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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > From the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Remarks by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2006)

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes at the Summit of U.S. Presidents on Higher Education

Karen Hughes , Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
January 6, 2006

(1:30 p.m. EST)

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, thank you all very much. And Mrs. Bush, thank you so much for coming over here to give that nice introduction and to support this summit. We're honored by your presence. And like the President's visit yesterday to announce the Vital National Security Language Initiative, it speaks volumes about the Bush Administration and your personal commitment to education in all its many facets, from increasing Americans' knowledge of other countries and cultures to attracting an increasing number of talented foreign students to our own institutions. By being here, you underscore the importance of the partnership between the people in this room and the institutions of higher education and our government to achieve these goals.

Dina and the First Lady touched on it briefly, but I just want to make sure the people in this room know that our First Lady's leadership and contributions have really been critical components of our public diplomacy efforts. Her extensive international travel, her support for literacy programs across the world, her personal involvement with UNESCO in its mission of fostering tolerance through education, especially removing hate language from textbooks around the world, her many meetings with participants in our exchange programs, from Fulbright scholars to Afghan teachers, are all advancing understanding of America's values and policies. And wherever you go, you demonstrate by example the heart, the compassion and the decency of our great country. So thank you for being here to inspire us. (Applause.)

I just returned to Washington late last night from a wonderful example of one facet of collegiate life in America, from the pageantry to the team pride to the outstanding individual performance, the entire Rose Bowl experience was simply spectacular. And I'm a proud graduate of Southern Methodist University, but as someone who hails from Austin, Texas, I have to say to my hometown heroes, "Congratulations and hook 'em horns." (Laughter.)

I want to thank Assistant Secretary Dina Powell and Tom and Marianne and all the staff of Educational and Cultural Affairs for doing a great job of putting on and planning and hosting and organizing this conference. It's very exciting for me to be in the same room with some of the best minds in America to talk about how we can partner together to open the minds and expand the potential of young people in our own country and across our world.

I hope that many of you have heard about our four pillars of our public diplomacy effort, the four E's, I call them. As a communicator, I like to boil things down to basics. They're: Engage, Exchange, Educate and Empower. And it strikes me that our institutions of higher education and learning are at the intersection really of those four E's. My own experiences as Under Secretary have only confirmed my conviction that education is among the most important things that parents across the world value and want for our children and that education may be the single most important thing that America can directly offer to young people throughout the world.

In my visits to Egypt and Malaysia and Afghanistan and Indonesia, at almost every visit I make young people inevitably come up to me with a gleam in their eye and they tell me they would love to come to America to study. The excellence, the diversity, the innovation, the opportunity that your institutions provide are a powerful attraction. The Secretary talked last night about how many world leaders have been educated here and it strikes me all the time as I travel. I meet people and they'll tell me, oh, I attended this university or that college. It's been a powerful, powerful tool in building support for our values and understanding of our country and I want to make sure the same thing is true 20 or 30 years from now as it is today, that we continue to educate the future leaders of the world.

And as you know, we face new and pretty stiff competition. Not too many years ago, the United States was not only the best place to go, it was also one of the only places to go for serious study at the university level. But as your accomplishments have been admired around the world, they have also increasingly been emulated around the world. Today, hundreds of thousands of international students have many more opportunities to study at home, at centers of academic achievement in their own countries, than they did just a generation ago and other countries are aggressively competing to attract international students to their shores. We believe educated people are empowered people, unleashed to fulfill their best potential.

So this expansion of educational opportunity around the world is a positive and very hopeful trend, yet it's also a challenge because we want America to continue to attract the finest and most representative foreign students and we want them to come here in greater numbers. We must work aggressively to find new and more effective ways to market the depth and diversity of American education overseas and to engage more of our schools in the international arena. Last year, 50 percent of the 565,000 international students in the United States were enrolled in just 125 American institutions. We have the capacity to educate many more students in a much wider group of schools and we want to work with you to market the United States as the world's education destination through more active and effective marketing of United States higher education abroad.

I'm pleased to announce that the United States is beginning to work with the Department of Commerce to leverage its expertise in trade fairs and other export programs in new ways to promote education services to foreign students. We hope this State-Commerce collaboration will have a significant impact and I thank my colleagues for their support.

