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Karen P. Hughes - Shell Distinguished Lecture


Remarks at the Shell Distinguished Lecture Series


Karen P. Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Baker Institute For Public Policy
Houston, Texas
March 29, 2006


Thank you, Ambassador Djerejian, for that kind introduction and your many years advancing the cause of better U.S.-Middle East relations. I owe a special debt to the ambassador for chairing the "Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World" because the report had so many valuable recommendations that helped provide the intellectual framework for many of the public diplomacy improvements I am now working to implement. Thank you, Secretary Baker, for your wonderful service to our country. You have helped elect and so capably served three Presidents: Ronald Reagan to both Presidents Bush or 41 and 43 as they are affectionately called at the White House and I know how grateful President Bush is for Secretary Baker's current work on Iraq.

This is my first official visit to Houston in my new role. I've been at the State Department full time for about seven months now I have to admit when someone recognizes me in an airport or grocery store and calls me Ambassador, I still look around to see to whom they are speaking.

Any time I'm on TV a lot, there's a sharp spike in what my husband calls "Karen sightings." But you don't have to worry about the recognition going to my head. I was getting on a commuter plane in California one of those so small that you wouldn't have booked the reservation if you had seen the plane before making it. The pilot who looked way too young to be flying that small plane was so excited when he saw me, he came back. "I never thought I would have Madeline Albright on my airplane."

But my all-time favorite recognition story happened last year I was with my husband and son on an elevator deep and crowded. Finally, two elderly ladies got on, one looked at me, looked away, looked again elbowed her friend and said in a loud stage whisper: "Condi Rice is on this elevator." Condi loves that story and so do I.

One of the great joys of my new job is the opportunity to work with Condi every day and just as we felt with James Baker, all Americans can be proud to have Condoleezza Rice representing our country as Secretary of State.

Last September, at my swearing-in ceremony as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, President Bush said: "Spreading the message of freedom requires an aggressive effort to share and communicate America's fundamental values." He said that the war against terrorism "will not be won by force of arms alone," but that "we must also defeat them in the battle of ideas." President Bush instructed the Secretary of State and me to "marshal all the resources of the federal government to this critical mission." And added: "Public diplomacy is the job of every member of my administration."

Now those were pretty clear marching orders so for the past seven months my team and I have been hard at work to put in place a long-term foundation for what I call "waging peace" and I use the word waging very intentionally because I believe that we must be very focused and clear about the commitment and years of effort that success will require. I truly believe that there is no more urgent challenge for America's national security and for the future of all the world's children than this task of reaching out to the rest of the world to foster common interests and values and confront common threats together. Our mission is further defined in the new National Security Strategy, which the White House released early this month.

"The United States is in the early years of a long struggle," it states, "similar to what our country faced in the early years of the Cold War A new totalitarian ideology now threatens." It goes on to say this is not a battle of religions, as our opponents would like to make it instead: "The transnational terrorists confronting us today exploit the proud religion of Islam to serve a violent political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom."

At a time of threat and so much turmoil in the world, America's public diplomacy is absolutely vital to our national security. As I prepared to begin this job, I was asked to come to the President's ranch in Crawford to outline a strategy. Now all you students here, I want you to think about this my first day on the job was August 15th. I was asked to come to Crawford on August 11th to brief the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense and our nation's military leaders on our strategy before my first day on the job. Fortunately, I had spent the previous months during my preparation for confirmation hearings reading reports like the one developed by Ambassador Djerejian's group, reaching out to public diplomacy experts, former ambassadors, professionals at the State Department. I found there was actually a great deal of consensus about what needed to be done it just needed someone to come in, re-energize a public diplomacy team that had had a difficult six years since the merger of the former United States Information Agency into the State Department and start getting it done.

We began by outlining three strategic imperatives of our public diplomacy strategy:

First, we must offer people throughout the world a positive vision of hope that is rooted in America's belief in freedom, justice, opportunity and respect for all. I saw an interview of a young man in Morocco recently, who said: "For me, America represents hope of a better life." We represent that hope for people everywhere and must always do so. America must continue to be that shining city on a hill that President Reagan spoke of that's why we speak out for democracy, and against human rights offenders, for free press and against those who stifle religious freedom, for equal treatment for women and minorities and against the sex trafficking that threatens the lives of so many, especially young girls in the world today. People around the world should know that America proudly stands for not only our own rights but also for human rights and human freedom everywhere.

