Remarks at Launch of the 100,000 Strong Foundation
Secretary of State
This video is available on YouTube with closed captions.
And I particularly want to thank Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell for driving not only this program, but so much that we have accomplished in the last four years to deepen and strengthen our relationship with China and others in the region, but particularly with China, as it is such a consequential relationship, one that we believe so strongly in. Ambassador Zhang, once again, welcome to the State Department. Because it is, for us, a way of making clear that our relations, government-to-government, are obviously essential. But it is those people-to-people ties that are going to determine the quality of the relationship for the future.
Our engagement with China today deals with a wide range of the most pressing challenges and the most exciting opportunities. And when we began looking at ways to make our exchanges with China more productive, we of course ramped up our diplomatic engagement. We took delegations of investors and entrepreneurs to China. We institutionalized the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. We are very clear that what we’ve tried to build, an architecture that will stand the test of time regardless of what is going on in either of our countries, has been an essential effort.
And in 2010, we launched the 100,000 Strong Initiative. And as Kurt said, this is aimed at increasing the number of American students studying in China to 100,000 over four years. We focused on student exchanges because we believe that the future is very clearly in the hands of the young people of both of our countries. And the more we can foster exchanges and understanding, mutual trust, the better off not only the relationship will be, but each of our countries individually. We have to have far more than conversations with diplomats or journalists or leaders or businesspeople. There’s nothing more important than trying to build a structure of exchanges between us when it comes to students and other young people.
Now, we’ve made tremendous progress since 2010. We’ve already expanded study abroad programs. We’ve supported scholarship funds to help American students from underserved communities study in China. We’ve worked with EducationUSA to provide tools and resources for Chinese students seeking to study here. And the number of students coming between our two countries continues to grow. But we still have a lot of room for improvement.
So I’m happy today that we’re launching a permanent, independent nonprofit organization focused not only on our goal of 100,000 American students in China by 2014, but on continuing to strengthen the student exchanges for years to come. And I’m so grateful to all of our State Department partners who are here today who have helped put the 100,000 Strong Foundation together.
As I think back on the four years that I’ve been privileged to serve as Secretary of State, there are moments that just jump out of my memory bank. And one of them is when I finally got to our pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, which, as a number of you know, I am very proud to be called the mother of whenever I go to China because of the circumstances in which it was birthed. (Laughter.) But when I did get there for this magnificent expo that had been built up with pavilions from around the world and a magnificent Chinese pavilion, I was thrilled that the main attraction of our USA Pavilion were American students who had been studying Chinese, who were our designated hosts and greeters.
And I had the best time watching long lines of Chinese citizens who were coming to see our pavilion like they had been coming to see all of the pavilions looking surprised when some little African American girl would come up and start talking to them in Chinese, or some big tall Hispanic youngster would give them directions about how to go through the pavilion, or some other child – child; I’m so old, they’re all children – (laughter) – but some other student would come up and say something similar. And it was wonderful to watch the interchange. And I talked to some of the students. “Where were you from?” “Oh, from LA.” “Where are you from?” “Oh, from New York City.” And so many of these young people were first-generation college students in America who had just become taken with China, and so they were studying Chinese and now they were there as official representatives of the United States Government.
I say that because that’s what we want to see more of. We want to see Chinese youngsters here, American youngsters in China, and we want to see them breaking down the barriers that exist between any peoples from different cultures and experiences and histories and backgrounds. And I think that will happen because in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago, young people in both China and the United States are global citizens. They are communicating with new tools of technology that were not even dreamt of a decade ago. And so they are already building cyber or Internet relationships, and we want to give them a chance to form the real deal – getting to know each other, getting to understand each other.
So I’m thrilled that we’re announcing this foundation. I thank everyone here at the State Department and all of our partners who are making this possible. And I’m also very excited because this is a perfect example of a public-private partnership, and nobody does it better than the United States. We really are good at this because we have a long tradition of understanding that we have to have both government action and government involvement, but where most of life takes place in our country is not there; it’s outside of government. It’s in these other institutions – colleges and universities, foundations and philanthropies, individual efforts of all kind. So we are deeply grateful that you have understood our vision for 100,000 Strong and are making it a reality.
And with that, let me turn it back to Assistant Secretary Campbell. Thank you all. (Applause.)