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Karen Hughes - Healthcare Diplomacy

Healthcare Diplomacy

Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Why Mercy Matters Conference
Washington, DC
November 16, 2006

Well, good morning, John, Ken, Admiral, Doctor Winkenwerder. I'm particularly pleased to be here today to commend the U.S. Navy and Project HOPE because I believe that this type of medical diplomacy, medical outreach, is one of the most effective ways that we can reach out people to people across our world. I was interested in what Ken said earlier because I -- he talked about peace and I view my job -- I describe it as waging peace, the job of public diplomacy as reaching out across the world in the spirit of friendship and partnership and respect. And I'm giving special focus to partnerships that result in a better life for people in concrete and meaningful ways, particularly in the areas of education and health. So I was delighted to hear about the results of your survey.

Whether you're a man or a woman, whether you live in Africa or Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Indonesia, people want educational opportunities for themselves and their children and they want healthcare for themselves and their families. The people who are here today represent the very best of America: our professional, dedicated military and the private citizens and medical professionals and many volunteers who give of their time and of their compassion in such a generous way. Their work is life-saving and life-changing for people in need in the far corners of the world as you've heard here today.

The Mercy's recent mission was truly a voyage of hope offering the care and compassion of the United States to the people of South Asia and I want to commend Admiral Mullen, Dr. John Howe of Project HOPE, for their tremendous leadership. I met with the doctor in my office some time ago and I just think what he's doing around the world and the commitment of Americans to give of their time and their talents is so genuine and truly represents the very best of our country.

Americans reach out to help people in need because of who we are and because of what we believe. We share with others because of our conviction that all people are equal and each person is uniquely valuable. We believe, as our Founders declared, that human beings are endowed with certain rights; among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So those convictions prompt us to action in the world. And when the people of the world see Americans in action they respond in a positive way. The research that Ken highlighted here this morning showed that 87% of the people of Bangladesh had a more favorable opinion about the United States as a result of the Mercy ship visit, as a result of seeing American convictions in action around the world. And I want to thank Ken and Terror Free Tomorrow for the work they're doing to help understand and undermine ideological support for terrorists; that's one of my principal objectives. I have three strategic objectives in public diplomacy and one of them is to undermine ideological support for terror.

The respondents in Ken's survey, as he mentioned, also indicated a desire for more educational scholarships, and I share that goal. This week we announced that due to the hard work of a lot of people at the State Department, in embassies around the world, and at our institutions of higher education, we have reversed a decline in foreign student enrollment that began in the aftermath of September 11, and that's great news for our country. One of my top priorities is to continue to reach out to attract students across the world to come to America to study. We welcome foreign students. We want them to come here. And we also want more young Americans to study abroad to learn the languages and cultures of the world.

Educational outreach and the healthcare diplomacy that we're recognizing here today are exactly the kind of personal interaction, the people-to-people connections that we need to forge at this important moment in our country's history.

I want to just briefly mention a couple of other things that we're doing. I know many of you are healthcare reporters. We -- I just returned from a trip to the Middle East where we announced a brand new U.S.-Middle East breast cancer awareness partnership. It's the first ever public/private partnership of its kind in the region. And I'm convinced that sharing our experience in battling breast cancer is going to save lives. And it's also going to foster those people-to-people connections that are so important.

Just this week we announced that next month we'll be hosting a White House summit on malaria in December. Defeating malaria is both an urgent calling and an achievable goal, and it will save lives, especially the lives of children across our world.

We're also helping nearly 2 million women protect their babies from HIV and, of course, providing major healthcare in Afghanistan to 4 million women and children there.

Now, infant nutrition and dental care and medical care may not seem like the traditional portfolios of State Department public diplomacy, but I'm convinced they are absolutely essential in our effort to work in partnership with people around the world to help people lead better lives. I believe we must open our hearts to the rest of the world, nurture the common interests and values that bind us together as human beings so that the next generation will inherit a safer and a better world not a more divided and dangerous one.

The work of the Mercy and HOPE is saving lives and making this both a safer and a more humane world. And I appreciate the invitation to come here today to highlight this important work and to thank John and the Admiral and others, and all the many, many volunteers who gave so generously of their time.

Thank you very much.

Released on December 4, 2006


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