DR. AL-QURAISHI: (In progress) -- engage in a dialogue with our students in this exciting town hall meeting. As you can see, they are all enthusiastically waiting for what I referred to in my email to them, “a rare opportunity.”
We commend your choice in coming to a woman’s college, and thus supporting our noble and challenging undertaking to provide the highest quality education to our young women in Saudi Arabia. Dar Al-Hekma literally means, “the House of Wisdom,” and has the special honor of being inaugurated by our great King, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. (Applause.) We hold him the Man of Wisdom. Since his ascension – (applause) – since his ascension, the Kingdom has experienced enormous growth and prosperity on national and international levels, and wide world recognition for our efforts and achievements. And, if I may add, as women, as well -- particularly as women.
Our progress and our success are directly related to his visionary leadership and his unprecedented support and encouragement to women in the Kingdom. Saying this, I must mention that Dr. Khawla Al-Kuraya, who recently received the highest honoring a Saudi woman has ever attained from our beloved King has flown especially this morning from Riyadh to be with us in this historic occasion. Thank you. (Applause.)
Established over a decade ago, Dar Al-Hekma has come to enjoy a leading position amongst higher education institutions in the Kingdom. All activities and programs are fully geared towards the complete fulfillment of the mission and of the founders to graduate women with qualities of leadership and abilities, capable to instill positive, transformative change for themselves and their societies.
I proudly say that we have been able to achieve, through complementing our strong educational offerings with a well-considered extracurricular program that focuses on five dimensions: the social, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and self-development dimensions.
In addition, our students are the only students in the Kingdom that are required to complete 100 hours of community service prior to their graduation. Hence, equipping them with skills needed for self-learning, as well as instilling in them the passion for giving back to the community. The graduates of Dar Al-Hekma College indeed set standards of excellence that have come to form benchmarks in higher education in the Kingdom for women, along with their counterparts from sister colleges, King Abdulaziz University, Effat University, and the CBA, College of Business Administration.
Our graduates have been placed in universities around the world, such as Oxford, London School of Economics, and Columbia University. And also have been recognized internationally for their leadership and entrepreneurial talents. This educational excellence was also recognized in 2009, with the college’s achievement of institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges in Schools in Washington, making Dar Al-Hekma the only institution of higher learning that is institutionally accredited in the Kingdom.
We continue our journey of excellence by relying on generous support and donations extended by distinguished community leaders. And at this stage I must recognize two very honorable guests who have been and remain generous supporters for this institution: Mr. Abdul (inaudible) and Mr. – (applause) – their unwavering support, along with that of many others who are with us today are the purpose for continuous -- the drive for this institution in its pursuit for success.
Madam Secretary, we are delighted to have you with us today, a person with such brilliance and talent. And on behalf of our board of trustees, our faculty, staff, and our distinguished guests, and, most importantly, on behalf of the students present in this auditorium, I express to you our delight and thanks for this historic visit. Thank you. (Applause.)
I will now ask Dr. Saleha, who has actually been behind this institution since its inception in 1997, to give a few words in honor of Secretary Clinton. Please.
DR. ABEDIN: Madam Secretary, first of all, welcome to Dar Al-Hekma, the House of Wisdom. I have the most pleasant assignment today, and an easy one, as well, and that is to introduce you to this audience, and to share with you briefly the common links with the great people and institutions of the United States of America.
Distinguished guests, Secretary Clinton hardly needs an introduction. And one can write volumes on her achievements. But I will be brief. Here, in a women’s college, it is good to know that she is a mother, a lawyer, a legislator, a politician, and now a statesman. She was a First Lady in Arkansas, and then a First Lady in the White House, and then became the first former First Lady to be elected to the United States Senate, serving the Senate for the State of New York with full passion and commitment. She is also the first former First Lady to serve as the Secretary of State, in which capacity she has already been acknowledged as one of the best and the most qualified to serve in that high office.
Madam Secretary, I have the special privilege of following your career with (inaudible) through the years, and I am -- I can confidently affirm what a great inspiration and role model you are for women everywhere, and especially for those young women who have been on this journey with you from your days in the White House to the Senate, and now to the State Department. Thank you for your leadership and for your guidance and inspiration that you provide.
With your outstanding career, you have shown the way to women everywhere of what is possible, and your inspiring message that nothing is impossible. Dar Al-Hekma also began with a dream, a dream inspired by America’s best export: education. It was the dream of the founders of Dar Al-Hekma, many of whom are here today, to have the best educational opportunities made available here in the heartland of the Muslim world.
Dar Al-Hekma was founded in 1999, after an intensive two-year collaboration with the Texas International Education Consortium, based on Austin, Texas, a consortium of (inaudible). The process engaged over 150 academics and experts from the best academic institutions in the U.S., matched by an equal number from Saudi Arabia and the region.