Our second strategic imperative is to isolate and marginalize the violent extremists, confront their ideology of tyranny and hate. We must undermine their efforts to portray the West as in conflict with Islam by empowering mainstream voices and demonstrating respect for Muslim cultures and contributions. That's why I've spent so much time reaching out to Muslim Americans I believe they are an important bridge to Muslim communities across our world. One of our ambassadors, Tom Korologos, recently hosted a small conference in which he invited Muslim Americans to meet with European Muslims in an informal and constructive setting. It was an interesting model we're encouraging others to emulate. We're also encouraging interfaith dialogue. Last week in Washington, I spoke at the first international conference on faith and service, which brought together people of different faiths to encourage dialogue and importantly brought together young people of different faiths who will go out and engage in service projects together to help bridge divisions and bring about a better world. I also communicated with all our ambassadors encouraging them to support similar interfaith outreach programs in countries across the world. I recently talked with a Turkish woman in Berlin and asked whether I might visit her neighborhood. Not really, she told me quite honestly, many Muslims in Germany feel isolated from their own government and not interested in meeting with ours. Could I send a group of American Muslims to talk about how they live and work and worship in our country? Absolutely, that would be great, she told me.

Our third strategic imperative is to foster a sense of common interests/common values between Americans and people of different countries, cultures and faiths throughout the world. One of these ideas came from a meeting I had with Ambassador Wisner. While in a time of war and terrorism, we tend to focus on common threats, we must also focus on our common interests and common values. It is important to note that two of these three objectives are not just focused on the war on terror or Islamic communities, even though the press frequently refers to this job in the context of Muslim outreach our public diplomacy actually involves the entire world. I recently returned from a 5-country trip to Latin America, because President Bush told me it should be one of my priorities. Our relationships with our neighbors in this hemisphere are incredibly important. Public diplomacy works as well to nurture and strengthen our transatlantic partnership with Europe, to build on our strengthening and strategic relationships with India and Pakistan, to reach out to people across an emerging China and we also try to provide reliable information and establish relationships with people even when we don't have relations with their governments in countries such as Cuba and Iran.

We have many current and potential allies in this effort, because the values we are promoting do not belong to America they are universal, meant for people everywhere and we seek to promote them with other nations and peoples in a spirit of partnership and respect. I love to cite an old Afghan proverb: "It takes two hands to clap." Public diplomacy is a conversation a dialogue not a monologue and that is why I began this job with a listening tour designed to show our friends and partners around the world that America wants to listen to their views, their concerns, their hopes. And I've continued to travel next week, I'll go to Africa to reach out to people across our world and talk about the things we have in common. People the world over want to be free to speak their minds and live in secure homes and neighborhoods. They want their governments to be fair and just and not corrupt. They want a quality education for their children. They want an opportunity to earn a good living and have their hard work provide greater prosperity and opportunity. They value science and technology and want to explore new frontiers together. Most of us want to live in societies that are free and just, not in those that subject people to tyranny, intimidation and thought control.

To promote this worldwide conversation and these universal values, we're relying on a set of tactics I call the four "E's" some of you students may have seen them. As a communicator, I believe in boiling things down to basics and experience has taught me that just about the time people get sick of talking about something is about when it begins to sink in. So we have four E's: engage, exchange, educate and empower and we've added a fifth, evaluation, mindful we need to measure results as best we can.

We need to engage more vigorously, explaining and advocating our policies in ways that are fast, accurate and authoritative. We are expanding exchanges our single most successful public diplomacy tool over the last 50 years and we are making them more strategic to engage young people and those who influence them including clerics, journalists, women and teachers. We have a wide array of study and exchange programs and opportunities to host exchange students. I urge you to visit our website exchanges.state.gov and find out how you can be a part we need you to be a part. As the president said, everyone has a public diplomacy role to play.

We have to do a better job of educating ourselves and others. I encourage America's young people to study abroad, learn more about other countries and cultures, and study the critical languages of the future so we can better communicate with the world. And we want young people to come study in America. As I travel the world, I meet many leaders who went to school or participated in exchange programs with the United States and I want the same thing to be true twenty and thirty years from now. We are increasing funding for English language training because it's something young people want it expands their opportunities while at the same time opening an information door that helps them learn more about our values. Recognizing that successful public diplomacy will require the efforts of all of us, not just a few of us, we are working to empower our fellow Americans, the private sector, education leaders, Muslim Americans. In the struggle against violent extremists, for example, the voices of government officials are not always the most credible or powerful Muslim Americans have far more credibility to debate issues of their faith than I do as a Christian.

Finally, we have created a new evaluation unit to improve our ability to measure success or failure. Even though Edward R. Murrow once famously said "no cash register rings when a mind is changed", it's important that we try to measure and understand the impact of our programs so we can direct funds where they are most effective. Earlier this year, we suspended publication of a magazine designed to reach out to Arab youth when an initial evaluation showed it wasn't having an impact on its target market. We are currently reviewing a number of other programs we want to direct our resources to what works.

