Sunday, April 19, 2009

Travel: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton visits the Dominican Republic in advance of the Summit of the Americas

Dominican Republic

Secretary Clinton arrived in Santo Domingo on her first visit to the Dominican Republic as Secretary of State. According to sources at Dipnote, the Dominican people have received the Secretary with much warmth, and the local media has been buzzing with her visit since it was first announced on Monday.

She met with Dominican Republic's Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso during her visit to the national palace in Santo Domingo on Thursday, April 16th.

Secretary Clinton made her first stop Friday morning, April 17th, a stop at the Hogar Rosa Duarte Elementary School where she announced a $12.5 million dollar expansion of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Effective School Program.

This new five-year $12.5 million dollar increase in the USAID Effective School Program will allow an additional 450 public schools to access a full range of programming in reading, writing, math, and school administration.

This project is fully supported by the Ministry of Education and will be implemented by USAID partner Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM).

The Effective School Program will train first through fourth grade teachers in improved methodologies and better use of available materials and classroom time. Additionally, it supports improved school management by increasing the capacity of school administrators and the community to participate in the shared responsibility of educating children.

During the visit, Secretary Clinton, accompanied by the Dominican Minister of Education, Melanio Paredes and PUCMM Rector, Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, and School Principal Sister Victoria Reyes toured the school facilities. The Secretary had the opportunity to meet with teachers and students and important local authorities.

She said this in her remarks at the school:

"We want for every boy and girl a safe, stimulating place to learn where each child can be given the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential. That is the message that I receive from all of you about your mission at this school.

I just came from a classroom where a second-grader named Carly read a story that she had written. It’s called “The Sad Leaf.” And it’s a story about how children come together to save trees and nature. I know that it wasn’t easy for little Carly to stand up in front of all of us and read. But her story spoke volumes about what education in your country is attempting to accomplish. It is about improving skills, language and mathematic skills, but also giving children the right to express themselves, and I thank you for that."

Read Hillary's full remarks at the Hogar Rosa Duarte Elementary School here!

Also during Secretary Clinton's time in the Dominican Republic she met with President Leonel Fernandez. Read their full remarks here or watch excerpts below:

Secretary Clinton also conducted a digital town hall meeting from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Secretary Clinton held this meeting at FUNGLODE, the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development. FUNGLODE provides a think tank-like space to analyze and formulate innovative responses to political, social and developmental issues confronting the Dominican Republic today. Given FUNGLODE’s mission, it’s the perfect space for Hillary to roll out her important speech.

The meeting and digital town hall was a unique one. Hillary addressed a group of about 150 Dominican citizens from all walks of life: students, teachers, business people, representatives of non-governmental organizations, media and a few Dominican officials, including First Lady Margarita Cedeño de Fernández. She spoke about what the United States hopes to achieve at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which starts later this evening in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Her opening remarks touched on the main Summit themes, including human prosperity, energy security, climate change and sustainable development. She began my saying:

“This digital town hall seems particularly fitting to hold here in the Dominican Republic on the eve of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Here in the Dominican Republic, I feel very much at home. We are linked by geography and history, by common values and cultural heritage. And now, we are finding new and innovative ways to engage one another, expand our dialogue, create new partnerships, solve the problems that we face together.

She went on to speak about the upcoming summit, saying that " it presents an opportunity for us to further a recovery that reaches all of the people of the Americas." She stated that she and President Obama are eager to listen to the ideas and concerns of our friends, partners and allies but are committed to working to keep our people safe and secure, to protect and harness our natural resources, and to widen opportunity and prosperity.

Of the any topics there was to touch on, she focused on just three areas. First, was education. She stated that the United States will invest $30 million in education projects in the region.

The second topic Secretary Clinton addressed was food security. Secretary Clinton made clear that food security is not only a source of suffering, it is a direct threat to economic growth and global stability. Based on President Obama’s initiative announced at the G-20 conference to double food assistance, the United States will be providing nearly $100 million in food assistance to countries most affected by hunger in the Western Hemisphere.

Secretary Clinton then said: “The third area is perhaps the most fundamental of all. It is hard for people to escape poverty or fulfill their potential when they’re not physically safe in their homes and neighborhoods, their schools, their workplaces, or on the roads traveling for commerce or pleasure."

To that end, President Obama recently announced measures to ensure that our country is doing all we can along the Mexican border. In Mexico, when I had the privilege of visiting, I announced that the United States was pledging additional resources to support training, equipment, and other means of bolstering President Calderon’s courageous struggle against the drug traffickers. This is part of the Merida Initiative, to improve security in Central America, an $875 million dollar commitment over two years.

Hillary closed her prepared remarks with some encouraging words:

“Now, while some bristle at the challenges this new global landscape presents, it also offers unprecedented opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and fresh approaches to solving problems from extreme poverty to climate change, from drug trafficking to trade. I see that at work right here in the Dominican Republic.

...Our leaders are essential for that process, but it is people who will decide what progress we make. It is people who will either be complacent or active; people who will be acquiescent or protesting of what they see as unfair conditions or poor governance or corruption that literally takes food from their tables and undermines their futures.

I want to see a hemisphere in which, working together, we give every single boy or girl the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. That is our promise and that is our hope. And I look forward to working with you to achieve it.“

There were many questions asked from ordinary people from all countries. Questions on the embargo of the Government of Cuba, organized crime and drug trafficking, as well as the problem of climate change and sustainable development. Read the full remarks here or watch below:

Following the digital town hall, the Secretary went straight to the airport, and departed for Port of Spain to join President Obama for the launch of the Fifth Summit of the Americas later that evening.

Since the Summit is intended as a framework to bring direct and positive impact to the peoples of the hemisphere, the comments from the live and digital audiences at FUNGLODE impcted how Secretary Clinton and the rest of the U.S. delegation engaged with their counterparts on site at the Summit of the Americas. This really shows how the State Department is interacting with citizens and helping them to shape our diplomacy. Yay for that!

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