Our president, Dr. al-Quraishi, has already referred to the outstanding achievements of our students, and the success of our institution. Much of this has been facilitated by our close collaboration with distinguished universities in the United States.
We were the first to offer a course in diplomacy and international relations at Tufts University, with support from Dean Bosworth, who is your special envoy to North Korea. And we had the pleasure of meeting with him, and he is very supportive of our program. Your special representative to the Islamic World, Farah Pandith, has also graduated from Tufts. We were delighted to see Ms. Pandith at Dar Al-Hekma, when she engaged with our students in her recent trip to Saudi Arabia.
We have close collaborations for a program in architecture and an affordable housing project that we recently accomplished with the University of Colorado at Denver, where our chairman of the board of trustees, Mr. Zuhair H. Fayez, also serves on their board of trustees, and the advisory board, as well.
We are working with the University of California at Berkeley School of Business, home of Dean Laura Tyson, to develop a graduate business program. And we receive the MBA students for the graduate field work right on our campus this year. With the College of Engineering, our faculty (inaudible) in scientific research on environmental air quality with Professor Alice Agogino at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also engaged with Tufts. With Teachers College at Columbia University, we developed distinguished programs in special education and graduate programs in rare and needed fields.
Among the many exciting collaborative projects with American students and institutions, Dar Al-Hekma students participated in a Habitat for Humanity build, working with Harvard University graduates from the Kennedy School of Government, facilitated by Holly Sargent, who (inaudible) -- Dr. Holly Sargent at the Kennedy School of Government. And they worked together for building homes for Palestinian families in Amman, Jordan.
Lately they have been engaged in an exciting project that led to the founding of the U.S.-Saudi Women’s Forum, about which you have very good news from us. That was designed in collaboration with (inaudible). In less than two weeks, the directors of the women’s center at Wellesley and from Babson College, and members of the (inaudible) Foundation will be here in this very auditorium to celebrate the culmination of the year-long (inaudible) with an awards ceremony, and we will be honored by the presence of Dr. Breslin-Smith in that ceremony. And all of you local visitors and guests, I invite you to that ceremony.
Indeed, we have many more achievements to celebrate, and we are honored that you took the time to come to this (inaudible) support for the pioneering work we are engaged in to provide the best opportunities for women and widen their horizons.
Finally, though no longer proposals of marriage are relevant any more, nor goats or sheep or camels will be offered for the lovely hand of your daughter, Chelsea, I don’t know if you know the story, but when you visited last time an African country, an African tribal leader offered goats and camels for the hand of Chelsea. And we should congratulate her on her upcoming wedding this summer. So, we also request you to bring her with you the next time you visit us. And I am sure there will be a next time that you will come.
So, it is now my honor, special privilege, to invite Secretary Clinton to address the --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am so honored and personally delighted to be here today. I have heard for many years about Dar Al-Hekma, and the pioneering work that you are doing here, providing a world class education and training to young women, not only from Saudi Arabia, but beyond. And, as I walked into the auditorium and I could see the young women for myself, I was extraordinarily moved by the energy and the enthusiasm and commitment that you conveyed, just from your presence.
So, for me, this is a special opportunity, and one that I am grateful to be able to accept. I wish to thank Her Royal Highness for being here with us. Princess Lulu al-Faisal is a leader in education, and someone who is well-known for the model she sets and the inspiration she provides. I am delighted to be here with our ambassador from the United States to Saudi Arabia and his wife, Ambassador Jim Smith and Dr. Janet Breslin-Smith -- who has a particular interest in education, since she is a professor -- the U.S. Consul General here in Jeddah, Martin Quinn, and Dr. Suhair al-Quraishi. Thank you for your very warm welcome, and your leadership. (Applause.)
And I am pleased that we are joined by the deans of Effat University, King Abdulaziz University, and the College of Business Administration, all of which have a well-deserved reputation for the education and advancement of women. (Applause.)
And I have to say a special word about Dr. Saleha Abedin. You heard her present the very exciting partnerships that have been pioneered between colleges and universities in the United States and this college. And it is pioneering work to create these kinds of relationships.
But I have to confess something that Dr. Abedin did not, and that is that I have almost a familial bond with this college. Dr. Abedin’s daughter, one of her three daughters, is my deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, who – (applause) – started to work for me when she was a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
I see we have some alums here. And who started as an intern, doing the kind of work that students do in the White House, lots of copying, and then some correspondence, and some additional responsibilities, and then became a very trusted aide to me during the rest of my time in the White House, in the Senate, and now is one of my two deputy chiefs of staff in the State Department. And I am – (applause) – I am delighted to recognize her before you, but also before her mother, because – (applause) – as her mother knows, she can be an accomplished scholar and teacher, as Dr. Abedin is, but the best thing that can happen to you is have people say nice things about your children. And so I am very, very grateful to be here with all of you.