Our transformational public diplomacy is fundamentally changing the way we do business to become more effective in six key areas:

[FIrst,] we are increasing funding for programs we know work and making them more effective. At a time of many competing budget demands, from disaster relief to the war against terror, we increased funding for exchanges in 2006 by 70 million dollars and President Bush has proposed an additional 48 million dollar increase in exchanges for 2007, because we know they work. People who come here see America, make up their own minds about us and almost always go home with a different and much more positive view of our country. We are reaching out to journalists, clerics, women leaders, teachers and bringing them on exchanges because they have a wide circle of influence. We are also inviting journalists to travel with exchange participants and report on their activities as we did with a recent sports diplomacy program with Venezuelan and Nicaraguan baseball players, so a wider audience of television viewers and newspaper readers can also participate in the exchange experience. We shifted resources to provide 9,000 high school students in 39 countries with significant Muslim populations up to two years of English language instruction exchange programs because we know it is successful.

[Second,] we are improving the way government communicates. This is a challenge because of how much communications has changed rumors go around the world in an instant. We are working to get our government on the same page quite literally. You may have heard NPR's coverage of our new rapid response center at the State Department. We put that in place to monitor media around the world, with a special emphasis on pan-Arab media Ambassador Djerejian's group strongly recommended this and it was our honor recently to give him a tour this center puts out a daily early morning summary of stories driving news around the world, and sums up America's message in response it's now sent to all Cabinet Secretaries, Ambassadors, public information officers and military leaders around the world and many have told me it is providing them with information that helps them advocate more effectively on behalf of our country and our policies. We are in the process of setting up regional hubs, to position spokesmen in key media centers like Dubai their full time job will be to get on television and media and advocate our values and policies. We've dramatically increased our presence on Arab media State Department personnel made 148 appearances on Arab and regional media in January and February alone a good number of them in Arabic.

And we are unleashing our people we have changed the rules which used to require pre-clearance from Washington before media interviews. Now ambassadors and Foreign Service officers are not only free but expected to give interviews on all established policies with no advance approval at all. We want our embassy personnel to be not only a presence, but the face and voice of America on media in countries across our world. This is a huge change in culture and to make it effective, we're working to improve our training and provide tools and information to help ambassadors speak out more forcefully and effectively and we have changed the promotion precepts so public diplomacy skills and work are now part of the criteria for promotion for all in the Foreign Service.

A third major change: public diplomacy is helping shape policy. Members of my senior staff and I now attend the Secretary's senior policy meetings at the State Department, and we've institutionalized a higher level and more vigorous presence for public diplomacy in the regional bureaus where much of policy is originally developed. A new deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy now works in each bureau, reporting to the assistant secretary and to me literally knitting together policy and public diplomacy. After my travels, I regularly meet with the President, Secretary Rice, the National Security Advisor and others to report on what I've learned and what we can do better. For example, I recently traveled to Latin America with Secretary Rice for the inaugural of Chile's first woman president, a great occasion we met with many Latin American leaders and a group of our ambassadors and I went on from there and traveled to four other countries. As I reported to the President, we heard the same things almost everywhere that while both the American government and individual Americans themselves are doing a great deal to improve the lives of people in Latin America not very many people know about it. President Bush has doubled development assistance to Latin America during his tenure and many of the leaders I met with didn't realize that and said we often didn't shape our programs in ways that made their benefits clear to average people. President Bush views Latin America as a priority and he's now instructed us to look at ways to make our programs more effective, to set clearer goals, focus our programs and partner with the private sector to get maximum results then make sure we communicate what we are doing a perfect example of the intersection of public diplomacy and policy.

Fourth, we are forging new partnerships. Earlier today, I met with officials Houston Intercontinental one of pilot airports where we are working with the travel industry, with Department of Homeland Security and with local officials to make arrival points our country more welcoming. I've been telling people that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. We brought together university presidents for their first ever summit in Washington and are working with them and the Commerce Department to better market American higher education to students around the world. We started the Fortune Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative, which brings women business leaders from around the world to America to work with women at Fortune 500 companies. Microsoft and the International Institute for Education are training 1,000 women in the United Arab Emirates in information technology. Major corporations including Pfizer, Citicorp, Xerox, GE, UPS, Pepsico, John Deere, American Electric Power, and Asset Management Advisors raised more than $100 million to help victims of Pakistan's earthquake and flooding in Central America. The Aspen Institute has partnered with us on journalism schools to bring international journalists here for work-study programs. All of these partnerships are critically important to creating good will for our country.

A fifth major change is we are enhancing our use of technology. Building on the president's State of the Union, where he said "for people everywhere, America is a partner for a better life," we've launched a new website to tell the real-people stories of how America is partnering around the world to help people have better lives. We've launched a new web-based interactive program, "democracy dialogues" to foster discussion about different aspects of democracy, and added podcasts, web-chats and digital video conferences to share American messages in more places and more languages. I've got a working group looking at ways we might use MP3 players, DVDs and other current technologies to better tell America's story especially to young people. I'm meeting with technology leaders from Oracle, Dell, the Gates Foundation, to discuss ideas of how we might partner with them in ways that enhance access to technology and thus information on opportunity for more people around the world.

