Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Andrew Young Center for International Affairs, Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA
April 19, 2012

Good afternoon and thank you Ryan, for that very kind introduction. Dr. Coles, thank you for having me here. It is truly an honor.

First, I want to say that you students are lucky to have Dr. Coles at the helm of the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs.

It is always a pleasure to return to my home state, and it is truly an honor to have an opportunity to speak to some of the brightest minds in this nation. A special thanks to Morehouse College for inviting me and for providing such a fitting arena for this meeting of the minds.

I am proud to stand before you here today, where for generations, bright young people have been molded into leaders by some of the most influential scholars and activists in the world. It is my hope to contribute to this legacy by offering you capable Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta students, words that will motivate you and position you to establish your own paths to leadership.

Yes, I am here to give you my perspective, as Secretary Clinton’s Special Representative, about the state of our country’s global relationships, but I am also here to encourage you to prepare yourselves to be effective global citizens by sharpening your international perspective.

As young people and the next generation who will inherit this globalized world, you possess the power to make change. You are indeed privileged to attend these fine institutions which afford you the opportunity to develop a global view, as well as the leadership skills to take grassroots action for peace, prosperity, and sustainability.

All over the world today young people like you are taking up the batons of civic engagement and striving to build a world free of social ailments. They are springing up against dictatorships and occupying the excesses of corporate inequality; they are insisting upon a strong respect for our environment and challenging the status quo of bitter partisanship.

Every day, you must remind yourselves that the Morehouse man whose statue you pass by every day was only 26 years old when he began to change the world. Dr. King’s principles of tolerance and understanding – even now – are vital to encouraging young minds to build a compassionate world that stands up against inequality, illiteracy, hunger, and poverty, for many generations to come.

In order for the youth of today to truly be the leaders of tomorrow, in order for you to become effective advocates for inclusion and vanguards of social change, you would be well-advised to heed the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All of us must continue to make those around us aware that the path to social change demands an ethic of public service, a commitment to reconciliation, and a spirit of love and mutuality.

Today, the world faces a unique set of challenges -- economic, environmental, social, and political – that require collaborative innovation and determination of our world’s best minds.

It is almost hard to imagine how much has happened in the last 18 months, from revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, to renewed fears over economic default in Europe. The world has changed very quickly under our feet and before our eyes.

Over the last three years, the United States has ended one war, and we have begun to wind down another. We are affirming our place as a Pacific power. We are strengthening our alliance with our European and NATO partners. We are elevating the role of economics and development within U.S. diplomacy to help create jobs here at home and to advance our strategic interests around the world. And of course, we are reaching beyond governments to engage directly with people.

In this fast changing world, the Obama Administration is convinced of the need to seize this moment, to meet these challenges, and to lay the foundation for sustained global leadership in a rapidly changing world increasingly linked and transformed by new technologies. Only America has the reach, resources, and relationships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world.

At the same time, urbanization is occurring at an unprecedented rate, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Fifty-two percent of the earth’s population now lives in cities. Every week one million people move to cities. Continued rapid urbanization will lead to three billion new urban dwellers.

Global partnerships which put aside individual philosophies and focus on solutions are essential to solving these global challenges and to building a more stable and secure world.

Secretary Clinton has stated time and time again that 21st century global challenges require us to work with new partners to collaborate and innovate globally. At the Department of State, this has meant making a transition to 21st Century Statecraft, a strategy for creating partnerships for achieving modern diplomatic goals by engaging all the elements of our national power and leveraging all forms of our strength.

Two years ago, Secretary Clinton created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs emphasizing the need to utilize local leaders as a key component in the much needed widespread and deep-rooted efforts to take on our world’s greatest challenges – a key part of that charge is empowering subnational officials to lead their states and communities to a stable and secure future.

My job is to realize Secretary Clinton’s vision by connecting what the Federal Government does best with what state and local governments are doing and can do, and what our successful private sector is doing and can do. We have launched partnerships with China, India, and Brazil and are looking toward Turkey, South Africa, and Russia to strengthen subnational economic and cultural networks.

As Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has said, and as the United States has long maintained, U.S. foreign policy relationships will always be nation-to-nation. But the scope of what defines nation-to-nation conversations are shifting in the modern, more global, and more flattened economy – deeming city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues just as critical to the larger context of executing, implementing, and achieving a nation’s overarching diplomatic goals.

Building peer-to-peer relationships between state and local elected officials has a tremendous effect on foreign policy that often goes unrecognized. Still, building these relationships and encouraging this engagement at the subnational level has limitless potential.

Peer-to-peer relationships provide state and local leaders around the globe with an intimate glance into the American way of life, and more importantly, into our democratic institutions and system of governance. Even at a more basic but equally important level, these interactions develop trust – an attribute essential to developing strong bilateral ties.

So, just as Secretary Clinton engages in important bilateral discussions with her counterparts, so too does our office engage in pivotal conversations on a range of issues with mayors and governors around the world.

Two weeks ago, during President Rousseff’s visit to Washington, Secretary Clinton and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota highlighted the importance of our 21st century partnership. As the two largest, most diverse democracies in the Western Hemisphere, we are committed to exploring and implementing new joint approaches to the opportunities and challenges we face.

It is imperative that we strengthen and deepen our economic ties while honoring our commitments to democratic values and ensuring that citizens at all levels of our societies prosper. “The policies we embrace and the investments that we make will shape our shared future, and we are developing strong habits of partnership and cooperation.” She noted that this is not a job solely for Federal Government. These important partnerships are taking place between our private sectors, our universities, our civil societies, and our state and local governments.

That same day, the Secretary and Foreign Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding to Support State and Local Cooperation, which formally encourages U.S. and Brazilian subnational governments to bolster trade and investment, share ideas and best practices, and advance local priorities, while contributing to the friendship and mutual understanding between Brazil and the United States. The agreement affirms the resolve of the United States and Brazil to strengthen and deepen cooperation between our respective subnational entities, and encourages peer-to-peer exchanges between subnational officials. Our mutual aim is to provide a framework for engagement that will produce tangible and enduring benefits for states, cities, and local entities.As the Secretary highlighted, we share a common goal with Brazil, which is to work toward creating economic opportunity, a system in which everyone has a fair chance to compete.

The agreement was inspired by existing efforts of our respective state and local government to engage in cooperative activities; and, by the various consultations I have had with subnational and federal officials in both countries, who recognize the important role that exchanges play in our growing bilateral partnership.

Since January, I have traveled to 11 Brazilian cities and states to expand relationships between U.S. mayors and governors and their counterparts in Brazil and encourage collaboration in areas of mutual interest, such as: education, cultural and technical exchange, economic growth, sustainable development, democracy, social inclusion, and preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In each of the cities I visited, I was met with incredible enthusiasm.

As a result, exchanges between Brazilian and U.S. subnational entities have become more numerous and robust in recent months. However, let me just say that Georgia has been a pioneer of subnational relationships with Brazil for quite a long time. Atlanta and Rio de Janeiro have enjoyed a Sister-Cities relationship since 1972, President Jimmy Carter initiated a partnership with the state of Pernambuco when he was governor of Georgia, in 2008, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle traveled led a trade delegation to three Brazilian cities to explore alternative fuel partnership opportunities. Back in 2010, Morehouse College and Dr. Coles hosted the steering group meeting for the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality, which was a catalyst for former mayor Shirley Franklin's visit to Brazil and our engagement with Brazil on the World Cup Olympic Games to share best practices from Atlanta's experiences. Former Mayor Franklin continues to share her valuable insights on minority and women-business contracting with local Brazilian governments.

Over the last year, I have had the pleasure of working closely with your state and local leaders who are committed to continuing this legacy.

