Remarks to Students in BrazilKaren P. Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Sao Paulo, Brazil
March 13, 2006
As Prepared for Delivery
This is my first trip to Brazil, and I am delighted to be here in your business capital, Sao Paulo. It´s exciting to see this big bustling city. Driving in from the airport, /I saw beautiful flowers and lush trees that reminded me just a little of my time as a young girl when I lived for several years in Panama when my father worked there. So the warm tropical sun feels a little bit like a place I once called home.
I have just come from attending the inauguration of Chile's new President, Michelle Bachelet. It was a magnificent celebration of democracy. It was wonderful to witness the genuine affection for outgoing President Lagos as well as the excitement which greeted the new president. It was a great day for women. I was so excited to see how many women had brought their daughters to the ceremony. Only a generation ago, this continent was plagued by military dictatorship and civil war. Yet the people of Latin America defied the dictators and claimed their freedom. President Bachelet joins the ranks of dozens of other democratically elected leaders in the hemisphere, another endorsement by people here of what was once a distant dream: an Americas wholly free and democratic and at peace with ourselves and our neighbors.
It is fitting that my next stop on this trip is here in Brazil -- the largest democracy in South America. I´m so glad to join you at this amazing university with a fascinating history. As you well know, founded by American missionaries George and Mary Chamberlain in 1870, it is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Brazil. Its list of graduates includes some of the most important names in Brazilian history: political and civil society leaders, captains of industry, artists, and even athletes, including the great race-car driver Emerson Fittipaldi, who is known to millions of racing fans around the world.
What struck me most about this university’s history was its establishment as a beacon of tolerance and inclusion at a time in the 1800s when both America and Brzail were suffering through the twin evils of racism and discrimination. This school opened not only to both boys and girls, but also to students from all ethnic backgrounds, social classes, and religious denominations. I am proud that two American citizens were involved in creating this extraordinary place, and I admire the Brazilians who have kept the institution thriving, open to all, ever since. This university is tangible evidence of the good that can come from a United States-Brazilian partnership.
And that’s very important, because as by far Latin America’s largest democracy, Brazil is increasingly a leader in this hemisphere and throughout our world. In Africa, you are working to defeat the tragedy of HIV/AIDS, by partnering with the U.S. to improve treatment and prevention in Portuguese-speaking nations like Mozambique. In the Americas, Brazil leads United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti -- a nation so desperately in need of the justice, education, health, prosperity and opportunity we all seek. On this continent, Brazil aspires to set an example by building a just social order where every citizen enjoys the blessings of liberty, and I want assure you that you have a strong partner in the United States. Like you, we want a hemisphere where the dignity of every person is respected. Like you, we care about the poor and disenfranchised and want to move them out of poverty and into the mainstream.
Brazil’s democratic and economic transformation is one of the most hopeful stories in Latin America — and when the benefits of democracy can be delivered to all of Brazil’s citizens in equal measure, then that will send a message of hope to the entire hemisphere. That is why President Bush seeks to have a special relationship with Brazil and President Lula and why we can and do cooperate on so many different levels. We want to help Brazil continue its remarkable transformation to serve as a model for all the region’s citizens. And we believe our two nations can achieve so much together as partners — partners for prosperity, partners for security, and partners in advancing human freedom and human dignity.
As partners for security, we work together to counter threats from drug lords, terrorists, and criminal gangs who would corrupt our democratic societies, undermines the rule of law, and threatens the security we all seek. The United States is working with affected countries to restore the rule of law and ensure the safety of ordinary citizens. Here in Brazil we have directed funds under the Andean Counterdrug Initiative to help Brazilian police in their efforts against drug trafficking and the moral and political corruption that it breeds. We are also supporting Brazil’s impressive drug awareness education program, the world’s second largest outside of the U.S., which has trained nearly 5 million Brazilians since 1992.
As partners in advancing human freedom and dignity, we know democracy is essential to the exercise of human rights because only democracy offers a place at the table for every member of society. We have a moral obligation to ensure that all those seated at the table have a decent education and health care. The United States was proud to join with others hemispheric leaders, including President Lula, at the 2004 Special Summit in Mexico, where we made a commitment to provide life-saving retroviral treatment for at least 600,000 people with AIDS, and we have surpassed that goal by working together.
As Brazil and the United States think about the future of our relationship, we should consider the challenge of using the power of our democratic partnership for a greater purpose: to help deliver the benefits of democracy to all of citizens of our hemisphere. That means helping to lift millions of people out of poverty and to build a just social order.
As our Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said, however, democratization is a process — not an event. Building the institutions of a thriving democracy takes time. They must be constructed piece by piece, for years and for years. The answers to our hemisphere´s challenges will be found in expanding freedom and democratic reforms, not curtailing them. This persistent effort – constantly struggling to improve the way we live up to our democratic values, working to extend them to each and everyone of our citizens, will complete our dream. I´ll never forget visiting a prison in Texas with then Governor Bush. A young man, who had been a member of a gang, from a poor family, asked the Governor: What do you think of me? He meant is their hope for me, is there a future?
Governor Bush said yes. If you learn from your mistakes and take advantage of education, go out and work hard. Lots of young people in the United States and Brazil have made mistakes, but a lot haven´t made any mistakes at all, they were born into poverty or discrimination or marginalization. But one of the greatest promises of democracy is that you can rise above your birth. You can grow beyond your circumstances. And our job in the United States or in Brazil is to help make sure all our young people know that promise is meant for each one of them and each one of you.
Released on March 13, 2006