Remarks at a Dinner Hosted by South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
Secretary of State
Thank you, Ambassador, and once again, it is such a great personal pleasure for me to be here in South Africa around the same time as the women’s march, and to have a chance with all of you to reflect back on the many contributions that South African women made over generations to achieve freedom and opportunity and to participate and contribute to the building of this extraordinary country. And it is a great delight for me to be here with a distinguished American delegation of diplomats and business leaders, of those who are working hand-in-hand with their South African compatriots to deepen and broaden the relationship between not only our governments, but our people, and to be in the presence of so many women who are leading not only South Africa, but Africa and the world.
Just sitting at my table with my friend the Foreign Minister is the premier of this province, the new chairperson of the African Union, and scattered throughout this banquet hall are so many other distinguished and leading women of this country. I have had the great personal privilege of working with the Foreign Minister now for three years. And it has been such a productive and personally rewarding experience. I am so pleased that, as she just said, we work together in order to produce results to be effective. And Minister Mashabane is effective. She is effective and so – (applause) – grounded in the needs and the aspirations of South Africa. I always come away with a big smile on my face about everything we’ve talked about. Only a small part of it ever gets into the diplomatic cables. (Laughter.) We swear each other to secrecy.
But it is a great experience to have a colleague who is focused on making sure that we never forget why we do these jobs. Having these jobs is not an end in itself. Being a premier, a chairperson, a foreign minister – they are prestigious, they carry status, people drive you around, they protect you. But having the job is not the point. Using the job to make life better, to give chances to people who would otherwise be left behind is what I know gets Maite up every morning because that’s what gets me up every morning.
And we feel a particular obligation to women because there are still so many women – in my country, in this country, across Africa and the world – who don’t have the opportunity that they should. And so for all people, men and women and children, the real task of the 21st century is to expand that circle of opportunity. Freedom, democracy are great accomplishments of the 19th – 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. But now comes, in many ways, the hard part. How does democracy deliver? How does it make it possible for more and more people to enter that circle of opportunity to make lives better for themselves and their families?
So in our Strategic Dialogue, we talk about the hard international issues that are on the front pages of newspapers. But we also talk about how women farmers can be more productive; how more children can be educated and more girls can go on to secondary school and university; how young men can find jobs so that they, too, can support themselves and families; how there can be that promise of democracy delivering results that is the obligation of all of us who are serving.
And this is not just for government alone, which is why I’m so pleased we had a fruitful and very important business summit between South African and American businesses, because creating opportunities in the environment for those jobs is something government has to be doing all the time. But actually doing the hard work of putting people to work, of creating value, of making it possible for entrepreneurs, to large corporations, to flourish, the private sector has to be at the table.
So the Minister and I sat and listened to representatives of South African and American businesses talk about what they were doing and how they were deepening their cooperation, and it was quite reassuring, because there are so many more ways we can work in tandem to produce results for both of our people.
So once again, it is, on behalf of my delegation, on behalf of President Obama and the Administration a great moment for me to say thank you. Thank you for the work we have done together over the last three-plus years. Thank you for what South Africa does every day as a model and a leader about what is possible for women and men alike. Thank you for the great partnership and collegiality that we have developed. And thank you for making us feel so welcome and for producing such an unusual event, snow in Pretoria in August. (Laughter and applause.)
And thank you for giving me another name. Nomkhitha will be a name that I will proudly share because I am very proud to be, on my own behalf and on behalf of my country, working with you to help us both chart the kind of future that the people we represent so richly deserve.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)