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Remarks at the World Steel Association 42nd Annual Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Renaissance Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC
October 7, 2008

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SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Mr. Mittal, for that wonderful introduction. It is absolutely true that I was at one time a music major. It just shows that sometimes things change. Often I’m asked, “Why are you no longer a music major?” Well, because, quite frankly, I wasn’t very good at it and I found something else to do with my life. (Laughter.)

But I want to thank you for the lovely introduction, and I want to thank everyone in this great organization for having me here today. It’s an honor to join you this afternoon. And it’s my privilege to be one of the first guests ever to welcome you under your new name – the World Steel Association.

And this is my first time addressing your organization under any name, and of course, I venture to say it will be my last time as Secretary of State. And I’m very glad that you didn’t all applaud that prospect. (Laughter.)

Now, I recognize that what is very much on everybody’s mind these days is the global financial crisis. I know that this is a deeply challenging moment for everyone. People around the world are worried. And I think there is concern about just the sense that fear could feed on itself.

But I want to assure you that our Administration, together with Congress and the private sector, is working very closely with other countries and indeed with the international financial institutions and authorities to respond effectively to these circumstances. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and their teams of experts, people that I know well, are working hard, with the trust and the support of the President. And they are taking bold actions to restore confidence in the U.S. financial system and ultimately in the global financial system. 

While they do their work, though, I am going to focus today not on today’s specific crisis, but really on the fundamentals that we have been trying to build over these last several years to expand access to the global economy. We have indeed been deepening our engagement, as was just said, with emerging economic leaders. We have strong, strong relationships with China, and with India, where I just visited, and with Brazil, and with others. Because the international system is changing, and the emergence of these great, large economies – great, large countries, has got to be accommodated in an international framework. 

We’ve convened the Major Economies framework to seek a new and better approach to the interrelated issues of climate change, energy security, and economic growth. And they are indeed interrelated.

The Bush Administration has concluded free trade agreements with 17 countries around the world. And here in this hemisphere, under the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which President Bush and nine other leaders launched at the UN General Assembly last month, we are deepening our ties among trading partners here in the hemisphere to ensure that the opportunities of free markets and free trade are open to all.

And just as importantly, to support people in the developing world in lifting themselves out of poverty and achieving social justice, this Administration, working with Congress, has launched the largest international development agenda since the Marshall Plan. We have doubled foreign assistance in the Americas, we have tripled it worldwide, we have quadrupled it in Africa, forgiving billions of dollars of debt to the world’s poorest nations, devoting now $48 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and providing billions of dollars in grants, under the Millennium Challenge Account initiative, to states that govern justly, reform their economies, and invest in their people.

In short, the Administration has sought to contribute a responsible international solution to what is one of the central challenges facing every country in the 21st century – to develop a confident, constructive, and sustainable engagement with the global economy.

Now, we recognize that this is indeed challenging. There have been, in fact – it’s easy to forget today, but there have been decades of global economic growth. There’s been a greater expansion of trade and opportunity in which more people worldwide have lifted themselves out of poverty than at any other time in history. 

But at the same time, this has come with dislocations that affect many workers, including Americans, when global labor markets as – are as large and as competitive as they have been. And of course, the same global networks of transportation and communication that facilitate the spread of trade and technology, of capital and ideas, also facilitate the spread of the downside of globalization – transnational crime and disease, weapons of mass destruction, and of course, global terrorism.  We and all in the international system are wrestling with these pressures of globalization.

So in the face of this truly unprecedented pace of global change, how do nations strengthen themselves to compete confidently? And how do we do so in a sustainable way? Again, I know that it’s difficult to focus on the basics when we were in the midst of the crisis that we face. But if we step back for a moment, leaders, political leaders, and business leaders like yourselves, will need to deal with today’s crisis, but continue to do the right things to ensure that there is a firm foundation for tomorrow’s recovery. U.S. business leaders, of course, have an enormous stake in this work, and an enormous stake in building confidence about the future.