As I stand here and look out at the students, I have to say that this is such a happy occasion for me. Because, as Secretary of State, and as Senator and as First Lady, I have traveled the globe and I have been in many parts of the world where the education of girls is not yet occurring, where young women are not provided the opportunity to live up to their own God-given potential, where leaders like His Majesty the King, or members of the board, or faculty and administrators don’t recognize the fundamental importance of the education of women.
I, of course, believe that educating young women is not only morally right, but it is also the most important investment any society can make in order to further and advance the values and the interests of the people. The Egyptian poet, Hafez Ibrahim, said, “A mother is a school. Empower her and you empower a great nation.” (Applause.)
I am a graduate of a women’s college, Wellesley College, outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and I know how rewarding it is to be a member of this kind of community, where young women are the focus of attention, where our interests are identified, recognized, and nurtured, and where the friendships that you make and the lessons that you learn will enrich your lives long after you graduate.
Because the education you are receiving is, first and foremost, about acquiring skills and knowledge, but also about becoming active, engaged, and effective citizens in your own communities, in your own country, and in the larger world. I was delighted to hear that the college has a requirement for community service. Because with education comes responsibility. Given the fact that I travel to places where young girls don’t attend school, they’re either denied or they’re too poor to be able to do so, where women are not given the same respect in the family or in the larger society, it is important for us who are educated women to accept the responsibility that that education brings.
Yes, we can have the tools to fulfill ourselves, to become successful medical doctors -- and I congratulate the doctor for her very well deserved honor that the King has bestowed upon her – (applause) – or to become leading academics or leading business women, there are so many opportunities for us to follow our dreams, assuming we are educated to do so.
But there is also a crying need to make sure that we don’t just hoard that educational gift ourselves. Yes, we share it with our families, with children, with the next generation. But it is important to look beyond as to what we can do to help advance the opportunities for girls and women everywhere.
What the Kingdom is doing under the leadership of His Majesty the King is so important, not only to Saudi Arabia, but far beyond your borders. The emphasis on educating girls and women; the support for education, both girls-only and coeducational; the construction of the new university in Riyadh, named for his aunt; all of that sends powerful signals that are being received, not only within the Kingdom, but far beyond your borders. And I am here, first and foremost, to congratulate and to applaud this commitment. It is evidenced here at this college, but it goes beyond the walls of this particular excellent institution.
The partnerships that are being forged between our countries are especially important. And the King and I discussed at length yesterday in our three-and-a-half-plus-hour meeting, which was an absolute joy and honor, how we can enhance even more educational exchanges. You know that after 9/11, the United States closed its borders to students from around the world. And the number of Saudi students studying in our country fell dramatically. Well, I am very pleased that we are now back to the levels that we had before 9/11. But I am not satisfied. I would like to see more exchanges, and more of them being two-way exchanges, where American students and American faculty come here, to Saudi Arabia, as well as going from here to there. (applause)
Now, some of you recently participated in the U.S.-Saudi Women’s Forum on social entrepreneurship, the result of a partnership that brought this college together with my alma mater, Wellesley College, and Babson College. The result is a program that has given 100 young Saudi women training in business and leadership, and the tools to begin your own enterprises in your communities. And this is just one example of the kind of forward thinking and effective ways that women around the world can join together through such educational exchanges and opportunities to look for ways to make contributions in our own communities.
In Doha on Sunday, I addressed the U.S.-Islamic Forum, where I discussed the ways that the United States is working to fulfill President Obama’s call for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim people around the world. (Applause.) One based on mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual responsibility, a shared commitment to universal values, and a broad engagement not just with governments, but with people.
Everywhere I go as Secretary of State, I am privileged to meet with the heads of state, with prime ministers and foreign ministers and other distinguished governmental officials. But I also try to meet with citizens: business leaders, academic leaders, professional leaders, and particularly young people. Her Royal Highness and I were talking about how the world is getting younger. Not just here in the Kingdom, but in many places, half of the population is under 25.
Now, that is both a good news and a not-so-good news story. The good news is with that level of youth able to think about taking hold of the future, there should be great grounds for optimism about progress. The not-so-good news is that many of those young people are not being educated, are not being given health care, are not being given opportunities to progress, are not being given the basic tools they need to have a productive future. So the world is in balance. For every college that Saudi Arabia builds, one is not being built somewhere else. So that we have to, as countries like ours, who recognize how interconnected we are, we have to be looking for ways to advance education everywhere.
When I was meeting before coming into the auditorium with some of the women civic leaders, lawyers, students, doctors, board members of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I was struck by the vitality, the energy, the blazing intelligence that was present in that room. That is such a tribute, not only to the individual women, but to the changes that His Majesty the King is overseeing here in the Kingdom.
We need more partnerships like those that are underway here in Saudi Arabia that strengthen civil society, as well as local indigenous efforts to expand opportunities, so that more girls and women everywhere can participate fully in the spheres of society, if they so choose to do so.
