Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. It is a real pleasure to be here with you today on Earth Day, to thank you for your hard work and your generosity in tackling some of the most urgent problems facing our planet and its people.
I especially appreciate being with both Jane and Walter, two visionary leaders who have made such a difference in their lives and work. I have to confess that when Jane was telling that story, I mean, I can’t remember anything about college and – (laughter) – it seems like such a long time ago. But I am very admiring of the idea that she has seen come to fruition in this Global Philanthropy Forum.
And I want to thank Walter, who has not only been such a successful journalist and chronicler of many aspects of our lives, particularly that of a number of diplomats and the work that they did on behalf of the United States, but what he’s done leading the Aspen Institute, which I think he has really transformed in ways that are extremely important.
I am pleased to look out at all of you who have made philanthropy so much a part of your being – what you care about, giving back, making a difference in people’s lives. Whether you’re supporting a green revolution in Africa or building schools and communities where hungry children can get a meal and actually learn, or you’re distributing life-saving vaccines and labor-saving technology, or sowing the seeds of peace in places pulled apart by conflict, what you do is important. It’s important just on the merits, because it alleviates suffering and it sort of pushes the great stone of human progress even just a little bit further along our common journey.
But it’s also important because it supplements and complements the work that I want to see us do through the State Department and USAID. I appreciate Walter referring to diplomacy and development, because I talk about the three Ds of our foreign policy – defense, diplomacy and development. And I’m determined that diplomacy and development will eventually be considered on the same par, as equal partners with defense, because I know what a difference this work can make.
And it’s absolutely essential that we recognize our interconnectedness as we grapple with the difficult challenges sweeping the planet. I know that we’ve only been in office for a little shy of a hundred days. But I’m even more convinced now than I was when I became Secretary of State that the problems we face today will not be solved by governments alone. It will be in partnerships – partnerships with philanthropy, with global business, partnerships with civil society. We have to find new ways to fill that space that is unfortunately left to create vacuums in too many places around the world.
I know that many of you have set a standard for innovation and creativity as you’ve approached problems. We used to think that sophisticated technology couldn’t possibly work in poor, remote places. But now we see subsistence farmers in Kenya using cell phones to find the best markets for their crops and transfer cash to their families. We see thousands of children exploring the internet on their very own laptops; and women cooking meals over solar-powered stoves that produce less black carbon and soot. We see the cutting down of pollution and respiratory disease, and saving women from long trips to collect firewood, and save diminishing forests.
We used to think it was impossible to make banking or insurance products available to the very poor. But now we’ve seen microfinance transform lives, and we’ve seen microloans start small businesses, and enable people to buy homes, send their children to school, and move out of poverty. And now we’re seeing a rise in programs to provide health insurance to the very poor and weather insurance to small farmers struggling to adapt to droughts or floods.
We’ve always known that small donations can add up to make big differences and, yet, we used to think that there was no way a single person with a little bit of money could change the fortune of someone on the other side of the world. And now we know differently. Thanks to innovative non-profits harnessing the power of the Internet, anyone can be the investor who helps a woman start a dairy, or helps a village build a school, or helps a family build a home.
These are examples of the kind of cutting-edge philanthropic tactics that can be replicated on an even larger scale. And I think that’s where government can come in. We have unique strengths to offer at the State Department and USAID, with our global reach, with relationships that connect us with governments and people around the world.
In particular, I see the State Department filling three key roles as your partner. First, we can be a convener, bringing together people from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest. Second, we can be a catalyst – launching new projects, actively seeking new solutions, providing vital training and technical assistance to facilitate additional projects. And third, we can be a collaborator, working closely with you and other partners to plan and implement projects – avoiding duplication, learning from each other, maximizing our impact by looking for best practices.
These are some of the ways that I believe we can enhance our work together. Many of you have in-depth knowledge of the communities and cultures in which you work. You have greater latitude to experiment with different approaches, and the flexibility and adaptability to try out these different approaches. We know that the challenges we face cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. Your giving reflects that reality.
But by combining our strengths, governments and philanthropies can more than double our impact. And the multiplier effect continues if we add businesses, NGOs, universities, unions, faith communities, and individuals. That’s the power of partnership at its best – allowing us to achieve so much more together than we could apart.
