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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at the Annual Global Classrooms DC Model United Nations Conference

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
May 11, 2009


Good morning. (Applause.) Well, I want to thank Ambassador Tom Miller, and I’m delighted to see all of you so enthusiastic and excited about the day ahead. I also want to thank Ed Elmendorf for his leadership of this wonderful United Nations association and, of course, the Model UN.

There’s someone in the audience that I wanted to just recognize as well: Bill Luers, who is retiring today as president of the United Nations Association here in the United States. He founded Global Classroom 11 years ago. It’s now in 24 cities around the world, and it’s a great model and we really thank Bill for his vision, his passion, and his service in helping young people really become global citizens as well. Thank you so much, Bill. (Applause.)

Now, I have to say coming here this morning brought back a lot of memories. My daughter Chelsea attended Model UN here in Washington back when she was in high school, and it is great to see middle school students involved, as well as high school students. This is an opportunity for you to debate some of the great issues of the day, to meet new people from around the area, because this new century that we’re in demands the best from everyone. And I thank you for caring enough to participate.

Your experience here at the Model UN, both today and in hopefully days and years to come, are a great way to exhibit your concerns. And how many of you are concerned about nuclear terrorism? I think everybody should raise their hand for that. (Laughter.) How many of you are concerned about global warming? How about migration issues? How about children in armed conflict? That’s a very personal one. I’ve done some work in that area over the years and have met a lot of very courageous young people who had to build a life after having been kidnapped and subjected to all kinds of abuse and forced to be child soldiers.

Some people criticize the United Nations for good reasons. I mean, it’s a big organization and it’s a difficult one to really get your arms around. There’s so many different countries, and people have different points of view, but that’s the point of it. If we didn’t have the United Nations, we would have to invent one. On issues like piracy or the H1N1 flu virus, we have to work together. And we do so through organizations that are either formed by, run by, or associated with the United Nations. And that’s why it was important, when the United Nations was created back in 1945 here in the United States, that people admitted that we can’t solve all the problems on our own. No nation, even one as powerful as ours, is able to do that.

Just look at what’s happening as we meet today. More than a hundred thousand UN peacekeepers are stationed around the world. I was recently in Haiti and there’s been a great degree of security and stability achieved because of the blue helmets. In particular, that UN force is led by a Brazilian general. We know the difficulties of trying to deal with failed and failing states where conflict and violence is just an every-minute occurrence.

And the United Nations brings relief, they bring humanitarian aid. We’re looking at what can be done to help the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Swat region of Pakistan because of the Taliban and the Pakistani army’s offensive. We worry about displaced people in Darfur, the Sudan. We just have so many concerns, and the United States cares deeply about the entire world, but we could not be a presence working on all of these issues were it not for the United Nations.

The best scientific evidence about the pace and severity of global warming comes from the intergovernmental panel that the United Nations established and runs. There are so many issues that you know about in your studies leading up to being part of the Model UN. And the United States supports the United Nations because we think it’s an investment in our own security, and we think it’s a necessary venue for us to discuss differences and try to hammer out compromises with other countries.

About a month or so ago when North Korea sent the missile up and it was in contravention, we believed, of a Security Council resolution that prohibited the North Koreans from doing that, we worked with the Japanese and the South Koreans and the Chinese and the Russians to come up with a much stronger statement than anyone expected. And it wasn’t easy because people had different perspectives, but it was finally achieved.

So this is part of the education process that I’m so pleased you are participating in. And I want to put in a plug for the State Department and USAID, for the Peace Corps and PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. We need and are looking to recruit a new generation of young diplomats, young aid workers and others who can carry American foreign policy into the world.

When I appeared before the committee in the Senate for my confirmation, I said that I thought that we had three pillars for our foreign relations, and to do what we had to do to protect our security and further our interests and exemplify our values, we needed defense diplomacy and the important work of development. I believe that even more strongly today. And the young people who are coming into the State Department are very impressive, and I would urge you to think about that as a possible career choice in the future.

We’re building the State Department. We are getting money for more diplomats and more development specialists. We are partnering with the military and hoping to really make clear that our partnership means that the civilian side of our efforts have to be run by the State Department and USAID. So there’s a lot of excitement that we are feeling here in the State Department today, which is good, because there’s a lot of problems. We face a lot of challenges, but we also see a lot of opportunities that we want to be able to seize and do the most with. So I really wanted to come by to tell you how pleased I am that you’re doing this and how important it is to debate the issues that you’ll be considering in a respectful, well-prepared manner.

I’ll just add a word about that. Sometimes, you can feel so strongly about an issue that you think everybody should agree with you. Anybody ever feel that way? (Laughter.) But you still have to marshal your arguments and you still have to make your case, and you still have to use evidence. So as you’re going forward with the Model UN process, help yourself become a better, more effective persuader. Listen to the other side, even if you think in the beginning they have nothing that you will agree with. And try to hear what their point of view is, put yourself into their shoes, and make a more effective argument going forward.

We need your commitment to what we call smart power. It’s not just our military strength and it’s not just our diplomatic outreach; we’re trying to do things differently. And smart power needs smart people. So I hope you have a great time at the Model UN, and I hope that I’ll see some of you here in this building in a few years. Thank you all.

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PRN: 2009/439

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