Remarks at the Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Clinton Presidential Center
Little Rock, Arkansas
September 30, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Oh, my goodness. Oh. Dean, that story brought back so many – (laughter) – extraordinary memories of that cold December day, standing in the water in the waders, and I’ll only add a few little details. (Laughter). I didn’t think it was uncharacteristic at all when they said, “Go ahead. You take the first shot.” (Laughter and applause.) So the pressure was building. It was really lucky. And it was a banded duck, which I learned later was quite significant. We had a wonderful time because next to his wonderful wife, Kula, I adored Frank Kumpuris. I thought he was one of the finest, most extraordinary men I have ever met, before or since. And I knew that he would watch out for me a little bit, with both Dean and Dr. Jones, so we had a good time that day.

But then I got back to the governor’s mansion. And since I’d been gone, my daughter had gotten up, and she asked Bill where I was. And Bill said, “Well, she went duck hunting.” And Chelsea met me at the back door. (Laughter.) She said, “Mommy, did you kill a duck?” I said, “Yes, I did. I did. I killed a duck.” She got big tears in her eyes. She goes, “Mommy, that duck could have been some little duck’s mother.” (Laughter.) And it was shortly before Christmas, but it took a day or two before she got over that. But it is a wonderful memory that I cherish, as I do so many memories from our extraordinary times and friendships and experiences here in Arkansas.

And I want to thank Dean and the entire Kumpuris family because your generous support of this lecture series and this school has been so welcome, and we are deeply grateful. And I know, too, that Frank, who was so civic-minded and public spirited, would have loved sitting in the front row right next to you, Kula, and he’d probably have about a hundred questions for whoever was standing up on this stage.

I also want to thank Stephanie, not only for welcoming us but for everything you’ve done to make the Presidential Center such a success, Stephanie. You’ve been a real solid rock through all the years. (Applause.) I also want to thank our wonderful long-time friends Bruce Lindsey and Skip Rutherford for their leadership and the entire team here at the Foundation and the faculty, staff, and especially the students at the Clinton School.

There are so many familiar faces here in the audience, and I am grateful for each and every one of you. I want to just mention a very few. I want to mention Dale and Betty Bumpers. Betty Bumpers was such a great first lady for the state of Arkansas in every way. (Applause.) And just the other day, Betty called Bill and said, “How worried should we be that the economy and all these cuts are going to undermine immunization efforts for our children?” So she has been consistent, working on taking care of our children for long before I knew her, and ever since I had been honored to know her.

And Dale, I am so pleased to see you looking as handsome and roguish as usual. (Laughter and applause.) And if you haven’t seen the Dale Bumpers-David Pryor Show, it is quite a spectacle. And dear David and Barbara, who have been our friends and our colleagues through so many years, Fayetteville to Little Rock to Washington and back. And Jim Guy, it’s wonderful you’re here.

And Carol Tucker Foreman, welcome back to Arkansas and thank you for the great battles you have waged on behalf of our food and nutrition and our children’s health over all these years.

And Bill Bowen, who many of you know is a great business leader over the years in Arkansas, but I knew him because occasionally he would let me come teach at the First Methodist Church Bowen Sunday School Class – (laughter) – where he would quietly but effectively critique everything I was saying about the lesson of the day.

And there are so many others who served in Arkansas and served in Washington in Bill’s administrations, and it is great to see you, and I’m looking forward to having time with all of you over the next two days.

Before I begin, I want to say a few serious words about events because we had a very significant event in Yemen earlier today, when we learned of the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader and chief propagandist of al-Qaida’s most active and dangerous affiliate, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. This is the terrorist group that tried to blow up an airplane filled with innocent people on Christmas Day in 2009, that attempted to bring down U.S. cargo planes in 2010. Awlaki took a leading role in those plots and in spreading an ideology of hate and violence. But today, like Usama bin Ladin and so many other terrorist leaders who have been killed or captured in recent years, he can no longer threaten America, our allies, or peace loving people anywhere in the world.

Today we are all safer, but we recognize that the threat remains, that al-Qaida does maintain the ability to plan and carry out attacks, and that our vigilance is required. So we will, along with our partners and allies, continue to ratchet up the pressure, continue pursuing a comprehensive strategic approach to counterterrorism, and work to deny al-Qaida and its affiliates safe haven anywhere in the world. It seems a long way from this absolutely glorious day here at the library after dedicating the bridge and the Bill Clark Wetlands, but it is what I spend a lot of my time working on and doing every day.