As part of President Obama’s agenda to do more outreach and follow up with more specific initiatives with the Muslim world, he will host a two-day summit on entrepreneurship in Washington at the White House in April. His summit will bring together innovators and business people from 50 countries on 5 continents. Five individuals from Jeddah have been selected to attend, and four of them are students here, at this college. (Applause.)
I have to hasten and add this was a competition based on the merit. My very able deputy chief of staff and I had nothing to do with making the selections. But it is a reflection both of the excellence of this college, but also of the importance that the United States is placing on providing more opportunities like this entrepreneurship summit, to bring people together, to share ideas, to incubate those ideas, and then to go forth and make them happen.
We are going to pursue exchanges like this, because we know that the best ideas start with people, not with governments many of the times. They start from the bottom up, not just from the top down. You need both. And unleashing the ingenuity and the intelligence and the determination of people brings all kinds of potential to the forefront. So I have no doubt that many good ideas will be generated from within this college for years to come.
I really want to spend my time listening to you, and answering questions and hearing your comments. I don’t think we do enough of that in the world today. There is a lot of talking at people. There is a lot of pretending to listen. There are a lot of dialogues that never result in dialoguing. And I think that we are at a point in history where it’s more important than ever that we try to listen and learn from each other.
When I was speaking to the women leaders, one of them asked me if I could do anything about the media’s portrayal of Saudi women, particularly the American media, which presents a very unidimensional view and, as the women mentioned to me in our short, small meeting, focusing more on what’s on your head than inside your head or your heart. My answer was, “I wish I could do something about the way the media portrays American women.” I think we all have to do a better job of getting beyond the stereotypes and the mischaracterizations.
I spoke to a group of young people in India some months ago at a forum like this at one of the colleges. And the student questioner was asking about the way Americans think about Indians. And he drew his understanding from what he saw on our media. And I told him then, I said, “I feel the same way.” And if I were living in India, if I were living in Saudi Arabia, and I was watching American media, I would think that every American woman went around in a bikini bathing suit, and every American man wrestled for a living. And at some point we have to say, “Enough.” We have to get to know each other beyond those images.
So, I hope that, in the time we have together, we will have a chance for that kind of dialogue. And I look forward to answering your questions. I hope you will be free to offer your opinions and share your perspectives. I understand that your final exam period has ended, so don’t worry, there are no grades on anything that happens here. But for me, this is a special personal privilege. And I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss matters that are important to you in the time ahead. Thank you all very much.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Okay. First of all, thank you so much for a lovely speech, Madam Secretary. And I will ask our student, Lama (inaudible), to give her greeting on behalf of all the students from this college and other colleges here. Please, Lama.
QUESTION: My name is Lama (inaudible), and I would like to dedicate this poem to you, on behalf of our student body.
We are the daughters of a Kingdom, of a desert that is pure as gold, of a people that are kind and pious, of a creed that is just and bold. Ms. Clinton, I speak for the women who are empowered in their nation to tell you that you have been a source of inspiration. Your leadership will aid in the achievement of our mission to breed women who are fueled with education and ambition.
The simple fact that you are here, body and soul today, shows that your support stretches from thousands of miles away, and as we entrust you with the relations between our states. We will rest assured knowing that misconceptions will abate.
Hats off to a female leader with a vision. We salute you, and commend your noble mission.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: I must say that Lama is a poet. And yesterday I called her around 7:00 at night and challenged her to write a poem.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope I may have a copy.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: She actually gave a poem -- dedicated a poem to Queen Elizabeth when she went to the Two Kingdoms Exhibition.
I would like also first to ask the girls of the Babson to stand up, so you know how many of them are here and have actually been received. (Applause.)
Thank you. And I would like to open the floor for questions. And these questions are only for students, because it’s a student-engaged discussion. Please raise your hands, so I can ask -- okay. Please. Can we have the mikes here? Stand up (inaudible).
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it’s such an honor to have you here. My name is (inaudible). I am a freshman at Dar Al-Hekma. My question is how do the issues you’re dealing with today as Secretary of State differ from those you dealt with as a United States senator?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an excellent question and nobody has asked me that question before. (Applause.) As a senator from New York, I spent most of my time on two matters. I started serving in January 2001 and, as you know, New York was attacked on 9/11. So I spent a lot of time trying to help the people who were affected by that – the family members who survived, the injured people who needed assistance – and that was an extraordinarily intense part of my service as senator.
I also spent a lot of time trying to specifically help the people I represented. I worked on issues that might seem far away but were important to the people of New York. We actually have a lot of farmers in New York so I worked on farm issues, dairy farm issues, vegetable farm issues, how to get more markets for the farmers who lived in upstate New York. I worked on improving healthcare for the children who didn’t have good access to healthcare. I worked on improving education and looking for more ways to create jobs, particularly in areas in New York – in and around New York City and the cities of the rest of the state. So I was very focused on New York and New Yorkers. I thought it was my responsibility. I thought it was a great honor to represent the people of New York.