For example, my good friend, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves - who, might I add, is a distinguished Morehouse man. Last month he led the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to unanimously pass a resolution to promote cooperation and joint initiatives between Fulton County, Georgia and the State of Bahia, Brazil. Chairman Eaves and Bahia Governor Jaques Wagner have worked tirelessly over the last year to build this relationship, and next month, their efforts will come to fruition when the agreement is formally signed here in Atlanta.

Through this agreement, Bahia – which hosts the 2014 World Cup - will increasingly to look to Metro Atlanta to learn best practices from the 1994 Super Bowl and 1996 State of Bahia as a vibrant economic, arts, and culture center, making it a fitting partner for cooperation on economic development and tourism; public health; youth development and education; arts and culture, and social inclusion and human rights.

Collaborations at the local level such as these, are contributing to the progress of U.S.-Brazil bilateral trade and investment, and creating jobs for our citizens. However, I echo the sentiment expressed by Secretary Clinton during the Global Partnership Dialogue in Brasilia last week: there is much more to do. In order to address the needs of a 21st century workforce, we must innovate together more than ever before.

Presidents Obama and Rousseff share a commitment to an innovative U.S.-Brazil education partnership, which is why they have launched groundbreaking education initiatives. President Rousseff’s Science without Borders program will send 100,000 Brazilian students to the world’s top universities to study in the STEM fields. 700 of those students have already begun their studies here in the United States. This program complements President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative which will increase the number of Latin American and Caribbean students in the United States to 100,000 each year, and send 100,000 American students to the region over the next 10 years as well.

The United States and Brazil are also promoting and expanding academic exchange opportunities between U.S. HBCUs and Brazilian universities. During the Presidential visit, both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding between U.S. HBCUs and Brazil’s Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) calls for increased cooperation and exchanges between Brazilian education institutions and HBCUs in the United States and supports the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan on Racial Equality.

Morehouse College is an integral part of this effort not only because you have welcomed Brazilian students to your institution in recent years, but also because of the efforts and leadership of Dr. Franklin and Dr. Coles, who are working tirelessly to ensure that each year, more and more talented students are exposed to an international education. They understand that educational exchange programs like these will help us prepare the workforce to give our students the skills, experiences, and relationships that a global economy demands.

As the United States leverages its unique strengths to meet the complex challenges of this global economy, we must also look to the Asia-Pacific region; it is home to half of the world’s population, several of our most trusted allies, emerging economic powers like China and India, and Indonesia, and several of the most active trade and energy routes in the world. In this vast region, we are investing in a strong network of institutions and partnerships. U.S. exports to the region are helping drive our economic recovery here at home; and we must further engage Asia’s growing middle class in order to ensure future growth. The shape of the global economy, the expansion of democracy and human rights, and our hopes for a 21st Century more peaceful than the 20thcentury depend upon developments in Asia.

As a result, we have stepped up our engagement with countries and institutions in what Secretary Clinton calls “forward deployed diplomacy.” Just look at China, and the expanding trade between our nations, the connections between our peoples, the ongoing consultations between our governments at the federal and local levels. From the first days of the Obama Administration, America’s foreign policy has reflected the Asia Pacific’s growing importance. President Obama has traveled to the Western Pacific four times. Secretary Clinton broke with tradition and made her first overseas trip there as Secretary. My first overseas trip as the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs was also to China.

It is incredible to think about how far the U.S. and China have come in less than 35 years. We’ve gone from being two nations with no diplomatic ties to a mutually important, interdependent relationship. This shift requires both sides to adjust our thinking and our approach. In order to successfully build a peaceful, prosperous Asia Pacific, we must succeed in building and nurturing an effective U.S.-China relationship.

To further this aim, I have led the effort to broaden and deepen our bilateral ties with China at the subnational level. Secretary Clinton and her counterpart, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supporting U.S. - China subnational cooperation on January of 2011. This MOU encouraged the establishment of a U.S. - China Governors Forum to be co-convened by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).