And it’s such a pleasure for me to be back here to have a chance to once again see old friends and talk about what’s going on in our lives, but also to remember that we are interconnected in ways large and small to people very far from where we are today.

I remember the first time I flew in to the Little Rock Airport all those years ago. Bill picked me up and drove me around Little Rock, then up through the Arkansas River Valley and the Ouachita Mountains to Hot Springs. And just as I had been told by Arkansas’ biggest booster, who I first laid eyes on as he was saying, “Not only that, we grow the biggest watermelons in the world,” I was very taken with this beautiful state and the hospitality and welcome that I received. Every time I come back, I get that same feeling, and the years we spent here raising our daughter and being involved in the public schools – Chelsea saw her first-grade teacher earlier today – just brings back a flood of memories. So I want to thank Little Rock and Arkansas for everything that you have done and continue to do for me and for our family.

And I’m very proud of every part of this center – the library, the foundation, and the school. And this year, the Clinton School students are completing more than 30 international public service projects in 19 countries on all 6 continents. I’m very proud of what you are doing. (Applause.)

And I also know from my extensive travels on behalf of our country how essential it is that Americans keep reaching out and that we keep opening doors and searching for better understanding. So what you are doing is absolutely essential, and it embodies what Bill and I have tried always to keep at the center of our work, that the point of public service is to produce results. As Bill said earlier today at the bridge dedication, it’s a very simple test: Are people better off when you stopped than when you started? And that’s not only true for elective office, but it’s true in the business world; it’s true in the not-for-profit world, the academic world. Are children better off, will they have a better future, and are we coming together or dividing?

So we have a deep responsibility with the Clinton School that we care very much about, and I have been looking forward to being here with you. Now, one might think, “Well, what does any of this mean for a Secretary of State?” Because I’m well aware that with what’s going on in our economy and the daily struggles that so many Arkansans and Americans are facing, it’s hard to shift focus to something happening in the country of Yemen or Afghanistan and Pakistan or China or Brazil. And there are some – and I hear their voices – who argue that the United States can no longer afford to be a global leader, that we should pull back from the world and lower our ambitions. But I am here today to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is – (applause) – number one, we have no choice; the world is on our doorsteps whether we invite it or not. And number two, we cannot afford not to be engaging. Whether it’s opening new markets for American businesses or breaking up terrorist plots and bringing the wars of the last decade to a successful close, our work around the world holds the key to our prosperity and security right here at home.

Now, there are many examples of this, and some of them are controversial. But take, for example, the pending free trade agreement with South Korea. It is expected to create 70,000 American jobs if Congress approves it, including thousands right here in Arkansas because tariffs on most agricultural exports are phased out. That will make a real difference in people’s lives.

From the first days of the Obama Administration, we have worked to renew America’s global leadership because we want it to deliver more for the American people. And for the last decade our foreign policy has been focused on places where we faced the greatest dangers. And responding to threats will always be central to our foreign policy; but it cannot be our foreign policy. If all we do is focus on the threats and the dangers, we will miss the opportunities. And in the decade ahead we need to focus just as intensely on the places where we have the greatest opportunities as on those places where we have faced the greatest dangers.

Now, what that means for me every day is looking for ways to support the so-called Arab Awakening, the transitions sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, they are some of the most consequential, historic changes of the last many decades, certainly since the fall of the Soviet Union.

It also means renewing America’s preeminent role in the Asia Pacific. That is, for our future, the most consequential region of the world. It means elevating the role of economics in foreign policy, the most vibrant source of our power and a vital part of driving our economic recovery right here at home.

It means working to empower women and girls around the world, a piece of unfinished business of humanity. It means changing the way we do foreign policy, so we are using 21st century tools and harnessing what I call smart power to produce results.

So we are working on all of these fronts and more. But I deeply understand why so many Americans today are worried about what lies ahead for them, for their families, and for our country. Some even wonder, looking at the landscape of problems here at home and abroad, whether America is still up to the job. Well, we have lived through times of anxiety before.

I remember when I was growing up the fear was we were falling behind the Soviets in technology and ambition. I remember my fifth-grade teacher that we needed to all study mathematics so that the Russians wouldn’t get ahead of us and that President Eisenhower himself expected us to learn math. That made a big impression on me. I tried and hoped that the President would give me some credit for effort. (Laughter.)

When I started practicing law here in Little Rock, our country faced stagflation and oil shocks. When I moved with Bill and Chelsea to Washington, as he was inaugurated President, it was outsourcing, the apparent decline of American competitiveness and a budget deficit which at the time seemed unbelievable, about, what, $350 billion. But each time we rose to whatever challenge faced us. American entrepreneurs and innovators proved the naysayers wrong. We out-worked, we out-built, and we simply out-competed every rival. When it mattered most, we put the common good first ahead of ideology, party, or personal interest.

