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(As Prepared)

Good afternoon.  It is a pleasure to be here.

This has been an inspiring two days.  I would like to thank the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for organizing another successful CHOW – my first! – and bringing us together in-person and online.

It is my honor to introduce the final group of speakers at Capitol Hill Ocean Week.  This is a special panel, one convened in honor of Margaret Davidson, known to many of you, who spent much of her life working on these issues, bringing people together, and focusing on the future.

Today’s panel is very much focused on the future – as each of our panelists is working right now to combat threats to the health of our ocean.

This is a good time to ask some important questions:  Should we be pessimistic or optimistic about the future of the ocean?  About our ability to mitigate the stressors that threaten the ocean?  About our ability to combat climate change?

The challenges are enormous, but the solutions are all around us.  When I see this group of young leaders and innovators who have plans to do so much – who already have done so much – I am optimistic.  They are taking bold, creative steps to address climate impacts on our ocean, from food science to carbon capture technology to grassroots community advocacy.

That does not mean we can all relax.  On the contrary, these young leaders remind the rest of us that the future really is up to us.  If we do not come together and act now, it might be too late.

As a diplomat, I am often confronted with foreign perceptions of our country.  I can tell you that this group, just like Margaret Davidson, embodies what people around the world respect and admire about the United States:  The willingness to try something new, to collaborate in new ways, to be persistent, and to be unafraid to take risks and to innovate.  And I am sure they work a lot of hours.

This is the America that other countries look to for leadership.  This is the America that they want to partner with.  This is the America that helps us to have faith in our future, in our country, and in ourselves.

No pressure, no pressure!

But seriously, you make my job easier, as you – and people like you –are what America is really bringing to the table to tackle the challenges of our time.  The American story is one of innovation, persistence, and leadership.  The United States and the Department of State are here to support young leaders and innovators that embody these values.

This is our moment.  This is the decade where we leave a more sustainable future for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren.  To achieve this important goal, it will take the innovation, passion, creativity, and optimism represented on this stage today.

So, again, no pressure…but I am very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Now, let me turn this over to Dr. Justin Dunnavant, who will moderate the discussion.  Thanks very much.

U.S. Department of State

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