Last July, I led the U.S. Government delegation to Salt Lake City for the launch of the Governors Forum, which generated a historic cooperation among state, federal, business, and academic communities. U.S. Governors from 24 states participated, and the Forum resulted in the signing of over 20 agreements related to business, education, and the environment.

Again, I cannot stress enough what a vital partner Georgia has been in our efforts to carry out 21st century diplomacy. In October 2011 Governor Nathan Deal and five other U.S. Governors traveled to Beijing to meet with eight Chinese Provincial Leaders - the first gathering of this kind in China. They discussed issues such as job creation, competitiveness, trade and investment, energy and education, and explored new investment opportunities.

Governor Deal visited several cities and met with leaders and corporations, including Sany Group, which has invested $60 million in Peachtree City, Georgia. Sany Group plans to invest $25 million more in the State of Georgia, and to hire 300 engineers over the next five years.

Most recently, Mayor Kasim Reed signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May with the Mayor of Shenzhen, China to promote exchanges between Shenzhen and Atlanta in the fields of business, trade, science, technology, renewable energy, culture, tourism, education, sports, medical services and personnel. Both mayors are supporting joint project research and development amongst local scientists. This agreement is truly valuable to the continuation of good relations between China and the United States.

Mayor Reed and a delegation from Invest Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta Chamber traveled throughout China, encouraging foreign direct investment in the metro Atlanta region and identifying opportunities for local Atlanta businesses in China. Although Mayor Reed is not a Morehouse man, he is certainly a smart man, let me tell you. He wants to position Atlanta as an international city and build strategic relationships with other global cities.

We are truly excited that leaders like Governor Deal, Chairman Eaves, and Mayor Reed are taking such bold and innovative steps to position the Georgia, Fulton County, and Atlanta residents to reap the benefits of global growth.

As the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs and the Department of State work to strengthen existing relationships with China, Brazil, South Africa, and India to develop new subnational relationships in Russia, Turkey and, I am confident that we can count on states and local entities, like Georgia and Fulton County, and Atlanta, to jump right into the international arena to strengthen the economy and global relationships back here at home.

I want to reiterate what I said before: you young people are so lucky. You are lucky to live in a place where your local leaders are so cognizant of the importance of global engagement. You are lucky to attend fine institutions where scholars and activists and seasoned diplomats like Dr. Coles are here to share their wisdom with you and prepare you for public and international service.

I encourage you all to seize every available opportunity to equip your minds with the experiences and knowledge you will need to succeed in this vast, yet increasingly connected world.

Maybe that means a summer course, a semester abroad, or a degree program: whatever the case, studying abroad is likely to be one of the most rewarding experiences in your young lives. International students enrich classrooms and communities with their ideas, perspectives, and culture. And when they return home, they bring new knowledge, new perspectives, and a deeper understanding of the world.

This year, the number of international students studying in the United States has reached new heights. Around the world, women make up almost half the total international student body. I hear that Spelman women, have been an important part of that statistic. Well done, ladies.

However, it is so unfortunate only one percent of American students from two- and four-year institutions are studying abroad. So, I implore you to do all that you must to expand your worldview by studying in another country. Go get your passport if you don’t already have one. Learn to speak other languages.

Find motivation in young people in far flung places who are taking action and challenging the status quo. Use your social networks to connect with the urban sustainability experts, the social entrepreneurs, the traveling scholars, and the game-changers around the globe that are not content to sit at home and watch the world go by on a television screen. Be inspired, make news, change lives, and be changed.

And above all - consider a career in the United States Foreign Service – we at the Department of State are looking for you to comprise the next generation of a diverse and talented diplomatic corps. We need you and your ideas at the helm of our international efforts. We want you to develop and implement viable policies that will contribute to making the next Century far better than the last.

And finally, be encouraged that you have an entire community of Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta graduates in the field right now who are waiting to welcome you into the fold, if you are courageous enough to take on the challenge.

Thank you.

[This is a mobile copy of Remarks at Morehouse College]

Short URL: