, this foundation follows in the tradition of other communities of the diaspora here in the United States that have united around their shared heritage to help strengthen ties between their country of origin and family and history and ancestry and their new home. Another community I know well, the Irish American community, has had great success with this approach. When President Kennedy and Irish President Eamon de Valera launched the American Irish Foundation in 1963, they hoped to foster closer connections between Irish Americans and their ancestral home. But the foundation’s membership and mission expanded over the years, and today, after merging with the Ireland Fund, it is the nation’s – and the world’s – largest private organization supporting economic and social development in Ireland.


And during the 30 years of the troubled and the horrible consequences of the killings and the disruption that ensued, this foundation funded by and motivated by Irish Americans who believed there could be a better day was often the only organization that could speak to both communities, that could go into a Catholic neighborhood or a Protestant neighborhood and meet people and listen to people. And it created a foundation for the peace that eventually occurred.


In time, I hope that this foundation will also serve as a model for effective, far-reaching philanthropy that complements and improves the work of government. Because, you know so well, peace and prosperity cannot be pursued only in the marble halls of Washington or Islamabad, but in boardrooms and classrooms, mosques and churches and synagogues, public squares and private homes – and on evenings like these.


As we look around this room and we see the extraordinary turnout, I want to say to you that this is a network of the some smartest, most successful people in the United States. And we need not just your very generous contribution, but your ideas about what we can do better.


During my October trip, I experienced the skepticism felt by many in Pakistan about America’s motives and commitment. This trust deficit holds us back from working together as well as we could and as well as we must. Each of you, and this organization now, is uniquely positioned to help close that gap by fostering greater understanding between our nations and by contributing in concrete ways to Pakistan’s stability, social, and economic development.


President Obama and our Administration have worked hard to change the perception of our purpose in Pakistan both with words and with deeds. One of the main goals of my trip was to reach out to a broad community of Pakistanis, to hear their needs, hopes and concerns, and to ensure that the United States is on the right track in our effort to build a stronger partnership. That is a key goal of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and it is a personal priority for President Obama and me.


Earlier tonight I met one of President Obama’s college roommates who invited President Obama to Pakistan all those years ago, and his face just lights up when he talks about that trip, and the friendships that he had, and the homes that he was welcomed into. So we want this to be person-to-person.


We seek not to impose our preferences on Pakistan or to override the government’s judgments or subvert the people’s will. Instead, we want a relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibility.


The United States has taken major steps in recent months to support Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, foster economic development, expand opportunity, and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and America’s. So when people question our commitment, I point to what we have already done and what we are preparing to do.


In recent months, the United States has provided the largest share of international assistance to displaced families in South Waziristan and the Northwest Frontier Province. We’ve sent additional food aid and support for early recovery efforts in Malakand. And I thank George Rupp and the International Rescue Committee for being the partner that has made it possible to get that aid where people can actually use it. (Applause.) And we’ve worked to find a solution to a problem that I’ve heard about repeatedly from Pakistanis: the energy shortages that have caused blackouts in cities and rural areas across the country, leaving families in the dark for days, forcing factories and businesses to close, triggering an increase in crime and unemployment. So in Pakistan, I announced the first phase of a signature energy program, through which the United States will help repair and upgrade key power stations and agricultural tube wells, improve local providers, and promote energy efficiency. And we need partners like many of you to make good on that promise to the people of Pakistan. (Applause.)


As we move forward, the United States plans to focus more of our assistance on these large “signature” projects – not only in energy, but in transportation, agriculture, water, and education as well. In order to highlight our partnership, we want to make it clear that the United States is investing in the people of Pakistan. We want to see more children in school. We want to see more mothers given the healthcare they need to bear and raise healthy children. We want to see more young men working toward a better future of peace and stability and prosperity.


