Remarks at the Business Partnerships in Higher Education Luncheon Hosted by the Indo-American Chamber of CommerceAmbassador Karen P. Hughes,
Under Secretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy
As prepared for delivery
March 26, 2007
Thank you, President Lilley, and thank you, Atul Nishar, and the Indo-American Chamber for hosting this event. Our delegation is honored to be here with so many influential business leaders from India and the United States of America, especially at this exciting time of the strengthening of the strategic partnership between the United States and India.
We’ve all heard so much about the remarkable growth of the business community here, and it’s great to witness first-hand the many strong connections between American and Indian companies. I see so many familiar names – Microsoft, Cisco, Citibank, GE, Quantum -- side by side with Indian companies like Reliance, Dr. Reddy Laboratories, and Wipro. The Indian giant Infosys has offices in my home state of Texas -- and the Texas company EDS has offices here in India. I am told that your membership base at the Indo-American chamber has grown from zero in 1992 to more than 300 today.
These robust business relationships are healthy reminders that the United States and India are engaging more actively and constructively than ever before on a wide range of issues – from technology to agriculture, from poverty alleviation to space exploration, from combating disease to reducing pollution. We are seeing a great boost in bilateral trade. The consul general was telling me last night that former U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman set a goal of doubling bilateral trade by 2008 – and we are on track to exceed that goal in 2007. President Bush and Prime Minister Singh, in historic meetings in Washington in 2005 and New Delhi in 2006, agreed our two large, dynamic, multi-ethnic democracies would cooperate and lead on all these global issues -- and at the heart of all of them is the need for higher education, which is why I’m especially delighted to be here with a distinguished delegation of higher education leaders representing the great breadth and dynamism of higher education in America.
In the year since President Bush’s visit here last March, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Under Secretary Frank Lavin have done a lot of work to bring more American companies on trade missions to India. Naturally, we hope that the result will be a larger membership in this organization. The growing number of business transactions between Indians and Americans is a part of the transformation that is taking place across the broad range of our relations.
The delegation I am with today is a result of a strong new partnership between our federal government and the higher education sector, a partnership that is rooted in the quest for greater knowledge and greater opportunities for young people – a quest I know so many Indian parents and students share -- and a shared interest in bringing more international students to America and encouraging more American students to study abroad, to come to places like India. We believe encouraging more young people to become truly global citizens serves our national interest, India’s interests and your interests as business leaders. In this increasingly global world, you need employees who are highly educated, able to speak different languages, able to move easily between cultures and countries – and so we are here to ask for the business community’s active partnership and support.
A recent article in “The Economist” talked about the “Battle for Brainpower” and said that talent is becoming one of the world’s most sought after commodities. The value of skilled workers and patents is increasing dramatically – 25 years ago, these intangible assets accounted for about 20 percent of the value of companies in the Standard and Poor 500 Index – today it is 70 percent. Companies are following talent whether in their own backyard or across the ocean. We need to nurture talent wherever we find it, and reach out to women, minorities and young people from low income, non elite communities who need and deserve opportunities for education. As nations and employers, we simply can’t afford to leave anyone out of the picture. Last fall, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and my deputy Asst Secretary Dina Powell led a similar delegation to engage the higher education and business communities in China, Korea and Japan – and we are here in India because of its tremendous importance to America, and because business participation is essential to maximize the potential of our partnership.
India is already the number one country in the world in sending students to the United States for higher education -- and we want to build on that great tradition and expand partnerships and linkages between our institutions for the benefit of the next generation of Indians and Americans. America wants to open its doors even wider to students from India, and we want more American young people to travel to India to study and learn.
In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks against America, security was understandably tightened and the visa process was dramatically affected for a couple of years– yet while we want to be a secure country for both our citizens and our international guests, we also want to be a welcoming country – and so my colleague at the State Department and I have made it a priority to turn this around. I’m pleased to be able to tell you that the student visa numbers have rebounded. We worked hard to add consular officers to process visas, streamline procedures, put students at the front of the line – and last year, the number of U.S. student and exchange visas issued reached an all-time high of more than 590,000. Student visas to the United States were up 15 percent worldwide last year – and up more than 30 percent here in India.
In India members of our consular staff are committed to assuring every Indian students admitted to a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States will be granted a visa interview in time to make it to the first day of class. This expedited process parallels that which we already conduct for eligible business executives. More broadly, Ambassador Mulford has made it a priority to reduce the backlog in visas – and the average wait for an appointment is now less than two weeks rather than many months. I’m pleased by the increasing number of visas, but we are not satisfied – I want that number to continue to increase, for more students, more business leaders, more visitors to come to America from India. More two- way exchanges of students with India will:
- help address the demand for education in India, where there are many more students who want higher education than there are spaces for them;
- it will continue a welcome infusion of Indian talent and creativity into U.S. campuses. The university presidents who are here today who have Indian students on the campus can testify to their hard work and creativity, and the important benefits their presence brings to their campuses;
- give American students important skills to work effectively in a global environment and enrich Indian institutions with their intellectual contributions;
- It will help meet the growing demands of American and Indian businesses for skilled, knowledgeable workers;
- and it will help future generations forge stronger bonds between our countries.
The population of India is young -- 45 percent is below the age of 20 and 54 percent is below the age of 25. These young people have high aspirations that cannot be met without higher education. In this rising nation, young people will need education in the liberal arts and specialized education in fields ranging from marketing to health care to hotel management. While India has made spaces available for new groups of the population, demand is still greater than the supply.
The U.S. can offer more than 4,000 institutions of higher learning. Our wide range of opportunities includes community colleges that offer job-related training close to centers of employment….small liberal arts colleges in scenic rural locations….large state universities with knowledge clusters developed around their specialized talent and resources…technical schools and institutes and research centers that are acknowledged as global treasures. The presidents who are with me today represent this tremendous diversity and showcase the great range of choice and costs for Indian students who want to come to America.
I know many students and parents have questions about American universities. This year, in partnership with the Department of Commerce and the private sector, we will bring to India an innovative multi media initiative, the Electronic Education Fair. This initiative will use television, the internet and on-ground activities to explain the breadth and depth of US higher education opportunities to students, advisors and parents in India. We also want to partner and create linkages between institutions that have the potential to create more opportunity here in India.
And we have work to do in America as well – convincing more Americans to pursue higher education and to study abroad. In the United States, 90 percent of the fast-growing job sectors require post-secondary education. Two thirds of the high growth, high-wage jobs in our country require a college degree, even though only one-third of Americans have one. And we need to do a better job of helping Americans learn the languages, cultures and history of the world.
We are far behind India when it comes to sending students overseas to study – but in the past 10 years, the number of Americans studying overseas has been growing -- an average of 10 percent a year. The most recent statistics showed a 53 percent increase in the number of Americans studying in India – and we want to double, even triple the numbers because we want even more American young people to travel to India to study and experience its rich culture and history.. To encourage this, President Bush last year launched the National Security Language Initiative to boost the study of critical foreign languages by Americans—including important Indic languages as well as Arabic and Chinese. Last summer, the State Department awarded scholarships to 165 American students for intensive language study including opportunities here in India – and to show the great interest, more than 4500 young Americans competed for these scholarships. We want to create a larger pool of future American leaders who are fluent in critical world languages especially those of south Asia.
We are also increasing funding for teaching English around the world, through student exchanges, professional development for teachers, and local English programs for under-served students. English has become an essential skill for young people around the world who want to enter the job market. I remember meeting a young man in one of our English programs in Morocco. When I asked him what difference learning English had made for him, he said, “I have a job and none of my friends do.” This young man came from the same neighborhood as the suicide bombers who carried out terrorist attacks in that country -- – he now has the hope of a better future – education gave him a reason to live rather than a reason to die.
At this moment in history –each day’s news too often seems to bring new horrors – from the terrible terrorist attacks here in India to those in America. This past week, innocent young children were the victims of suicide murders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither wedding parties nor funerals nor houses of worship – no sanctuaries that most decent people would respect – seem safe from the violence, this moment especially challenges us to provide hope for a better tomorrow through the proven avenue of education.
Education is essential to fostering understanding and respect for those who have different backgrounds, faiths, ideas and views. Education is still the best escape route from poverty. Education is vital to constructive informed decision making among citizens and between countries.
I view my job in public diplomacy as reaching out to the world in a spirit of respect and partnership – I call it “waging peace” and I use the word “waging” very intentionally, because I believe we have to be intentional about it. And I am convinced that over the last fifty years, our education and exchange programs have been our single most effective public diplomacy. I have made it a priority to expand our exchanges – and we have increased the number of participants in education and exchange programs from 31,000 to nearly 39,000 this year.
On some of our most important US government exchange programs, like the Fulbright Scholarships, we have been very successful around the world because U.S. and foreign businesses have contributed to the support of the program and helped us develop talent through international education. The Fulbright program was established in India in 1950 in a bilateral treaty signed by Prime Minister Nehru. The Fulbright scholars that traveled between our countries during the many years India and the United States did not have close bilateral relations nevertheless built the foundation of the close people-to-people relations our countries enjoy today. We are hopeful that in discussions with India’s leadership during this visit, we can discuss the possibility of amending our official India-US Fulbright agreement to allow private sector contributions to Fulbright so business entities here can help us invest in the future and share the opportunity that international research and study provide.
I meet regularly with participants in our exchange program and almost every one says the same thing – they even use the same words – describing themselves as “forever changed” “it changed my life.”
It also changes their outlook. I was in China earlier this year and had a conversation with a young man who worked for the foreign ministry. He told me that he had visited the United States and had been surprised to find that Americans are so friendly, that they care deeply about their families and that so many are committed to their often different faiths. I asked why that surprised him, and he said, “America is not the way it looks on television.” That’s true – as most of us know, what you see on TV is only part of what any society is – I like to say that people’s views of any country are a rich tapestry painted by many different artists – someone you met or worked with, a song whose lyrics your teenager liked but perhaps you didn’t – an experience you had at one of your companies. That’s why I feel so strongly that exchanges and education are so important so people can learn and experience and decide for themselves.
We want Americans and people from other countries to learn how much we have in common as human beings. Especially in our melting pot societies of India and America, we share many of the same values – we care deeply about our families, want to worship as we choose and as our conscience dictates, we want our children to have a better life, want our countries to be secure, we want a just and peaceful world.
I see this educational delegation to India as a part of furthering the international dialogue our world needs --- and we invite your participation. I encourage you to do all you can to reinforce our efforts here in India by supporting scholarships, internships, mentoring opportunities. The U.S. has the capacity to host many more students than we currently do. Our goal is to make an American education possible for every international student who wishes to study in the U.S. and to substantially increase Americans studying here.
I want to close by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, who said we must be the change we seek. That’s why we have journeyed here. To bring about the more peaceful and prosperous world we all seek, we must be the agents of change. Fostering greater partnerships and educational exchanges will result in greater opportunities for all our young people, American and Indian. America wants to be your partner – a partner for peace, a partner for progress, a partner for a better life for all of our citizens.
Released on March 26, 2007