Deputy Secretary Sherman: Buenas tardes! It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today.
I want to begin by thanking La Salle’s Maestro Francisco Flores Gamio for hosting me today, and Jose Luis Cardenas and Ana Maria Coronado for that very warm welcome. It’s really an honor to be here with all the students, and we let a few of the faculty in too. As well as to those of you who are tuning in online.
You may not know this about me, but before I became the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, I was a profesora, teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston, and I absolutely loved it.
So whenever I’m back on a university campus, it takes me right back to the classroom. And like any good profesora, I’m going to give you some tarea — homework. Just a little bit. I want all of you, especially the young women among you, to start thinking about what questions you want to ask me.
Now I say especially young women because often when I’m with audiences the women are slow to raise their hands. Just do what the guys do. They have no idea what they’re going to ask, but they raise their hands because they think by the time I call on them they’ll have something to say, and they’ll do it with enough confidence that I’ll think it’s very smart. So just do that. It’s easy. I’ll walk you through it. You don’t have to have the perfect question, just raise your hand.
Most of all, I want to hear from all of you — women and men — what’s on your minds today. Because, quite frankly, with my silver hair and my bad back — that’s why this chair is there, in cast I need sit on it — I’m the past. You are the future. You all are the future. And I want this to be a conversation about your hopes, your ideas, what you’re thinking about, what you hope to see.
Next month, as we heard from Director Cardenas, the United States and Mexico will celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations. On December 12, 1822, the day the President of the
United States received Mexico’s first ambassador, the United States had diplomatic relations with only about a dozen countries. Since then, that number has increased to approximately 190 countries all over the world. But of all those relationships, there is no country where the United States has stronger people-to-people ties than with Mexico.
Almost 40 million U.S. citizens have Mexican heritage — that’s more than 10 percent of our entire population. And 1.6 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico — the most anywhere in the world. These numbers are remarkable. We work together, we build communities together, we earn our livelihoods together, often on both sides of a shared border. And these bonds between our people are the foundation of the incredibly strong partnership between our countries.
Given our deep cultural, economic, historic, and familial ties, it makes perfect sense that our countries have a wide-ranging partnership rooted in our democratic values and commitment to the rules-based international order.
Now, as the international relations students in the audience know well, the world has started changing pretty rapidly. We’re in the early years of what the President of the United States and Secretary Blinken have called the decisive decade, one in which competition is underway to shape the future. As democracies, the United States and Mexico share a positive vision for that future — one that is free, open, secure, and prosperous. One that respects human rights and provides economic opportunity on a level playing field. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect, quite far from it. But it does mean we talk openly about our challenges and strive to live up to our ideals.
At the same time, it’s clear that not every country shares that vision. The People’s Republic of China has demonstrated a willingness to distort markets and hurt workers through intellectual property theft and forced labor. Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine shows what can happen when countries disregard rules and norms, including the UN Charter. Tragic loss of life, gross human rights violations, atrocities, war crimes, and economic disruption that affects the entire world. Food insecurity, energy insecurity, inflation. And all countries are watching closely. Because what is happening in Europe could happen anywhere if it goes unchallenged.
We all want better relations with every country. But we also need to be clear-eyed about what the future might bring. And that means sometimes we need to compete to defend our values, by pushing back against disinformation and economic coercion, and by standing up for human rights, social inclusion, and digital freedom as pillars of our shared vision.
That shared vision extends to North America’s economic future. Economic cooperation is at the heart of the U.S.-Mexico partnership — not just because we share a 2,000-mile border, but also because we want to promote opportunity for people on both sides of that border. That means jobs. We want all of you in this room and all the young people in our country to have jobs. And not just any jobs, but enriching jobs that pay well, respect international labor standards, and set you up for long and rewarding careers.
In the last few months, we’ve taken some important steps forward. At the High-Level Economic Dialogue in September, which our Presidents restarted last year, we discussed new ways to invest in our people, protect our workers, and reduce inequality and poverty.
We are also partnering to address climate change, something I think you all care about a lot. You’d sort of like to have a planet around as you get older. As we gather today, the world’s leading climate conference, COP27, is ongoing in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. President Biden will be there on Friday to highlight the United States’ climate commitments and urge the world to act. And when our presidents meet soon at the North America Leaders’ Summit, I expect they will continue discussions about accelerating our transition toward clean energy. This is about protecting our planet, absolutely, but it’s about more than that. It’s also about promoting sustainable growth which benefits you and future generations.
Technology is also going to play a critical role in our future, yours in particular. New technologies are already reshaping how we live, how we work, and how we learn. And emerging technologies like AI (artificial intelligence), biotechnology, and quantum computing all carry the potential to reshape our world. And that’s going to happen very soon. It’s already happening.
Two weeks ago, I spoke with students in Seattle, Washington, in the United States about this. My main message to them, which is
just as relevant to you, is that all of us need to understand the connections between technology, economic growth, security, and democracy. So even though many of you are studying social sciences or international relations or law, like I did — not law, social sciences — I’d urge you to take a STEM class or two.
There’s no better place to do it than here at La Salle, which modeled STEM leadership through its partnership with the University of New Mexico. At their Innovation Academy for Women in the Americas, La Salle and New Mexico brought together women from minority and indigenous backgrounds working in STEM fields. Not only did this provide much-needed professional development opportunities to young women in the sciences, it also led to results. Several of those young women have gone on to receive prestigious Fulbright grants, which they are using to innovate in their communities.
This is a great example of the investment we need to make in you, our future leaders. And it shows what we can achieve when we work together to promote inclusive economic growth. When women, when indigenous people, when LGBTQI+ persons, when people with disabilities – with all you guys too, I’ve been married to one of you for 42 years, I think you’re great. When all people regardless of their backgrounds are able to fully participate in our societies, we see stronger and more inclusive economic growth — the kind that lifts up poor and middle-class families alike. This is the type of growth we want to see for North America’s economic future.
So if you take one thing away from our conversation today, I want it to be this. Our 200-year relationship is in your hands now, and each and every one of you has the power to make a difference. To take the vital partnership between our countries to new heights. To create the life and future you want for yourself, for your family, for the world. And the United States wants to support you and continue to be your partner just as Ambassador Salazar is every day here in Mexico, along with our fabulous team at the embassy. And help you bring your drive, your ideas, your skills, and your passion to solving the challenges we face.
So thank you again for being here today. It’s truly an honor to be with you all. This has been a long day that started at 7:00 this morning. I’ve still got a dinner to go. But I know in spite of the fact that I get tired, if I can just be with young people for a little bit of time I get a tremendous blast of energy. So thank you for that too. Thank you.