Now, we know what will not work. No nation is going to be able to withdraw from the world, to isolate itself and to deny the realities of a 21st century in which we are all integrated and entangled with one another. No one should expect to be able to answer the siren song of protectionism, which is a self-defeating and self-destructive proposition if ever there were one. And it is certainly not going to be effective to bar the doors of modernity to the billions of striving poor, who are struggling desperately to lift themselves out of misery.

The challenge ahead of us, ladies and gentlemen, will be to affirm the basis for confident engagement with the global economy going forward, for every country to create conditions that foster success for its citizens and that enable more people to share in that success.

Every country is going to have to work overtime to transform its own internal system, what we in America once called “internal improvements” – the investments that give all citizens an opportunity for self-betterment and social mobility, that enable economies to grow while empowering all people to share in its benefits.

These internal systems are going to be unique and different for every country – determined by their people, and for their people. Still, there are certain ideas that will be common everywhere, that are essential to success all the time.

For instance, all states must protect property rights and work to liberate the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of their people. You have seen the power of entrepreneurship and you’ve seen the power of innovation. Those must not be allowed to be within the walls of just several countries of the international system.

States must, of course, invest in modern infrastructure – not just in roads, and railways, and ports, but in modern communications networks, in pathways for information technology, and indeed in flexible platforms to achieve information flow.

States must build and reform transparent and accountable institutions of governance that protect human rights and human dignity, that fight corruption, that promote basic liberties, and that govern justly by the rule of law. Because in the final analysis, it is not possible to defend people’s talents in the workplace and deny them rights at home.

States must invest in their citizens, create new incentives for people to work, and to save, and to raise strong families. And they must help workers to educate and, if necessary, retrain themselves and develop the skills to succeed in the 21st century.

President Bush has, for this reason, consistently called on Congress to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, the main federal program to support workers displaced by trade in transitioning to new careers. In addition to providing billions of dollars annually through the workforce investment system, our Administration has provided more than $1 billion to help educate and prepare American workers for the jobs of the 21st century. 

And earlier this year, our Administration announced more than $100 million in new community-based job training grants. These grants support community college programs that provide training for jobs in high-growth fields so that workers can get the skills that they need for jobs in this area. We are very pleased that last month the Senate voted to extend funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance through the Continuing Resolution.

Now, why is this so important? Well, it’s important to talk about education and training and retraining, ladies and gentlemen, because I believe so strongly that education more than any other factor is the indispensible requirement for every nation to build a confident, constructive, and sustainable engagement with the international system. If people are not educated, if people do not – if leaders do not know that their populations can, in fact, compete, they will most certainly turn inward. They will most certainly attempt to protect.

We all know that the better educated you are, the better you are likely to do in terms of economic progression and economic well-being. We know, too, that education is a foundation for better things in life. But I’d like to suggest to you for just a moment that we set aside this rather instrumental view of education, and talk about why it is important in its very essence.

You see, I’ve never believed that education is just a way to get a job. Education is, in fact, a way to remake yourself. It’s a way to ensure that you don’t have limits on your horizons. It’s a way to be completely and fully more than you currently are, to become who you could be, who you want to be, who you ought to be. Education is, in a way, a sense of being born anew. It opens the mind. It opens the heart. It expands the horizons. It allows one to be tolerant of others who are different. A good education, then, is at the core of what it requires to reach one’s full potential, not just as an economic actor, but as a human being.

I’ve learned this in my own life. It’s because of the transformational power of education that I stand before you as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States of America. It’s because my country at long last has begun to live up to its ideals. As you said, I’m a young girl from Birmingham, Alabama. We had a statue there called Vulcan, the steel man, and Birmingham was indeed a center for steel. And so there is a connection here. But coming from Birmingham it was not just the place of steel, it was also the place of segregation and Bull Connor’s police dogs, and a church bombing that took my little classmate, Denise McNair, on a September Sunday in 1963.

And yet, here I stand before you as the successor, 65 times removed, of Thomas Jefferson, who, though he wrote the great words of all men being created equal, was, of course, a slave owner. It shows how much can change, even if not necessarily very fast.

