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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > December

Remarks at Riga Business Women's Council

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Loy Henderson Conference Room
Washington, DC
December 3, 2004

(3:40 p.m. EST)

Well, thank you very much, Paula, for that kind introduction and it's a great pleasure to be with you all this afternoon.

I'm a few moments late. You may have heard some applause as I was coming from across the hall, where I have been talking with another group, a wonderful group of youngsters, 80 young college interns who were spending a few months here in the Department, plus some new civil service employees that have just joined the Department. And I make it a point to sort of fire them up -- (laughter) -- give them a little bit of enthusiasm for what we do in the State Department and the important role that we play in our nation's life. And I talked to them about how we try to reach out to groups around the world and teach them a little bit about America and what we stand for, what we are all about, the value system that drives our society and drives our nation. And so it's always fun to be with young people.

And earlier today, I was with old people -- (laughter) -- and that I'm an old person, so I am not being critical of any particular group. But we had our annual retirement ceremony here at the Department today, and so I said goodbye to some 200 employees of the Department who have served as long as 50-odd years. And now I am part of that retired group, or soon to be part of that retired group as well, so I was speaking to myself just as well. But I was making the point to them I don't want them to really leave the Department, retire but remain connected to the Department, because it's important that our State Department family include those who have retired, as well as all of our family members, in order to keep the bonds of service together.

And the bonds of service really is what you're doing with this kind of a program, and I'd like to begin by expressing my deepest appreciation to Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter for the great work she has done with this program. It was Bonnie's passionate commitment to public service that brought this about and it's a commitment she's had for many, many years, long before she became our Ambassador to Finland, and even now that she's stepped down she continues to touch the lives of so many people and call people to serve one another. So please join me in thanking Bonnie again for her great work. (Applause.) That's enough, not too much. (Laughter.) You don't want to overdo it here. (Laughter.)

The Riga Summit is helping to widen the global circle of freedom and prosperity in this 21st century. Uniting businesswomen from the United States and northeastern Europe strengthens the bonds of friendship of entrepreneurship between our people. This yearís summit is helping to generate the economic dynamism that bolsters liberty and fortifies Europeís young democracies.

The United States and the countries of northeastern Europe are bound by common interests and aspirations, shared aspirations. Our partnership is founded on the principle that political and economic freedom go hand-in-hand. You need one for the other, either direction you wish to discuss them. Democracy and capitalism are so successful, and so enticing, because they empower all people, men and women, to follow their dreams, limited only by their own ambitions and willingness to work.

In todayís changing, globalizing, technology-driven world, the political and economic contributions of women are absolutely essential. This is a message and speech that I give all over the world, and next Saturday I will be in Morocco at a summit of Arab and Muslim leaders, Broader Middle East North Africa Initiative, and we're going to talk about this because in this 21st century world no nation is going to be successful that does not include all of its people contributing to that success. And a nation that is 50 percent women cannot deny opportunity and deny access to capital, access to education, access to the workplace, to half of their population. They will not be successful in such a world.

Just look at this room, this room alone, women account for over $108 billion in annual sales, as a result of the activity that you were involved in. Here in the United States, women-owned businesses are fueling our labor market and growing at twice the rate of all of the U.S. firms. In northern Europe, women entrepreneurs are helping to advance economic development, especially in the Baltic states, where annual growth rates top 5 percent.

These are tremendous achievements, and our work is far from over. The United States and the countries of northern Europe must continue to deepen and expand our cooperation. We must work together to increase American knowledge of Nordic-Baltic markets and encourage free trade, foreign investment, and entrepreneurship, to encourage that creative drive that causes someone to say, "I'm going to go take risks. I'm going to go start a business. I'm going to go put it on the line. I'm prepared to fail in order to succeed." That is what drives. That is the creative juice of capitalism and the kind of economic empowerment that we want to see around the world. These are some of the key objectives of our Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe. It's the essential part of our policy to empower you to act and to move in this direction with our support.

In the coming years, the United States and the Nordic-Baltic countries must also increase our efforts to advance economic development in neighboring countries that are moving through difficult periods of transition. I am pleased that women entrepreneurs from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia are joining this yearís summit. Where are my Ukrainians? I have been working very hard with your country today. (Laughter.) And we had a pretty good day today. (Applause.) To you. To you. Bravo. (Applause.) The skills you acquire and the connections you make will help you spur economic growth and strengthen civil society in your home countries. And in Kiev, out in the streets, we are seeing civil society at work. That is a social movement, not just a demonstration, but a social phenomenon that is taking place.

To achieve our shared goals, we in government need partners, partners in the private sector. More specifically, we need the help of imaginative women entrepreneurs -- women like you. Your businesses help to fuel the vibrant economies that nourish freedom and democracy. And when all of you come together, great things happen.

Indeed, in just a few short months, you have made the Riga Summit pay great dividends. I understand that Helen Svyst, a participant from Ukraine -- she's not here? Huh?

A PARTICIPANT: She's in Cleveland.

SECRETARY POWELL: Cleveland? (Laughter.) What is she doing in Cleveland? I'm here. (Laughter.) Making the money. (Laughter.) A participant has already seized this opportunity to build -- (laughter) -- a relationship with her U.S. partner company, Sherman-Williams, which I hope is in Cleveland. (Laughter.) One American participant was so impressed with the women she met in Riga that she has developed a presentation for her local Chamber of Commerce to highlight the business opportunities available in northeastern Europe.

These successes, and many others, come as no surprise to me. Two years ago in Washington, I spoke to women entrepreneurs who were involved in the Helsinki Summit. And since then, I am told that they have already generated over $10 million in new revenue and started at least four new businesses throughout northern Europe. I have no doubt that all of you will be even more successful in the coming years.

Every one of you has already accomplished a great deal. And your future achievements will be limited only by your determination and by your imagination. But you donít need any encouragement from me. So instead, I will just leave you with this challenge: In your efforts to create political and economic opportunities for women, set your sights beyond the boundaries of the United States and Europe.

In countries like Afghanistan, women are only now gaining the liberties that many of you, many of us, take for granted -- the freedom to go to school, the freedom to vote, the freedom to set the course for their own lives. I challenge all of you to reach out to these women and similar women in other parts of the world and to help them contribute to the future of their communities, to the future of their countries. Serve as their role models, offer them your example of what talented, hard-working women can accomplish. Inspire these women to follow in your pathbreaking footsteps.

So I congratulate you on a successful summit, and I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors. You can be sure that the State Department will stand behind this kind of activity and these sorts of programs in the years ahead. We do many things. We talk to foreign leaders. We are involved here in the State Department in trying to make peace. We are trying to resolve the aftermath of conflict.

But we also know that to go from the days of communism and the Cold War to the new world we live in now, or in my hemisphere, to go from the days when generals were running countries in this hemisphere to where we are now, where all of our nations are democracies except for Cuba, and when I look at other parts of the world, Asia and Africa, and I see the poverty and I see the need, what we really need to do is to create economic opportunity. It is not just giving away aid. It is creating economic opportunity by educating young people, by giving them the skills they need for the 21st century, by making sure that we turn on that creative energy that's called entrepreneurship and by making sure that we include all members of society, especially the women of our societies. You may be 50 percent, but you punch a lot harder than that. (Laughter.)

Thank you very much.



Released on December 3, 2004

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