Remarks Upon Acceptance of the George McGovern Leadership Award

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 5, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, George, that’s so great. Thank you so much.

SENATOR MCGOVERN: I don’t know where the award is.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s right here. It’s right there. It’s so beautiful. Look how pretty that is. (Applause.) Oh, it’s pretty heavy. We’ll just leave it there. (Laughter.)

SENATOR MCGOVERN: I’m still strong but I’m not strong enough to lift this thing. (Laughter.) I’ve never had an award that heavy. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re a heavyweight, George, in the field of fighting hunger. And this just goes to prove if you want an overly generous, over-the-top introduction, have someone who you’ve known for 38 years deliver it. But it is, for me, a great honor to receive an award that bears your name, George. You have been at the forefront of our nation’s fight against hunger here at home and around the world for a very long time, going back to President Kennedy’s term and your partnership with him on behalf of American efforts to feed the hungry. And I am very proud to be here and to receive this award that I really accept on behalf of a whole team of people who have been committed since the beginning of the Obama Administration to working with our private sector and not-for-profit partners to come up with a strategy that we thought could serve as a catalyst for not only our own efforts but the joint efforts of countries and concerned citizens around the world.

And certainly, my partner in this is our USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who is right there. (Applause.) And my chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, who’s actually in Haiti today working on hunger, food, clean water, housing, and other issues, and I determined early on that we wanted to better organize our own nation’s efforts to fight hunger. And we knew that this was a bipartisan, in fact a nonpartisan, issue. And we began working, and Raj, at that time was at USDA, and he and Secretary Vilsack and the rest of the government, and of course with President Obama’s strong endorsement, we came up with a strategy called Feed the Future and we’re very proud to be partnering with so many of you.

I want to thank Rick Leach for his leadership of the World Food Program USA. I want to thank his son Brandon, who came with Rick who has been giving me a lot of good advice about many matters, including the Middle East, where I desperately need it. (Laughter.) And of course, Josette, who has been just an inspirational superb leader as Executive Director of the World Food Program. Our former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman is here, and some of you remember the groundbreaking article that he co-authored on how we end hunger that helped to guide our efforts. I also want to recognize Cindy McCain, who has been a champion of the poor, the dispossessed and the hungry in many very difficult parts of the world. And I thank Cindy for being here tonight. (Applause.)

I was told that my long-time friend, Congressman Doris Matsui, was here – there, right in front of the podium, so I couldn’t see you Doris. Thank you so much. Doris has been an incredible champion and, of course, her late husband – also Congressman Matsui – was another leader in this effort. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger is here. I saw him in the audience and Sandy and I have conspired for many years on what to do to make food security and the alleviation and elimination of hunger a national security issue. So it’s not just a humanitarian moral imperative, which of course it is, but it does go to the core of America’s foreign policy and security interests. And I thank Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley for her hosting of this event.

It is fitting that you’re here in the Benjamin Franklin Room – there’s Ben up there – because we are at the State Department really on a mission when it comes to hunger. But it’s a slightly more expanded and somewhat different approach that we are taking. We know very well that hunger is a drain on economic development. It is a threat to the stability of governments, as the food riots have shown over the last two years, and it certainly it deprives us of the talents and energy of nearly a billion people worldwide.

So how do we tackle it? Because we know that fighting hunger is a priority for us and it demands our highest levels of patience and commitment. We are aware of our historic achievements like the Green Revolution because, as George pointed out, the huge shipment of food from the United States to India was soon replaced by India becoming self-sufficient, thanks to American technology and know-how being transferred to India. And it is important that we focus on science and research again, that we put a lot of effort and commitment behind looking for ways to bring about the widespread distribution of micro-nutrients, for example, the integration of nutrition into HIV and AIDS programs, the development of heartier nutrient-rich crops like beans, bread, to contain more iron. These are now being field tested in Rwanda to address anemia, a leading cause of deaths of mothers and children and of cognitive delay among children.