We also want to tap into another powerful marketing resource: each one of you. This year, the State Department would like to organize traveling delegations of American college and university presidents and provosts from a broad range of institutions to travel overseas to promote an American education to foreign students. We're envisioning six to eight trips to different world regions where the leaders our colleges and universities could meet with local students and education officials, attend education fairs and take part in other events to invite and excite young people from across the world about the possibility of coming to the United States.

We envision this as a full partnership. We would ask the participants to fund their travel costs with the State Department coordinating the program and our embassies and educational advising centers organizing activities in each country. Participation will be open to a range of U.S. institutions, from community colleges to research institutions, and I hope that many of you in this room will consider participating.

Mrs. Bush, you may not know about this yet, but we've been talking with your staff in the hopes that you will lead the first delegation of university presidents overseas because -- (applause). How about putting her on the spot, right? Because I can think of no more effective way to show that the United States warmly welcomes foreign students than for America's First Lady to personally invite them.

We certainly welcome other ideas and suggestions from our college and university presidents about how to attract more students to the United States and we will carefully consider the many productive comments and suggestions you made at Steve Krasner's session this morning.

I know many of you also have specific concerns about the decline in science and technology students coming here, and we do as well. To ensure that America will remain the center of scientific inquiry and cutting-edge technology, we must find ways to demonstrate America's openness to science, engineering and technology students even at a time when the competition for those high-achieving students is more intense than ever before.

To address this critical need, I am pleased today to announce a new International Fulbright Science Award for Outstanding Foreign Students in Science and Technology to come to the United States for several years of graduate study at our top-flight science institutions. Unlike most Fulbright scholarships, which are awarded through bilateral programs, a partnership between the United States and a specific country, this scholarship will be awarded through a single worldwide competition. We invite you to partner with us to help expand the total number of awards available through tuition scholarships and other support that United States universities have so generously provided the Fulbright program over the past 60 years.

We intend to make the Fulbright Science and Technology Award the leading international scholarship of its kind and thus signal to the world that the United States intends to be the world's pioneer in these fields of innovation and discovery.

Another important goal, especially as we work to promote democracy around the world, is to provide educational and exchange opportunities to a broader and more diverse segment of young people overseas, including women, minorities and those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, who have the motivation and talent to succeed but need resources and perhaps additional preparation to succeed in entering one of our study programs. Providing more opportunities to students from these groups, immigrant populations in Western Europe, indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere, women in Africa and throughout the world, allowing them to have a voice and serve as leaders in their societies is essential for future peace, security and prosperity of our world.

As we reach out to nontraditional students, we should turn to the institutions with the greatest experience in this type of education: our community colleges. The community college sector has sometimes been overlooked in international exchange academically, yet community colleges educate a huge percentage of American students, including many from nontraditional backgrounds, and we want to recognize and take greater advantage of this resource. We're preparing to significantly expand our placement of State Department academic exchange participants, especially those from underserved populations, at United States community colleges. (Applause.)

We believe we can not only double the number of foreign students in U.S. community colleges through this initiative, but also bring international recognition to the many roles that community colleges play in our country as the educational institutions most responsive to local employment needs, as centers for technical and professional training, and to provide the academic foundation that prepares students to advance and succeed further within the higher education system.

We've seen the value of the State Department's Gilman scholarship program in helping outstanding American undergraduates who otherwise could not afford to study abroad to achieve that dream, expanding their career opportunities and their sense of possibility. This year, we will increase funding for the Gilman program by 40 percent, responding to the tremendous demand and the high caliber of American students who apply. This program has been very successful in attracting candidates who represent the vast diversity of our country and it targets nontraditional study destinations abroad in regions like Africa, Asia and the Western Hemisphere.

We will also begin focusing this year on study in critical language countries as part of the National Security Languages Initiative announced by the President yesterday. Including more qualified students from under-represented groups and international exchanges is the right thing to do and I believe it is also the smart thing to do for the future of our country.

We're seeking to make all of our exchange programs more strategic and targeted toward those with a wide circle of influence, so the education of journalists is another priority in our exchanges in this information age. Secretary Rice recently announced the creation of the new Edward R. Murrow Journalism Program, in partnership with the Aspen Institute and major U.S. schools of journalism and mass communication, including several represented here today, the Universities of Kentucky, Southern California, Oklahoma and Minnesota, to bring 100 international media professionals to the United States to work side by side with American journalists and attend classes at our outstanding institutions.

We need your support and partnership to help more United States students and faculty go abroad to study, to teach and to conduct research in the full range of academic disciplines. We're also working to encourage more of our own citizens to travel abroad, especially our faculty and students. They're all great ambassadors for our country.

The National Security Language Initiative will expand opportunity for Fulbrighters, Gilman scholars and other U.S. students to study critical need languages abroad in both short and longer term academic programs. We'll also bring more Fulbright foreign language teaching assistance to the United States to teach their languages on your campuses while also taking classes in English and American studies. They'll return home as more qualified, better English teachers with a greater knowledge of our country and leave behind American students who have benefited from their insight and knowledge of their home countries.

Currently, it can be difficult for some students, especially in the sciences, to take time away from their studies here to travel abroad. We'd like to ensure that each American student has an opportunity to study abroad and receive degree credit so they can meet their graduation requirements on schedule, and I want to invite you to let us know what we might do to support you in making this dream a reality for all of our students. And not only American students, but also American faculty.

I know from my own experience with an outstanding journalism professor and a television news director who greatly influenced the early days of my career that the influence of a knowledgeable and dedicated professor on a young person's life and direction can be profound. We need more American faculty to be able to go abroad to teach, as well as to conduct research to make our system, our culture and our way of approaching intellectual discourse through critical thinking and open discussion known and appreciated and modeled in many institutions abroad.

We also need American faculty with international experience to mentor, educate and inspire our own students to pursue overseas studies and perhaps careers in international fields. I hope you will especially emphasize the importance of public diplomacy because in this information age our ability to communicate with foreign publics is critical to building support for our country's values, our policies and our leadership in the world.

Currently, it is difficult for U.S. faculty who are not yet tenured to go overseas for any significant period of time because of the potential negative impact on their careers. So I ask you to consider making it easier for your faculty to teach and study abroad and have that important work appropriately recognized in promotion and tenure decisions.

Now, I know it may seem I've offered a long list of asks. But frankly, our country faces a big challenge and my requests spring from the inspiration of your example, an example from 30 years ago when American colleges and universities had an extraordinarily positive impact on the course of American foreign policy for the betterment of our world. In the late 1970s, as you know, there was great pressure for both the United States Government and industry to disengage and divest from the apartheid regime in South Africa. At the same time, there was a critical need to provide educational opportunities and professional skills for black and minority South Africans who had been excluded from such opportunities to help prepare them to one day lead a non-apartheid democratic nation. The solution came in the form of the South African Education program, a partnership of 200 United States colleges and universities -- that's just a few more schools than are represented in this room right now -- along with 85 private and corporate foundations.

At its height in the mid-1980s, this program annually supported the United States degree study of 200 South Africans in business, teaching, science, engineering and government. The program also focused on education for a civil society. In the end, 95 percent of the more than 1700 participants who earned United States degrees returned to South Africa to assist in its democratic transformation and development. The Agency for International Development eventually provided federal funding for this effort, but I want to stress that for its first six years this extraordinary program was a private sector endeavor in which U.S. higher education institutions played the central role. We often point to this initiative as a clear demonstration of the commitment to serving the broad national interest that has been a driving force in American higher education.

You share that commitment, which is why you are here today. And as we find ourselves once more in a global struggle against extremist ideas, America once again needs your help to foster a new generation of educated and enlightened world leaders committed to freedom of speech and worship, rights for women and minorities, the rule of law and independent judiciary, citizen participation in government. We saw very brutally and very vividly in the Taliban rule in Afghanistan the type of society our opponents seek, where little girls are not allowed to go to school or be educated, where women cannot work outside the home, where cultural icons are destroyed, where music, art and creativity are stifled. Through education and empowerment, we seek to unleash people's potential. Our opponents want to limit and constraint it.

I was struck by a comment made by one of the Gilman exchange students, a woman who had grown up in a poor family in America and earned the opportunity to participate in a foreign study exchange program in Mexico. "I learned not to limit my thinking," she said. We want all our children in America, we want people the world over, to learn not to limit their thinking. We want to open minds, to foster debate and dialogue, to encourage the pursuit of knowledge. And what better place to begin than with our own academic community, where free inquiry is the first and highest calling?

Thank you for the privilege of sharing this time with you. We're listening carefully to your input and suggestions. We want this to be a beginning of an ongoing discussion and dialogue that we think can greatly benefit and increase knowledge and advance understanding, knowing that those will result in a more peaceful, a more prosperous and a more democratic world.

Thank you. And I was asked to remind you that after you finish lunch, you are now free to move about to your afternoon activities. (Laughter.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.)



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