Finally, we are working to de-legitimize terrorism. At speeches around the world, I've been making the case that people of values, people of all faiths, people of conscience need to work together to do for terrorism what was done to slavery it went from being internationally accepted to being an international pariah largely because people made moral arguments against it based on people's fundamental rights of equality. All the world's great religions teach that life is precious, taking of innocent life is wrong. We've challenged our ambassadors to bring together leaders of different faiths in countries throughout the world to deliver that message clearly and consistently.

We are also seeking to more effectively engage with mainstream leaders in the many diverse Muslim communities across our world. The fact is that the majority of those killed by terrorists since the September 11 attacks have been Muslims.

Many Islamic clerics, as well as other secular and religious defenders of freedom, are standing up to push back against terrorist violence.

We have seen gatherings of senior clerics in Jordan and elsewhere issue statements that debunk terrorists' claims to be acting in accordance with the scriptures of the Koran. Many Muslim scholars have publicly condemned terrorism, citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is akin to killing all of humanity.

Last summer we saw a group of Iraqi women come together to create a campaign, called Pledge for Iraq, to call for human rights and equality before the law. This group lobbied political parties and candidates and generated support from more than 250 political and civil society leaders.

After the despicable bombing of one of Islam's holiest shrines, the Mosque in Samarra, Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, condemned the bombing on the ground that its purpose was to foment sectarian conflict.

More recently we saw ordinary people in Iraqi cities and towns protesting against those who continue to kill hundreds and thousands of people with their car bombs, videotaped beheadings, and other atrocities.

We also saw popular demonstrations in Morocco and Jordan against suicide bombers and against the murder in Iraq of Arab diplomats.

More and more, people are standing up against these tactics of terror and it is up to all of us to speak up loud and clear and say as President Bush has stated so powerfully that difference is never a license to kill.

To advance the President's democracy agenda and open up repressive regimes, we are working to make "political space" for courageous dissidents and journalists whose voices are too often stifled. When we put a spotlight on what is happening, it makes it harder for leaders to repress the voices of freedom. Yesterday's Washington Post had an article quoting the editor of a new paper in Egypt among the first to publish criticism of the regime who said Egyptians have discovered dissent and that the space for press freedom opened only because of America. "U.S. pressure on the Mubarak regime has been the catalyst for most of the change we have seen," said the editor.

As I hope you can tell, we have a lot underway and there is much, much more to do. This is the work of decades as the President said when he gave me my marching orders, we are in a time that requires the same type of commitment that enabled us to prevail in an earlier era, when communists denied freedom to millions of the world's citizens. In that era we encouraged Americans to study Russian language and history and culture so we could better understand the aspirations of the Russian people and the psychology of those who oppressed them.

Today the struggle for freedom has shifted to new regions of the world. We need a similar all-out effort because this engagement will determine the kind of world our children live in.

I want to close with two stories that sum up America's diplomacy at work in the world.

Last fall I stood in Aceh and looked out at the ocean where the tsunami, a 30-foot high black wall of water came crashing in at 60 miles an hour. Residents there who somehow survived, showed me hundreds of patches of cement all that was left of homes that had once stood there and so many lives that ended there. I witnessed those who survived coming together, agreeing on property divisions and neighborhood maps beginning the process of rebuilding. And I met the future a group of Fulbright students who will be studying in Texas and Arkansas as a result of the American fundraising drive led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton. I met a young man whose goal is to get a master's degree in English so he can return to Aceh and take the place of the English teacher who had taught him but who was killed in the tsunami. That investment in the lives of individual people sums up public diplomacy it's people driven and as that young man illustrates, our investment in his education has the potential to make a difference in so many other lives and so many other futures.

A couple of years ago, after the fall of the Taliban, I toured a reading program in Afghanistan, where young girls who previously had been banned from going to school were learning to read. I met a young woman who said she wanted to be a writer, and she hoped one day to write a book. I told her I was at the time working on a book of my own and said I would like to say something on her behalf in my book until she was able to write hers.

Her answer through the translator was quick and unequivocal. She said, "Women should be able to go to school and work and choose our own husbands." She was 13-years old.

As I was leaving, the translator grabbed my arm and stopped me, and said, "She wants to tell you something else: Please don't forget them. Please help them live in freedom."

And I have to tell you, the eyes of that little girl followed me all the way home ever since. It is both our privilege and our duty to help that young girl and others like her live in freedom. The people of each nation must walk their own path to the future, but America can come alongside in a spirit of respect and partnership and help light the way.

Thank you for having me.

Released on April 4, 2006

ENDS


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