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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Opening Remarks at the State Department Sponsored TED Talks

June 3, 2009


Special Representative for Global Partnerships Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Washington, DC
June 3, 2009

Thank you all for coming, and what an impressive gathering this is. While it is impossible to welcome all of our honored guests by name, I want each and every one of you to know how excited we are to be hosting the first ever TED Event brought to you in partnership with government.

Many leading actors in our foreign policy community from the State Department and USAID are gathered here, not to mention top level representatives from the White House and other government agencies. I would like to thank Sonal Shah and Howard Buffett from the White House Office of Social Innovation and Joshua DuBois and Mara Vanderslice from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, with whom we have already begun exploring partnerships around funding social innovation, engaging Diaspora communities, and encouraging interfaith dialogue. We are also pleased to welcome CEOs who direct some of the most dynamic and visionary companies in the world; NGOs, multilaterals, and faith communities who are determined champions for justice and peace; and a number of the world’s leading philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, teachers, thinkers, and doers – all who are committed to one basic principle. We all are driven to make the world a better place than we found it.

You are here, today, to be challenged by the crises of our times and stirred by new possibilities and solutions. That is what our distinguished speakers, the most innovative of visionaries, are here to do; and they have brought their best new ideas for a better world. And so, to each of them, and to all of you, I bring the greetings and gratitude of the Secretary of State, who regrets that she cannot be here but who regards this day as truly transformational. In this hallowed place, we truly are breaking new ground for all of us, for each of our organizations, to begin to build a better world together, starting in this great creative forum of ideas that TED has helped to bring into being. In this spirit, I would like to specially thank the Curator of TED, Chris Anderson, and as I have mentioned to him throughout our preparations over recent weeks, I hope that this will be the start of a beautiful relationship with TED that will bring together the best and the brightest to find creative solutions to our most intransigent problems.

Secretary Clinton has long been a fan and follower of TED and she will undoubtedly be browsing and watching this on her laptop during her trip back from Egypt later this week! An I’ve also been told that her husband, President Bill Clinton won the 2007 TED Prize. On her behalf, and that of the State Department, I want all of you in attendance today to know that this was the moment in history when it could be said, definitively, that the State Department changed the way we do business and opened our doors to a new era of partnerships, collaboration, and innovation. And through these partnerships, we all came together to integrate development, diplomacy, and defense – the three Ds – in order to serve our mission of representing America’s very best to the world.

We must reach out our hand to others – reaching out to those less fortunate by giving them a hand up, through a more coordinated approach to development; reaching out to others to greet them through a more strategic and holistic approach to diplomacy; and reaching out, when necessary, to stop those few extremists who wish to destroy our very world. And when I say that “we” must reach out, I am not referring to the US government alone. I mean all of us in this room. We are all in this together. Our success in these endeavors is shared. So, too, must our work be more collaborative, our plans more coordinated, and our partnerships more strategic.

While diplomacy is our primary mission, we recognize that your organizations are engaging with foreign governments and foreign publics all the time. Each day, your organizations represent the face of America to the world. So by implementing these partnerships and acting in a collective, concerted manner, we can add value to both our individual and shared goals, while also promoting the strategic interests of our nation, and enhancing what we can achieve together. I firmly believe that our shared, global challenges can only be met through a comprehensive response rooted in partnerships, innovation, and collaboration. And that is why there is no better forum for the inaugural event of the Secretary’s Global Partnership Initiative than the TED Talks.

We are here today to learn more about these innovative ideas that we can begin to incorporate into our foreign policy planning and day-to-day diplomatic efforts. This is truly an historic moment, because you are about to witness not just the first government TED Talks; you are about to discover revolutionary new perspectives on how we can serve the American people and create a safer, more prosperous world.

So let us begin by listening. Our life’s work is before us, and I sincerely believe that we find ourselves today on the threshold of a new and truly memorable era, an Era of Partnerships. Let us begin with these new ideas for a better world that will both humble us and inspire us, and make us even more passionately committed to the challenges before us. Thank you all, and welcome.

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