So in that spirit, I’m here today to announce that the State Department is opening its doors to a new generation of public-private partnerships. We will expand current partnerships and embark on new ones. We’ll embrace collaboration and become more receptive to the ideas and approaches that you will bring to us. And we want to deploy the full range of tools available, which is the heart of what I call smart power. You know, I’m not satisfied with either hard power or soft power being particularly effective descriptors. I think that smart power, which is really a way of combining everything at our disposal to achieve the results we seek, is a much clearer definition.
I’m committed to increasing the State Department’s engagement with the private sector and with civil society. And we will use the Global Partnership Initiative at the State Department to lead and facilitate this effort. I have asked Elizabeth Bagley, a senior advisor during Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s term and a former ambassador to Portugal, to lead this initiative. Elizabeth is a talented diplomat, a gifted networker, and a wonderful person, and I’m delighted she agreed to champion our efforts.
Working with her will be Kris Balderston. Kris worked with me for eight years in the Senate, and before that in the Clinton White House. In the Senate, he continued the work he had begun building partnerships and finding new ideas and creating programs in New York. We used to laughingly call him the mayor of upstate New York because we were always looking for ways to bring people together in partnerships. Elizabeth and Kris and you together can really make a difference. And we desperately need you to do so.
Now, effective partnerships will take time to develop. And there will certainly be occasions when the State Department will have to choose to go it alone, as you will as well. But in the Obama Administration, we seek collaboration whenever possible, and I’m going to push for the State Department and USAID to devise an improved system for developing and sustaining these partnerships that we think can be so value-added.
For those of us who have been working on these issues for a long time, it is thrilling to see the results of your work, the innovative and creative approaches you’ve taken. And I’ve seen it in just a few months that I have traveled the world since becoming Secretary of State. In Mexico, I met with university professors from both Mexican and American universities collaborating with American scientists to develop clean energy technology. I’ve seen it in China, where GE has helped create a high-efficiency geothermal plant, which captures the heat that would otherwise be lost through power generation and heats a million homes in Beijing and heats the U.S. Embassy. I’ve seen it in Indonesia, where businesses, public health officials, NGOs and USAID have come together to launch an inexpensive product that prevents disease by purifying drinking water.
There are so many examples. And Jane started by telling a story about how I sought out Muhammad Unis back in the early 1980s. And we have been friends and collaborators ever since. He was recently in my office in the State Department. And with the same excitement that I remember so well from the enthusiastic, young economist who I met with in Arkansas, he now is looking for ways to create health clinics and train more doctors and nurses and midwives. And of course, Grameen Bank is lending $100 million a month with those amazing returns of more than 98-plus percent.
We cannot grow weary in the doing of this work. It is personally so rewarding, despite the frustration that the accompanies it. But think of what we can do if, amongst all of the philanthropic innovators in this room, we band together to come up with new and effective approaches to fighting disease and poverty to coming up with new ways of empowering people to do their part against climate change and in favor of clean energy technology, if we look for ways to bring people together who never thought they would even be in the same room with one another.
There is just so much we can do right now. The power to connect has never been greater. There’s a wonderful story of a young, unemployed man who was getting kind of discouraged about his prospects in life. And he got to thinking about what he could do to help his country. And he lived in Mexico, which is fighting the scourge of drug trafficking and the intimidation of the cartels. And he began to use the internet to connect people up who felt, like he did, that there had to be a better way, and that there had to be an opportunity to use this new technology to report problems that people saw in their communities, and therefore to be empowered. And he put together, just through these connections, you know, protests and marches and demonstrations against drug trafficking.
There is so much that awaits us, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of working with all of you. Some of you have said you hope that the State Department’s doors are open again. They are wide open. We just need you to walk through – (applause) – with your ideas, your energy, your commitment, and to put to work all that you bring with so many others who share our concerns about the challenges we face, but our absolute conviction that we’re up to meeting all of them.
So I thank you for your leadership and your generosity. You’re helping people who will never know your name, who will never be able to thank you in person, but whose lives have been changed because of what you have done. Now, let’s replicate that. Let’s have an honest conversation about what works and what doesn’t. Let’s clear a lot of the dead wood away and streamline the processes. Let’s figure out how we can make our programs at the federal government level more effective. Let’s use you and your assets as force multipliers of what we are attempting to accomplish, and let’s make sure that we not only open the doors of the State Department, but we let people know that America is back, that we care about what goes on in the rest of the world, and we are leading with our values and our ideals, which has always been the best way for America to lead. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)