So our people and generations of American leaders built a resilient economy, a global architecture of institutions and norms that protected not just our interests but the interests of all people who wanted a better life in a rules-based international order. That was exceptional leadership from an exceptional country. I remember when Bill and I went to East Asia when he was governor. It was the first trade mission ever to places that seemed very far away from Arkansas, like Japan and Hong Kong. The people we met in Asia didn’t see an America in trouble; they saw a beacon of opportunity and liberty, a superpower underwriting peace and security in the region, and a dynamic market driving global growth. And lucky for us, they also saw lots of Arkansas soybeans they wanted to buy.

Now, that view of America was right then and it’s right now. In the last decade, we’ve lived through terrorist attacks, two long wars, and a global financial crisis. Through it all, America remains an exceptional country. And the sources of America’s greatness are more durable than perhaps many realize. Yes, our military is by far the strongest, our economy is by far the largest in the world, but our workers are still the most productive, and our universities are the gold standard. Our core values of equality, tolerance, opportunity, are an inspiration to people everywhere.

So yes, we do have real challenges, but there’s no doubt we have the capacity to meet them. Just look here in Arkansas. Arkansas farmers are finding new markets for poultry, cotton, and rice, and those exports are supporting tens of thousands of jobs on and off the farm. Arkansas manufacturers are selling aerospace components and electronics, chemicals, and plastics to new customers all over the world. In 2000, Arkansas exported only $20 million worth of goods to China. Last year, it topped $336 million. (Applause.) And this summer, Governor Beebe delivered the keynote address at the first ever Arkansas-China Business and Economic Summit at the University of Central Arkansas.

Students across Arkansas are working to help solve problems, like in Bangladesh where they are supporting a farmer-to-farmer program that uses new technologies and new relationships to boost food production. And the State Department is doing everything we can to promote American business abroad. Foreign investment in Arkansas already directly supports more than 33,000 jobs, but I think that’s just the beginning of what is possible. So we are making it a priority for our ambassadors to help American businesses to work with governors and mayors, like Governor Beebe and Mayors Mark Stodola and Patrick Hays, to have job-creating investments back here doing what we do best: making things and exporting those.

We’re also working to bring down other countries’ internal trade barriers that deny our companies a chance to compete fairly, including abusive regulatory regimes, currency manipulation, and lax labor and environmental standards. And we are standing up for the intellectual property rights of America’s innovators – too often under attack nearly everywhere in the world. And to build up tomorrow’s trading partners and create future opportunities for exporters, we are changing the way we do international development and focusing on investment rather than aid.

So everything I know tells me that we have the talent and the ingenuity and the work ethic to come through these current difficulties. But nothing is preordained. No outcome is inevitable. Leading the world in the years ahead will take the same hard work, clear-eyed choices, and commitment to shared sacrifice and service that built our country’s greatness in the first place.

And ultimately, that responsibility doesn’t rest on the shoulders of a president or a secretary of state or a governor or a senator or a mayor. It’s really an obligation that belongs to all Americans. We have to step up. We have to improve our own efforts. We have to find both the common ground and the common good that has united us in the past.

Now, late last year, I held a town hall meeting in Pristina, Kosovo. This is a place where America made all the difference to the future of those people who survived a brutal effort at ethnic cleansing. In Pristina, if you ever go, there’s a very large statue of Bill as a way of thanking him for his leadership. And next to the statue there is a little shopping area, and somebody started something called the Hillary Store, where they sell very nice clothing but, alas, no pant suits. (Laughter.) And so I went into the store and I said, “My goodness, I’m so surprised. Why on earth do you need a Hillary Store?” And the woman whose store it was very proudly told me they didn’t want Bill to get lonely. (Laughter.)

So later at the town hall meeting, a man stood up and thanked me for everything America had done for his country. And like in so many places in the world, he and his neighbors continued to see American leadership as a linchpin to their own future success. And he asked me, “Will you help us so we could finally see the biggest and the brightest and the most beautiful parts of democracy and a new economy? Can the great American nation assist us in our struggle to restore our hope?” Just as in times past, that is what America still means to countless people around the world: opportunity, responsibility, community. And today, it is our chance and our great privilege to live up to that well-earned reputation of the past, to make the hard choices here at home and abroad that keep the promise of America alive and well. Yes, we have to keep putting people first and keep building those bridges, and don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

Thank you all. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/1651