Now, of course, I was involved as a senator in the other issues of the time because my term of service coincided with President Bush’s term of service, so I worked on a number of the matters that came to the forefront at – particularly with respect to the war on terror, trying to figure out how to keep America safe, working with friends and partners like Saudi Arabia against a common threat.
As Secretary of State, I am very honored to represent my country and to represent President Obama as I travel around the world. And I’ve tried to do three things. One, make clear that the United States wanted to change our relationship. We didn’t feel that we had a particularly positive one coming out of the prior eight years in much of the world, but particularly in the Muslim world, which, of course, was exemplified by President Obama’s speech in Cairo. Working to find common ground with countries on a range of issues, trying to stop nuclear proliferation that is a threat from places like North Korea but also potentially a threat from Iran. Looking to prevent networks of terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction that they could use against innocent people anywhere. Working to advance the cause of peace, prosperity, and opportunity by partnering the United States with other countries. And looking for ways to zero in on people who might otherwise be left behind – minorities, women, people who are not being given the opportunity for education and other services.
So there’s some overlap, but as Secretary of State, I represent the entire country, I represent the Obama Administration, and we have a very long list of challenges that we are confronting. We feel very fortunate to have such a strong partner with Saudi Arabia and other friends here in the Gulf and elsewhere in the world. But we’re living in complicated times and these problems are difficult. If they were easy, somebody would have already solved them. But working to end misconceptions and stereotypes and open up hearts and minds and deal with the dangers that countries and networks of criminals and terrorists pose is going to be with us for a while, and we just have to get smarter about what we do.
I’ll give you one example because we were talking about this in our small group. One of the women asked me about the new airline regulations that were promulgated after the attempted bombing on Christmas Day. And I recognize how hurtful they are to many, many people and how difficult it is to understand why the United States would take these actions. I hope that we will consider and revise those as circumstances merit over the next months, because I think that our best defense against terrorists is greater understanding and cooperation among people. And that’s my goal in working as Secretary of State.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Can you raise your hands, because I can’t see hands raised. Thank you.
QUESTION: Good evening, ma’am. Here.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Are you a student?
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Okay.
QUESTION: Good evening, ma’am. I am a student of (inaudible) Jeddah. My question is when you were in Doha, you said the U.S. would have peaceful engagement with Iran but not, and I quote, while they are building (inaudible). U.S. is the first country to have nuclear weapons. In fact, it was the only country to have used those nuclear weapons. So why (inaudible) opposed against Iran’s nuclear program? And if it is really the greater common good, why do you not ask Israel to give up their nuclear weapons?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that this is a question that I hear often, so I appreciate the opportunity to address it. The world needs to move toward zero nuclear weapons. That is President Obama’s stated goal. That will take time. We know that. But it is important to recognize that in the last 60 years, the world has tried to manage the genie of the nuclear weapon that got out of the bottle. And we’ve tried to manage it in a couple of ways. First, during the entire period of the Cold War, no matter how difficult the times were, the United States and the Soviet Union at that time worked to reduce the threat of nuclear war. And we were successful. It was not only deterrence, but it was negotiation, arms control agreements, in recognition of the serious threat that nuclear weapons pose.
The world also was presented with the Nonproliferation Treaty, which the vast majority of countries in the world signed, including Iran. In that treaty, the countries that already had nuclear weapons agreed to safeguard them, agreed to be very careful in how they were stored and secured to avoid proliferation, and the countries that did not have nuclear weapons, such as Iran, agreed not to pursue them.
Now, we find ourselves in 2010 at a point in history where the United States and the Soviet Union, as we speak, are negotiating yet another agreement to lower the number of nuclear weapons that we each have. We have a level of assurance that the countries that have nuclear weapons are safeguarding them. We have agreements to try to take possession of nuclear material so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of the terrorist groups. Al-Qaida is very clear about this; it has sought and is seeking the means to make a nuclear device.
So when a country like Iran, which agreed not to develop nuclear weapons, begins to take actions which raise concerns in the minds of everyone who signed on to this understanding about how we would handle nuclear weapons, it is, I think, totally understandable that everyone who I speak with in the Gulf, including the leaders here and the leaders elsewhere in the region, are expressing deep concern about Iran’s intentions.
Now, why would that be? Well, because Iran has threatened other countries, including the Kingdom. Iran has funded terrorists that have launched attacks within other countries, including the Kingdom. Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism in the world today. So if you are the leader of a country that’s a neighbor or further away watching as Iran develops longer-range missiles, watching as they have internal political turmoil so you’re not sure exactly who’s making decisions, and hearing them say that they are going to go forward with enriching uranium, discovering a secret facility that they never disclosed to anyone, violating their obligations under the United Nations and under the International Atomic Energy Agency requirements, you have to ask yourself: Why are they doing this?
