So it’s a pleasure to welcome you here. I want to think President DeGioia, as I often do, for his generosity in sharing the hospitality of this great university. I want to thank Dean Carol Lancaster for her work as well, and I’m delighted that Minister Sibal and a distinguished delegation of Indian officials is here for this event. And of course, it is always a pleasure to be anywhere with the new Indian ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Rao, we thank you for all you’ve done on behalf of your country and the relationship between us.
I also want to recognize an old friend and someone who will be speaking to you later in the program, Ambassador Dick Celeste – ambassador, governor, and president emeritus of Colorado College. He’s very well positioned based on his diplomatic service in India, and of course, his deep knowledge of American higher education, to stress the importance of greater cooperation.
And I’m delighted, as I look out at this audience, to see faces I recognize – presidents and deans of some of our greatest American colleges and universities. And I thank our partners in both the private and the nonprofit sectors for making this summit a priority. This summit brings together more than 300 presidents, chancellors, and other leaders from across the higher education spectrum in our nation. From private institutions, like Georgetown or Yale, to community colleges, to state and land grant universities. And it’s a great gift and such an enormous treasure of our country that we have a higher education system that is a source of such national strength and pride.
Now, educational collaboration is a driving force in our strategic dialogue with the Government of India. And this summit is a result of the discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh because for those of you who are watching the great rise of India, I hope you share our excitement that this largest of all democracies, this wildly pluralistic nation, is on the path to providing greater benefits for their citizens within the context of freedom and opportunity. And they know, as we know from our own experience, that a democracy depends upon education, an educated citizenry. And we, therefore, at the highest levels of our two governments, are committed to this.
But whether or not this takes hold will depend upon those of you outside government – professors and teachers, researchers, business leaders; you will ultimately determine the success of these efforts. And so today is an opportunity for us to take our high-level partnership and begin making it real for the millions of Americans and Indians who care about our shared future and are, frankly, curious about one another.
Now, our college experiences, even those of us who can dimly remember them, do shape who we become. When I started at Wellesley College many years ago, I had only been out of our country once. I had gone to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. (Laughter.) I was president of the Young Republicans; so you see, times do change. (Laughter.) And actually, Minister, when I was a senior at Wellesley, my first hope was to get a Fulbright to India. And for reasons having to do with geopolitics, the Fulbright program was put on pause at that time. So I ended up going to Yale Law School.
And since then, I have seen the results of my education in nearly everything that I do, on pushing me to become a global citizen, rooted here in my own country, whose values and traditions I cherish, but looking outward. And almost – well, I don’t want to say how many years later, but now I see higher education as an even greater passport to opportunity and understanding. So as we strive to facilitate that between our young people, we have to do more. We don’t want to just stand by and let it happen on its own because we believe strongly that investing in learning between us is in very much both of our interests.
Now, the United States and India have a strong history of exchange. Last year, we welcomed over 100,000 students from India to pursue college or graduate level study here. But we think the opportunities for collaboration are even greater. And particularly, we want to see more American students enrolling for academic credit at Indian institutions.
The United States Government is fully committed to enhancing this academic cooperation. The Obama-Singh Initiative provides $10 million for increased university partnership and junior faculty development. The Fulbright-Nehru program has nearly tripled in size in the past three years, and we are proud that the United States now conducts more faculty exchanges with India than with any other country through this program. And with our new Passport to India program, we are working with the private sector to help more American students experience India through internships and service projects. We’ve expanded our Education U.S.A. advising services for Indian students and their families to provide information about opportunities for study, and frankly, to help you sort out misleading offers that come over the internet, and we know flood into homes across India, giving young Indian students the idea that a certain approach will work for them when, in fact, it is a dead end. We don’t want to see that happen. We want to see real exchanges with credible institutions, and we will do everything we can to support that.
We’re also encouraging state and local officials in our country to engage with their counterparts in India to support educational cooperation and connection at every level. So we’re going to continue to facilitate dialogues like this, but we’re asking you to develop direct connections, faculty to faculty, student to student, business to business.
And there are so many wonderful stories. I’m sure many of you could tell your own, but I want to end with this one because it really hits close to home in an area that I care deeply about.
A few years ago, a small group of American and Indian classmates at Stanford University decided to work together to build a better baby incubator. Four hundred and fifty premature and low-weight babies die every hour, and traditional baby incubators can cost as much as $20,000. So the students developed the Embrace baby warmer, a portable incubator for use in poor and rural areas that doesn’t require electricity and only costs around $100.
After graduating from Stanford, this Indian and American team moved to Bangalore to continue working on their idea and launched their project. And it’s now in use in hospitals in India and saving babies’ lives. Their goal is to save 100,000 babies by 2013.
Now, this is a simple idea born out of conversations between students from both of our countries talking about shared hopes for a better world that led to action. And it took these American and Indian students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives working together to make it happen.
So I’d like to challenge all of us to jumpstart these kinds of relationships and opportunities for cooperation today, and there is no better way to do it than to brainstorm in the sessions this afternoon to consider no idea off limits, no outcome impossible, asking yourselves: How can our universities deepen our collaboration and particularly our student and faculty exchanges, and how can we work more on research, and how can we set goals for ourselves that we then work toward meeting? How can the private sector and government help our educational institutions help catalyze the workforce that will be needed in the 21st century in both of our countries? What institutional barriers can we and should we break down, and how do we build forward?
We want our relationship between these two great democracies to be as interconnected as possible at every level. Yes, government to government, but that is just the beginning and is clearly not the most important of the lasting collaborations that we seek.
So with that, let me now invite to the podium my co-host for the summit, a very strong supporter for enhanced strategic and educational cooperation between our countries, Minister Sibal. (Applause.)
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