Thank you for that kind introduction.  And I want to thank all of the distinguished guests from the U.S. and Colombian Governments for joining us here today.  And I’m especially grateful to Vice President Ramirez, Colombia’s first female Vice President, for her presence today and commitment to the issues that are of such importance to us.

As I was sitting there, listening to the Assistant Secretary’s opening remarks, the thought occurred to me that I’m the one male who’s on this stage.  (Laughter.)  There’s one thing that’s wrong with this picture.  I feel as I though I should be down there for this event.

But if you will allow me the privilege of just sharing the second thought that occurred to me – and it’s relevant to our discussion today – at my confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be the Deputy Secretary of State, I had sitting behind me my wife, Graciela Rodriguez, her mother, her sister, and Grace, and my daughter.  So we had four Latinas sitting behind me in a row, and I wasn’t – (applause) – and you know, when you go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, particularly if your nomination by the President is on the line and the committee has to review your qualifications for office, it’s usually intimidating facing forward, facing all the senators.  But actually, that was a relief for me, because if I didn’t do a good job, I was going to hear it from those four women behind me.

But each of them has succeeded in the private sector.  My mother-in-law, who fled Cuba in 1961, became a Vice President of Christian Dior; my wife, a partner at a major global law firm; her sister, a healthcare executive; and my daughter, a banker, now working for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, examples of what happens when women are empowered, they get an education, and they’re allowed to flourish.  So this is an extremely important event.  I’m proud to be here to stand with these terrific 40 successful applicants for the AWE program.

When women are empowered, their communities and countries are more prosperous, stable, and secure.  That’s why we’re dedicated to empowering women leaders across the globe, and we do so with a commitment to transparency, democratic values, and the rule of law.  Ensuring that women are fully integrated into the economy results in tangible and quantifiable benefits.  By some projections, closing the global gender gap in labor markets could increase global GDP by as much as 12 trillion – that’s right, trillion – dollars by 2025.

That’s why I’m excited to be here today in support of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, W-GDP, launched by Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump earlier this year.  This important initiative aims to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025.  One way we’re working to achieve this goal is through the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.  This is a multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank.  With funding from the State Department, the program will boost access to finance markets, skills, and networks, while strengthening entrepreneurship ecosystems in support of women-owned and women-led businesses.  Our aim is to reach more than 19,000 women with a special focus on underserved communities in Latin America, including Colombia.

Today, we recognize an exciting new program through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, led so ably by my friend and colleague Assistant Secretary Royce, called the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, or AWE.  I’m delighted that Assistant Secretary Royce is with us this morning to launch this program, and I commend her and her terrific team for creating this inspiring new initiative.  The goal of AWE is to teach and mentor women around the world to become successful entrepreneurs.  The Department of State is launching AWE to women in 26 countries, 14 across Latin America and the Caribbean, 10 in Africa, as well as in Spain and in Papua New Guinea.

At the heart of the AWE curriculum is an online course called DreamBuilder, developed through a partnership between Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and the global mining company Freeport-McMoRan.   DreamBuilder has already succeeded in helping women in the United States and 63 countries around the world, including right here in Colombia, to create their own business plans, build networks of successful business owners, learned how to raise capital, and much more.  AWE will build on DreamBuilder’s success to help women take the next steps towards starting or growing their businesses.  And as it grows, this initiative will create an ecosystem to help thousands of women become more successful entrepreneurs here in Colombia and around the globe.  I would like to thank the many alumni of U.S. State Department exchange programs for facilitating AWE sessions and becoming mentors to the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

Now without further ado, I’d like to introduce someone who has inspired the advancement of women’s economic empowerment around the world.  She’s advisor to the President.  She’s a role model herself, with her experience in business.  She’s a friend and colleague and an absolutely spectacular ambassador for the United States on women’s issues and generally.  Please join me in welcoming Advisor to the President of the United States Ivanka Trump.

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