So the United States joined together with China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom to try to see if we could work with Iran, and we made three very simple points. Number one, Iran, like any country, is entitled to peaceful nuclear power. And I want to stress that. Nobody is saying to Iran or the Iranian people you can’t have nuclear power for electricity, for other forms of civil energy production. That is Iran’s right. But you do not have a right under international agreements you signed and other obligations you assumed to pursue nuclear weapons.
And we made an offer to Iran. Russia, the United States, and France, which have the capacity to fulfill the offer, said you use enriched uranium now at a very low level to produce medical isotopes, you have a right to do that. But we, the international community, are right to be concerned about your other ambitions. So if you will ship out your enriched uranium, we will replenish it and give you back what you need for your medical isotopes. At first, Iran said yes, and then I don’t know what the political decision making was, but they came back and said no. And the questions keep building. They say they’re only doing this for nuclear peaceful purposes, but the evidence doesn’t support that. They worry their neighbors because of actions they’ve already taken, not actions that are maybe in the future.
So that is why the United States and many other countries are concerned. And it is why we are still hoping that the Iranian Government and the Iranian people will decide to renounce a nuclear weapon and instead pursue their right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The international community has been united through this process. When you have China, the United States, and Russia all agreeing, that’s – I think says we all see it the same way. And we are going to try to go to the United Nations and get additional sanctions that perhaps will convince the Iranians themselves to change direction.
The final element of this is that we want not only a world free of nuclear weapons, we want a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, including everyone. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, that hope disappears, because then other countries which feel threatened by Iran will say to themselves, “If Iran has a nuclear weapon, I better get one too in order to protect my people.” Then you have a nuclear arms race in the region. Then you have all kinds of opportunities for problems that could be quite dangerous.
So for all of those reasons, we strongly believe that it is neither in Iran’s interests nor in the world’s, and it is a violation of Iranian commitments that they’ve already made, for them to pursue nuclear weapons. And we’re going to work with the international community to try to convince them otherwise. That’s our objective.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: I have a question here.
QUESTION: Okay, my name is (inaudible), senior grad. I’m a major in interior design. The question is: Since you are engaged in your efforts to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim world, how do you plan to collaborate with the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Another good question. (Applause.) In fact, before coming here to the college, I was running late because I was having a very long meeting at the OIC. And the secretary general of the OIC and his top staff and my team and I spent over an hour discussing many issues that are of concern to the Muslim world and concern to the United States.
I also brought with me our new Special Envoy to the OIC Rashad Hussain, who is a trusted advisor to President Obama. I was the first Secretary of State ever to visit the OIC. So it was a very meaningful experience for me, and it was very useful because we discussed very specific matters that we can work on together. I’ll just give you one or two examples because I don’t – I know we want to get as many questions in as possible.
For example, on health matters, polio was eradicated in the world, but it has come back in a few places – Northern Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in analyzing it, the OIC and our Centers for Disease Control reached the same conclusion – that there was misinformation being spread about the polio vaccination for children; that people were telling Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan that if they had their children vaccinated, they would sterilize their children. And so people stopped vaccinating their children and polio came back, paralyzing and killing children. So the United States and the OIC are going to work together to try to eradicate polio. The OIC will be working with religious leaders to make the case that this is in the best interests of everyone.
On another matter, the OIC has a particular concern about the role of religion in conflict, and also about the importance of election monitoring. So the OIC is going to work with us and with other countries to monitor elections in Iraq and to look for ways to bring faith communities together to avoid conflict. And we’re very excited about this deeper cooperation.
With respect to the Arab League, His Majesty The King’s peace initiative for the Middle East, which has been adopted by the Arab League and 57 Muslim nations, is a very important effort to try to move the Middle East peace process. And I’ve spoken about it at length with the OIC, with His Majesty The King, and with others. And as we try to get the Palestinians and the Israelis back into peace negotiations, the Arab League’s work, particularly the language and the intent of the peace initiative, will be very important to that effort. So there’s a lot of good cooperation going on. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. My name is (inaudible) from Jeddah Prep & Grammar School. And as a Democrat, and I assume a relatively liberal person, does the prospect of Sarah Palin one day becoming president maybe terrify you? (Laughter.) And if so, would you consider emigrating to Canada or possibly even Russia in the event of this happening? (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, the short answer is no – (laughter) – I will not be emigrating. I will be visiting as often as I can. Our political seasons never end. It is part of the American political environment that people are always speculating on who will run for president and who will become president, and I’ve gone through that experience personally, so I’m very well equated with it. But I’m not going to speculate on who might or might not be nominated by the Republicans. I am very proud to support Barack Obama and I will continue to support Barack Obama. (Applause.)
QUESTION: First, I’d like to say that you truly are inspirational. I read Living History when I was just 12. Couldn’t understand the better half of it – (laughter) – but I still went on reading it and I love the book. I’m going to start reading it again right now. I might get it better now.