When I was in Pakistan, I announced that the United States had partnered with Pakistani telecom companies and the government to underwrite the launch of Pakistan’s first text-messaged-based social networking system, called “Humari Awaz,” or “Our Voice.” And through this program – (applause) – Pakistanis can instantly connect to thousands of their fellow citizens to share anything from cricket scores to urgent information in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack. In the six weeks since it began, three thousand people a day have joined from Karachi to Peshawar to Multan to Quetta. The United States agreed to underwrite the first 24 million messages, which we estimated would carry the program through its first year. But I’ve learned that the 24-millionth message was just sent today. (Applause.) Clearly the people of Pakistan have a lot to talk about. And now the companies involved and members of Ambassador Holbrooke’s team are working hard to keep this program going, so it can become a self-sustaining mobile tool for the Pakistani people.


We believe these new technologies can help improve governance and can help people stand against the threat of terrorism and crime and corruption – anonymous reports, alerts, the kind of information that will supplement what the government is attempting to do.


Now, we are pleased with what we’ve seen accomplished already in our partnership, but to achieve the long-term progress that Pakistan seeks and deserves, we must go further in two areas: helping Pakistan strengthen its democratic institutions and improving security by defeating the extremists groups who are waging a campaign of violence against Pakistan and threatening stability in South Asia and beyond.


Stronger democratic institutions will help Pakistan’s Government become more responsive to its citizens, build broad support for future government initiatives, and ensure that the needs of all the people of Pakistan are taken into account, no matter where they live or what their circumstances. The United States has significantly increased civilian aid to Pakistan to support this progress toward a stronger democracy. We are also increasing the size of our USAID mission in Pakistan. And I have appointed Ambassador Robin Raphel the first coordinator of our non-military assistance to Pakistan. Ambassador Raphel is known to many of you from her long and distinguished service and her close ties to Pakistan over the last 30 years. She will oversee the implementation of our new Civilian Assistance Strategy, which we are designing in close consultation with the Pakistan Government.


Meanwhile, the numbers of innocent men, women, and children killed in senseless attacks by extremists continue to rise. Earlier this week, two bombs went off in a market in Lahore as crowds of women were shopping for clothes. The next day, there was a bombing at government intelligence offices in Multan. And we all know of the horrific, nihilistic attack on the mosque in Rawalpindi. These grim reports have become all too familiar, and I know that those of you with family in Pakistan follow this news with great concern.


The Pakistani military has taken on the fight against the Pakistani Taliban, and the United States has increased our efforts to help. But there are other terrorist groups who have set up camp in Pakistan, where they are plotting global attacks and waging war against the troops from 42 nations who comprise the international security assistance forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has a critical role, and an abiding interest, in helping this international effort, and we will continue to encourage the Pakistani Government to take affirmative steps toward the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda and the other terrorist groups responsible for so much suffering in Pakistan and around the world. (Applause.)


Now, we are coordinating much of this cooperation at the government level and we will be invigorating the Strategic Dialogue between our countries, which I will personally oversee when it resumes this spring.


My colleagues in the Cabinet are visiting Pakistan. There’ll be soon a visit from the Secretary of Agriculture. Others will follow. We want to be guided by a paramount principle: full respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty. We come as a partner not a patron. (Applause.)


But as our honorary co-chair, Mr. Qureshi, said, there is such a promising future for Pakistan – the opportunity to truly shape its own destiny, to become a beacon of democracy and model of development not only in South Asia, but globally and particularly in the Muslim world.


But we have to work hard and we have to help our friends in Pakistan. That is why you are so important to this effort. You know better than anyone what already connects us, and you are poised to forge new connections to be unofficial ambassadors between our countries. As donors, you convey the generosity and sense of solidarity that the American people feel with Pakistan. As advocates, you can help the American Government identify how we can best meet the needs of the Pakistani people, and then tell us whether we are succeeding or not. And as unofficial ambassadors, you can help people in both nations see through the misconceptions, the stereotypes that obscure our relationship, recognize that underneath our differences, there is so much that we share and so much we can accomplish together. By supporting this foundation you have stepped up to help shape that change, for the benefit of millions whom you may never meet, whom may never hear of this foundation, but whose lives can be touched and changed by your giving.


I’m very grateful – (applause) – to you all, and I look forward to following the progress that this foundation makes. I look forward to working hard in the future and reaching a point where we can look back and remember that December 11, 2009 marked a turning point, that we were present at the creation of something important and enduring, and something that helped the people of Pakistan change their future for the better.


Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/1268