We’ve seen a growing consensus among world leaders that demands action. That consensus is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goal on poverty and hunger. It was carried forward in the last year by the G-8 and the G-20, which together pledged $22 billion to support agricultural development in impoverished countries.

And as Josette said last week at the United National General Assembly, ministers from six countries came together with leaders of the European Union, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, civil society, the private sector and, of course, the World Food Program to launch the 1,000 Days campaign. The goal being to improve nutrition starting with conception all the way through a child’s second birthday. And creating a consensus around this and a plan, so that people understand what they can do to contribute, was hardly imaginable two years ago. We now have to implement, but at least we have arrived at an agreement about the way forward.

So I think we have reached a shared understanding of the need for a sustainable, comprehensive approach, where there really is a role for everyone to play. We need the science and the tools that science and technology bring to help us carry that out. We need the political leadership that is sustainable. We certainly need a better understanding of how to deliver food and not interrupt, disrupt, and destroy markets in the host countries – a problem that Raj and I have worried over in Haiti. We understand that agricultural development in many parts of the world is primarily a women’s issue because in most places in the developing world 60 to 70 percent of the small farmers are women, and they are very often denied access to the best seeds and fertilizer and other assets that will contribute to increasing their yield. We know that it does very little good to increase yield in a region of a country where there are no roads to get the excess produced to market in any timely way. We know that in the absence of storage facilities, including cold storage that can be shared either because of the private sector building them or government programs that incentivize the building of them, we’re still going to lose about 40 percent of the harvest in many countries.

So we have a much broader understanding of what it will take in this fight against hunger. And as we press ahead with the Feed the Future Initiative, we need your involvement. We need your guidance, your feedback, your support, because we have to be ready to take this on for the long run.

The work that George did, starting 50 years ago now, took us a long way. But we have to look at what will work in the 21st century and how we use mobile phones to provide information about weather forecasting and crop prices to small farmers, how we use mobile phones to relay information about nutrition, particularly child nutrition. There are so many new approaches that we are essentially road testing in this initiative. But most importantly, we have to respect and support the farmers themselves. People who get up early, work back breakingly hard, are doing the best they can to support themselves and their families, often with no support and no protection from their own government, and somehow we have to make sure they know that there are ways that they can improve their own standard of living, income, and agricultural futures.

I am always amazed when I go to Africa or Asia or Latin America and go out and see what people are capable of doing with very little. Their ingenuity, their determination, their work ethic produces extraordinary results. But we can do so much more together.

We have some laws we have to look at changing in our own country that make it difficult to support locally purchased feed stocks and seeds and fertilizer. We have to look at the role that livestock plays and how that can be sustainable. We have a lot to do. And I really welcome you to bring your passion for this cause to bear on our common mission.

This is an issue that time and again in the last 20 months people have asked me, well, why food – which seems like a kind of odd question since it’s such a – we’re also working on water and air. We’re working on all the basics. (Laughter.) And it’s because we really recognized that it’s no longer enough just to give lip service to the need to increase a family’s and a community’s and a country’s capacity to care for themselves. We are taking a very hard look at our development programs because we want to do a better job with the dollars that the American taxpayer gives us.

I’m old-fashioned enough to think that people who support our development work as a nation actually want to see results. And there is just a human, visceral response to ending hunger. I’ve never had an argument about it. You can have arguments about a lot of the other stuff that we think is important in helping people to become self-sufficient. But when it comes to food, particularly helping people produce their own food, there’s an agreement on the goal and there’s surprising agreement on many of the means to achieve that goal.

But as both Rick and Josette and George have said, now we have to really summon the political will to translate that consensus into action. And George, we’re going to take you up on that offer. (Laughter.) I figure in 12 years, if we truly make this a bipartisan effort the way that you and Senator Bob Dole made it a bipartisan effort, and we stay with it and don’t get distracted and diverted by the cause of the day, we’re all going to be on the ground waiting for you to land. (Laughter.) And when you do, we’re going to thank you once again, George McGovern. (Applause.)

PRN: 2010/1423