Okay. So I’ll speak about another type of power, which hopefully will become more influential than nukes or that type of power. During your town hall session at Moscow State University, you stated you were, and I quote, “going to try to put into action what academics in your country have described as smart power,” and then you said that smart power needs smart people who can think out of the box, be creative, and aren’t stuck in the past.
My question is: How do you plan to direct different American institutions, specifically academic institutions, to shape smart people who will be able to better carry out smart diplomacy? And do you plan on eventually educating other countries on that matter?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Another very good question, and I know that you’ve just started the diplomacy program, which is already being evidenced here. When I talk about smart power, I think it is meant to send a couple of messages. First, there are many different kinds of power. But in the modern world, the power to convene, the power to convince and persuade are the more lasting kinds of power.
We are living in a time when it is very important that people think through the issues we confront and look for ways to find common ground, and to be smart about how we connect with other people and how we relate to them and how we understand each other. And that’s especially important for my country, because we are such a big, diverse, pluralistic country with many different voices – not just from the government and the media, but so many others that are competing. And so I think it’s important that the United States make clear that we wish to find common cause with as many different countries as possible in order to solve problems.
I met earlier with His Royal Highness, the Governor of Mecca. And we talked about solving problems. I mean, that seems so elementary that you would say – you would have a conversation about solving problems, but he explained to me and he showed me maps of one of the problems that the Kingdom has, which is a good problem to have, which are the 10 million people every year that go to Mecca, and the 3 million who make the Hajj. And there are going to be even more people coming because travel is easier, and people who had never dreamed that they were able to do this 10 years ago will now, in 10 years, be able to do so.
So we talked a lot about how do you solve problems. That’s really at the core of smart power. I’m interested in solving problems. I’m not interested in scoring points. I’m not interested in making speeches. I’m not interested in doing television interviews unless they are somehow connected with trying to find a way to solve problems. So smart power requires smart creative people – people who can empathize, who can put themselves in the other person’s position so that you can say, “Well, why does somebody believe that, and what can we do to possibly change their perception,” or “How do we change ours so that we have a better chance to work together?”
And we’re going to particularly be relying on young people, because one of the things that I have found this last year is that we couldn’t do diplomacy and use smart power the way we used to in the past. It’s not government to government or official to official. It’s getting on YouTube or Facebook or Twitter. It’s helping the young protestors in the street in Iran be able to communicate with each other. It’s helping young people in Mexico who are trying to stop drug violence being able to communicate without being tracked with the police. It’s about helping young people in Pakistan be able to send messages to one another, something they had never been able to do because they didn’t have the networks to do that.
So it’s about connecting people and then empowering people to understand that each of us has a role to play in solving the problems that we see right in front of us. Some of them are very big and difficult problems like Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Some are closer to home – about educating more girls and women. But they’re all issues that deserve our best thinking, and that’s really what I hope we’re trying to do in our government. And I think others as well are seeing that this is a new world we’re in and we all have to think differently and we have to communicate more effectively in order to find that common ground together. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Hello. Hello, ma’am. How are you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m fine, thank you.
QUESTION: This is (inaudible) from King Abdulaziz University, European Languages department. I have a totally different question. Everyone knows that everything is almost perfect and strong in the U.S., but – when it comes to politics and education system, economy. But why there is a big question mark on the healthcare system in the United States, although President Obama promised to change that. What have the government did so far?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I thank you for your question about healthcare, because, as you may know, I tried to do what President Obama is trying to do. When my husband was President, we were both very committed to improving and changing our healthcare system. And I often say I have the scars to show for it. It is an issue that is intensely political and complicated. And here is why, very briefly.
Our healthcare system is the best in the world, if you can afford it, and you can get there in time. And many people from the Kingdom come to the United States for very complicated medical procedures. I have visited some when they have been in our country. So we are very proud that we have extraordinary doctors and nurses and hospitals and high-tech medicine. And most people in the United States have health insurance.
But we have two big problems. Even people with health insurance are finding it more and more expensive and difficult to afford. So they may not get the treatment that they or their families need, even though they have health insurance. And then there are 30 million to 40 million-plus who have no health insurance at all. They aren’t on a government program – like we have one for the very poor, or for people over 65, or who are veterans – but they have no recourse, other than to show up at a hospital emergency room, to try to get healthcare.
So, what President Obama was and is still trying to do is to change our system so that if you have health insurance, it doesn’t cost so much. And if you don’t have it, you can afford to get it. And there is just a very strong disagreement over how to do that. And I have a great deal of sympathy for the President and his White House team, because I have made the arguments, I have faced the political pressure, I have tried to make progress. And when we were not successful on the whole system, we kept moving. So we insured a lot of children, and then we made it possible for you to take your insurance with you if you lost your job for a while, and many other things that made some difference.
The bottom line is that everyone in my country is in favor of healthcare reform in general, but are worried about the specifics. If you have insurance, you worry you’re going to lose it or, despite what you’re told, it will cost even more. And so, it’s very difficult to thread the needle, to get to a political consensus.