But I’m here more than anything because I was the child of educators, who instilled in me a belief that hard work and personal responsibility and my own limitless horizons were mine alone.

Now, I trace these beliefs back to my grandfather, Granddaddy Rice, my father’s father. He was a sharecropper’s son in Ewtah – that’s E-W-T-A-H – Alabama – not even Birmingham. Well, one day, Granddaddy Rice decided that he wanted to get book learning. And he asked, in the parlance of the day, how a colored man could go to college. And they told him about little Stillman College, about 60 miles from where he lived. And so he sold his cotton and he went off to college.

But after his first year, the people at Stillman said, “All right, so how are you going to pay for your second year?” And he said, “Well, I’m all out of cotton and I have no money.”  And they said, “Then you’ll have to leave.” And he said, “Well, how are those boys going to college?” They said, “Well, they have what’s called a scholarship, and if you wanted to be a Presbyterian minister, you could have a scholarship too.” And Granddaddy Rice said, “Well, I always wanted to be a Presbyterian minster.” (Laughter.) And in fact, my family has been college-educated and Presbyterian ever since.  (Laughter.)

Now, I think a lot about that story these days because what it does mean? I understand that the pressures of the present are very tough on many people. I understand that it feels at times as if we are living at the mercy of impersonal forces beyond our control. I understand that it’s hard.  I understand all of this.

But I do remain confident about the future. I remain confident that people can have a sense of control of their lives. I am confident because my family’s story is not just my family’s story. It is the story of families across the United States and across the world. It is the story of countless men and women who just believed that their horizons were limitless. And that ultimately is the source of strength for all of us.

Now, what can give a people – the people a sense of directing their lives toward an end, rather than simply being swept by impersonal forces? Well, I submit to you that every country must ask, “Is there really educational opportunity for all,” and must recognize how transforming it can be. Whether in Afghanistan, where finally girls are going to school and women are learning, and that they’re learning that they ought to be in the parliament of Afghanistan; or in the Middle East, where women’s education is making great strides, and where, in fact, women have learned that they ought to be in the parliament of Kuwait; whether in Africa, where we know that if women are educated and given a chance, they don’t just lift up their families, they lift up whole villages, and provide opportunity and well-being for whole villages; or on the subcontinent, where I just visited in India, a place where universities are springing up all over to bring innovation and technology to the core so that those great Indian software scientists who are populating my home, the Silicon Valley, might also populate Hyderabad. 

I see it in Latin America, where finally indigenous peoples and minorities, whether they are Afro-Colombians or Afro-Brazilians that I met in Bahia, are insisting that they go to school and that they learn and that their children study abroad, and that they can therefore be a part of the future.

And I see it, and ask it, in Europe and the United States, where despite long histories of a belief in equal education for all, we face challenges, particularly in our public schools, to make certain that it is indeed true that it does not matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going.

I believe strongly that if we focus on all of these fundamentals, but particularly on investing in people, we will find that in a world that is turning in and out, and sometimes upside down, people will still be confident enough to say to their leaders: We can do this. We can make it through this, and we don’t have to be fearful and we don’t have to be – turn inward and we don’t have to protect. Because the economic pie can grow for all.

As business leaders, I know that you will advocate for that view, because without confidence in a global economy, nothing will really be possible for economic growth. And even though, come January 20th , 2009 – 12:01 to be exact – I will again be a private citizen, I know that I will go back to advocate too for a confident engagement with the international system, based on the tremendous potential of each and every human being, unleashed by the power of education.

You see, as an educator, when I see a child who is not getting the full benefits of an educator – of education, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I benefitted so greatly from education. But as Secretary of State, and even when I am a former Secretary of State, it will terrify me if people are not being educated. Because I know that if they are not, we will not be confident of the future. And I know that without confidence, nothing good can happen.

And so I say to you that I will go back to work on education and global engagement, not as domestic policy but rather as a national security issue. We have no future but the future that we have together.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)


Released on October 7, 2008

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