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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)

Remarks to Students in Brazil

Karen P. Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Mackenzie University
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.

I am happy to say that our partnership is strong and flourishing. Our two nations have so much in common. As President Bush has said, we are both children of the New World, founded in empire and fulfilled in independence. We're united by history and geography. We share the conviction that the future of our hemisphere must be a future of justice and freedom and opportunity for all our of citizens. One example of that opportunity is the belief we recount to our children, that anyone can grow up to be President. Children in my country read in their history books about Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin on the edge of the American frontier, chopped wood by day and read his school books by candlelight at night. Of course he went on to become one of our greatest Presidents, leading our country during its greatest crisis, our civil war. Your own leader, President Lula, has a similar story. We see in him a union leader of modest means but tremendous talent who rose from poverty to the highest office in the land. President Lula’s election not only testifies to the strength of Brazil’s democracy, it is also showing the way forward for all of Latin America.

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.
Like you, we care about education and health and jobs. This is why President Lula launched Zero Hunger and Bolsa Familia and why President Bush has doubled America´s official development assistance to Latin America. It´s why we support trade and investment and the jobs they bring – because like Brazil, the United States believes we must deliver on the promises of democracy not just for some, but for all of our citizens.

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 prosperity, we seek a better life for all of our citizens. In free societies, citizens will justifiably insist that people should not go hungry, and that hard work and initiative shall be rewarded. My country is proud to assist the government of Brazil in the implementation of President Lula’s Zero Hunger Program and the Bolsa Familia initiative. The United States and Brazil are engaged in an ongoing dialogue under the Group for Growth to develop strategies to increase economic growth and support job creation in Brazil and the United States. Our Small Business Administration is actively engaged with its Brazilian counterpart to promote small business participation in trade-led growth. Small business enterprises are the backbone of strong economies.

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.

I have seen firsthand here in Brazil the difference that education and information can make. Yesterday I enjoyed a delicious feijoada lunch with some of Brazil's Youth Ambassadors. These are outstanding Brazilian high school students from low-income families or underserved communities who have learned English, are selected to visit the United States for two-week periods to visit Washington, and spend time in the homes of U.S. families. While the program encourages young people to realize the great potential they have to contribute to society and to make changes through volunteer work and other activities, the results over the past four years have surpassed all of our expectations.

  • Cássio Marques, for example, came back to Brazil and opened an English school called Backpack that offers English language classes for underprivileged children.
  • Isadora Monte, now in her third year at the University of Brasilia (UNB), and Priscila Tanaami, prepared and taught a course for public school students to prepare them for college entrance exams.
  • Fabiano Jacomé and Glauber Mosqueira are making presentations on alternatives to drug abuse for other young people in Belo Horizonte.

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.
Thank you very much for your kind attention and may God bless all of you.

Released on March 13, 2006

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