And there are many very strong interest groups in my country who like the system the way it is, because they are making a lot of money out of it right now. Insurance companies that are not regulated enough, that are not held accountable enough, keep raising their rates. There was just an insurance company in California that just raised their rates over 30 percent.
So, the problem is not going away. And I am still hopeful that the President will be able to work with the Congress to at least be able to get some of the changes done that we have been trying to do. But frankly, it’s something I’m not proud of in our country. We should do better. We are a very rich country. We should make sure that all of our people have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Thank you. We have a question here. Please.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is (inaudible), and I want to ask a question about a general issue, the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The U.S. Government claimed that they are going to pressure the Israeli Government into peace. But what kind of pressure are you implementing at the moment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we – (applause) – we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can, both to get the Palestinians and the Israelis into negotiations, and get those negotiations to a successful conclusion.
As some of you know, my husband worked very hard on this when he was President. And we have had a lot of disappointments along the road. But it is my strong conviction that the time has come for us to reconcile the legitimate aspirations and the goal of the Palestinian people for their own state, an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 borders with agreed swaps, and the right of the Israeli people to have a state where they are secure, based on the kind of negotiations that will take into account subsequent developments, and create an opportunity for the two-state solution.
So, we are working very, very hard on this. One of the very first things the President did was to appoint George Mitchell. And he appointed Senator Mitchell at my strong recommendation, because Senator Mitchell is an experienced negotiator, and he has the most patience I have ever seen of anyone. He negotiated the Northern Ireland peace agreement, and it took him more than two-and-a-half years. And for the first year, the parties would not be in the same room with each other. And for the second year they would not talk directly to each other. And for the final 6 months, they began to hammer out an agreement, which has taken more than 10 years to finally implement. But most of the killing stopped.
So we know that this is hard. And we know that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have to want to do this. Nobody, even the United States, can want this more than the parties themselves, can force someone to take an agreement that they will not honor. So our goal is to work patiently and persistently with great determination, using whatever methods and influence that the United States has with both parties, to try to achieve a two-state solution.
And I know that this is a matter of great concern, and it should be, not only in this region, but beyond. And the agreement that should be reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis must include borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem. And Jerusalem must be available to all people of the three great faiths of the Covenant. And so, we are going to work as hard as we can to bring that about.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is (inaudible), and I am a banking and finance sophomore. You have heard so much about Dar Al-Hekma. Has it lived up to par, so far?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait. I didn’t hear that all. What? Say that again?
QUESTION: You have heard so much about Dar Al-Hekma. Has it lived up to par?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. The students certainly have.
QUESTION: All right. That’s good to hear. (Applause.) My question is about think tanks. Think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution in the U.S., which I am a part of, are known to have quite an influence on policy-making. Are you considering, or would you be considering to partner with think tanks that are based here in the region, to get a more fair perspective and perhaps a local feel of what is going on over here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that is an excellent idea. And I just heard that you are coming to Washington for the entrepreneurship summit, and – or been to Washington, right?
DR. ABEDIN: No, going to go.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Going to go. So that is an excellent idea. And we will follow up through the President and Dr. Abedin, and try to get some think tanks to start talking about how we could do that kind of partnership. I think that would be very useful.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: One more question.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we are honored to have you here on Dar Al Hekma. On behalf of the students I say this. My name is (inaudible), I am a nursing student, a senior.
My question is, regarding exchanging programs of – for students, are there any programs confined for nursing student, as you emphasized investing in the healthcare sector? Or is there any programs, or are there any chances for this to happen and occur in the future? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, as I understood the question, it was about are there opportunities for more exchanges and partnerships on nursing programs. How many nursing students are here? Well, I have to say I am a very strong advocate for nursing. I think nursing is key – (applause) – in all – when I have done all this work on healthcare, many of the studies show that the quality of nursing care is just as important to patient outcomes as the quality of doctor care. Because after a surgeon does the surgery, the nurse must take care of the patient, for example. So I am very pleased that some of you are going into nursing.
And I think we should explore a partnership to connect up nursing schools with the college, and to look for ways. Because nursing is – at least in my country – nursing is going to be even more important, because the average age of a nurse in the United States is getting older, and many nurses are retiring. Yet the demand for nursing is increasing. So I think nursing needs to be a focus of our efforts together, and I would look forward to exploring that. Thank you.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: I just need to make a comment. Please. The students that are leaving are because of exams. We still have 350 that are going to be examined. So that is why. And I have to close here, because I have been given strict instructions that we are done.
So, on behalf of this grand audience, I would like to thank you so much for your time, effort, and amazing personality that has yielded a lot of good answers for our students. And I am going to make sure that I am going to give all the questions that have not been asked in writing, and that is a promise, (inaudible), it’s a promise. I will deliver it personally to Huma to deliver to yourself.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
DR. AL-QURAISHI: Thank you so much, everybody.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Thank you. Good luck with your exams.
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