Remarks at the Inaugural Meeting of the Advisory Committee for the 100,000 Strong Initiative
Secretary of State
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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am just as delighted as Kurt has portrayed about this project and especially about the willingness of all of you to participate and lead this effort, which we do think is an essential building block to a more solid foundation of a relationship going forward. I want to thank everyone involved.
Particularly, I want to thank two longtime friends, Rich Daley, who is going to have a new future come very soon – (laughter) – and we could not be happier at his willingness to take on this project as one of the many exciting endeavors he’ll be exploring. And it’s especially fitting, because as mayor he built a very strong relationship with China that included having Chinese language instruction in the Chicago public schools. And I know how proud he was when, as part of the state visit by President Hu Jintao, he went to Chicago and, as part of the agenda, visited one of those schools. So this is very close to his heart.
And Chuck Hagel, with whom I had the great pleasure of serving in the Senate when both of us were there, is someone who has understood the importance of this relationship from the very beginning and has been a passionate advocate for our being in a position to enhance understanding between our countries, but not just between our governments, between our people.
I don’t need to convince you – this is like singing from the same hymnal with the choir – as to why this initiative is so important. But I just want to underscore the point that Kurt was making. Despite the incredible improvements in communication, I think there is still a lot to be learned between our two nations.
I was struck when we did the Shanghai Expo Pavilion, which when I became Secretary of State was not anywhere in any briefing book that I was given, and I have to confess I didn’t even know about it until I was in China in February of ’09 on my very first trip at a very formal consultation with the foreign minister and other dignitaries from China. And on the list of all the issues, many of which were from nuclear proliferation to the relationship with Taiwan and Tibet and so much else, I was asked why we had decided to be only one of two nations – the United States and Andorra – not to participate in the expo. (Laughter.) And I’m flipping through my briefing book trying to figure what the answer to that was. And part of it is that we don’t do expos anymore in our country, we certainly don’t provide any public funding for it, and so we weren’t going to be there. And I don't know much about China, but I figured that that would not be a good outcome, so we hustled around and put together a pavilion.
But the key element of it was we had all these young Americans who just looked like the face of America, of every shade of color, every ethnic and other background, who had been studying Chinese. So they were our hosts, and I think part of the reason we were the second-most visited pavilion was because the Chinese were just thrilled to come meet these young Americans who were speaking their language. And they were asking all kinds of questions, and the young Americans were asking about their pronunciation, and it was just a fabulous moment. And we need more of that.
So this 100,000 Strong Initiative is going to help us do that. And one of its significant attributes is, as you know, it is privately funded, which is where all of you come in. We need your expert advice on how to implement, promote, and expand the understanding of this mission in our private sector. We’re in a good place now. When we announced it a year ago – Mrs. Obama did the formal announcement, but we kind of previewed it a year ago that we wanted to do this, and then during the Hu Jintao visit Mrs. Obama announced it formally – we had said we wanted to raise $7 million in our first year. And we’ve already passed that mark in private pledges, so we have some terrific momentum, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
We’ve received tremendous support from the Chinese Government, which offered 20,000 scholarships for American students and educators for four years. So I want to thank Dr. You for that very important commitment. And other organizations, including Project Pengyou, which we helped secure seed funding from the Ford Foundation, which is an online alumni network that offers students past, present, and future a chance to connect and share experiences with each other. And the Zinch Study in China database, which is a small women-owned business that really believes in what we’re trying to do, and they’ve offered a free database with useful pointers for students who want to study in China from visa requirements to scholarship information.
So I think we’re off to a good start. I’m thrilled you’re willing to participate. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Ann Stock for her bureau’s cooperation with Assistant Secretary Campbell and his in putting all of the moving pieces together, and I think it’s one more indicator of our very strong conviction that this relationship is critical to both of us moving forward.
So let me turn it back over to those who actually know more than I know about how it’s going to unfold. I’m off to a lunch with some more CEOs. I’ll try to convince them to be more involved. (Laughter.) But again, thank you all, and particularly thanks to Rich and Chuck. Thank you all. (Applause.)