March 25, 2009 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico City, Mexico partaking in a roundtable discussion with students at the National Palace of Fine Arts. This was Mrs. Clintons first trip to Latin America as Secretary of State and she emphasized the need for positive relations with Mexico to continue in order to grow. Mrs. Clinton highlighted the SEED program at Georgetown University as being a huge influence on intercultural relations and a boon to communities abroad that do not normally have these kinds of opportunities locally. An except from Secretary of State Clinton's speech can be seen below:
MS. ORTEGA: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon to everyone. We want to say that we’re very sorry for the delay, but I’m sure that this has given you a little more time to get to know each other.
To the most distinguished Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it’s an honor for me to welcome you to this room and to this very special event.
Secretary Clinton, these young people are here to talk about their experiences, but also, above all, to share the effects they’re already feeling and they’re making in their communities and the difference they’re making in their perspectives.
Thank you so much. They’re all yours, Madame. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to thank Sylvia Ortega for not only those very kind words, but much more importantly, for her leadership in education and her strong belief in cultural exchanges, educational exchanges, and investing in young people. And I appreciate the opportunity to meet with some of the young scholars who have gone to the United States to study, to hear from them personally about their experiences. And it’s a great honor to be here in the National Palace of Fine Arts, such a magnificent structure but also a real tribute to the cultural legacy as well as a promise of continuing global contribution by Mexican arts and crafts and culture in every walk of life. So I thank you for letting us present this program here today.
As Sylvia said, we are highlighting on this trip of mine, my first to Latin America as Secretary of State, the importance of the breadth and depth of our relationship. There are so many issues that are important to the United States and Mexico that we work on together, but it is more like a family than two countries. We have so much in common, we share so many common concerns, and we share a common future. And there is no more critical aspect to that future than the young people here in Mexico and in the United States.
So I wanted to highlight today this very important program that provides a partnership between our two nations and enables students to travel to the United States. We believe strongly in the Obama Administration in the significance of education for the individual, but in the multiplier effects of education for a society. And it is important to help young people like those on the stage with me to realize their own God-given potential through hard work, through the opportunity to pursue an education. But this particular program is special because it focuses, as Sylvia said, on indigenous youth. And that is a special interest of mine, to make sure that the programs supported by the United States are aimed particularly at young people here in Mexico and elsewhere who might otherwise not have the opportunity. So I am looking forward to hearing about their experiences.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I want to turn now to Miguel Arias Martinez. He’s from the Tzoztil community in the state of Chiapas. He participated in a USAID SEED program on strengthening rural primary education at California State Polytechnic University. He’s now a teacher and advisor for indigenous education for the state of Chiapas and is working on teacher training.
So, Miguel, tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you go to the United States to study.
MR. MARTINEZ: (Via interpreter) Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton. First of all, it’s a great honor and a privilege to be with you right now and to thank the Government of the United States and Georgetown University and the SEED program that I was able to participate in, as well as our ministry and Rosalina Morales Garza, who is here, our General Director of Indigenous Education who provided us with the facilities to be able to enjoy this scholarship.
First of all, when I went to the United States, I was able to perfect techniques in four major areas: strategies; to acquire learning skills in young children, say between five and seven; also, the importance of bilingual education. I am an indigenous grammar school teacher, and so we take part in bilingual education. You have bilingual education in the United States as well, and I thought that there were a lot of very important things to point out in that area. Third was the use of didactic material. In the United States, it’s managed with a different approach. We in Mexico handle it in a slightly different way, but when we put both approaches together, we can improve our techniques. And the final area I want to point out is professional leadership, the leadership of teachers. Teacher leadership is something that we have not gone into in depth. Not just in our country but in a number of countries throughout the world, it really hasn’t been dealt with too much.
However, in the management of indigenous teaching in my state, these two activities are being carried out. The first is to train and constantly update our supervisors and area directors. We have 17 area directors and even more supervisors, and we are training in pedagogic leadership techniques and also in training. And in providing training to that leadership group, we are reaching almost 4,000 school groups between grammar schools, preschools, and even middle schools at indigenous education levels.
At any given time, we are training 317 young people who are new teachers in the state of Chiapas. Those 317 attend to approximately 1,000 students, and we’re training them as well in leadership techniques, professional techniques, aside from techniques and strategies to learn how to read and write, and always stressing the importance of teaching in the indigenous language, which for us is of fundamental importance.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think you made a very good point about how we’re stronger if we learn from each other. And when you talked about integrating strategies that are used in the United States and used here in Mexico, I think that creates a better opportunity for teachers to reach every child. And I must say your enthusiasm suggests what a good teacher you would be. (Laughter.)
I want now to turn to Reyna Luz Santiago Batista from the Mixteca community in Oaxaca, who participated in also the USAID SEED Program at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon, where she studied natural resource management. And I know that she has a particular interest in the education and role of women and, in fact, is currently working for an NGO that emphasizes women’s empowerment, health, education.
So what did you learn about the role of women during your educational exchange in the United States?
MS. BATISTA: (In Mixteco.)
(In English.) This is my native language. It’s called Mixteco. And I want to, first of all, to thank all of you for this opportunity and for coming here today. And I want to give my special thanks to the United States Government, to the SEED Program of the Georgetown University, and for all of you for being here today. So now I want to answer my question.
(Via interpreter) I think it’s very important to see the role that women have in the United States, in particular what I saw in the United States is that women are very independent, they constantly fight for their dreams, for education. They worry about the welfare of themselves, of their families, of their communities. I had female colleagues who worked and studied at the same time, and they also helped out with their communities.
And that to me has been an example, an example I want to follow, because especially here in Mexico indigenous women sometimes have less opportunities. And I think it’s very important for us to begin to seek opportunities like the SEED scholarship and Start-to-Study, and then move forward. And I think that we women can also make a contribution to the welfare of our communities and our countries.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have no doubt that you are doing that and you will do that. Because trying to make sure that opportunities are equally available to men and women, to boys and girls, is a continuing commitment of mine and of my country. And we want to work to bring educational opportunities to more indigenous women. So I thank you for the example you’re setting.
MS. BATISTA: (In Spanish) Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sylvia, do you want to add anything after hearing these remarkable young people speak?
MS. ORTEGA: You know, I don’t think so. They made their statements very powerful.
(Via interpreter) I think the important thing would be to see that if there is an investment that pays the best dividends and on an extended basis, it is education. It is the acquisition of those skills that make us better people, better citizens, and better – more understanding of each other. Because deep down inside, that’s what it’s about. It’s about effectively building interpersonal relationships, family relationships, or relationships between countries. It’s going to depend on how well we understand each other. And to understand, you need to learn. And to learn, you need to generate knowledge. And that’s done much better, it’s true, with respect and as a team.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that you can see very clearly how impressed we are with these young people. And there are more like them sitting here in the audience who have pursued education and are not only furthering their own personal goals, but contributing to their communities as well. And so I am pleased to announce a new educational partnership in Mexico, the English Access Micro Scholarship Program. It will begin this month in Atlacomulco. It’ll later expand to Oaxaca and Chiapas and Mexico City.
This program will provide two years of training in English to 100 Mexican students. We’re hoping that this additional program will help even more young people expand their horizons, acquire new skills, learn what will give them a better future and then enable them to make those investments in their communities. I could not agree more with Sylvia, who has spent a lifetime working in education, that, you know, investing in an individual is the best investment we can make. And parents and families do the best they can to invest in their children, but very often there are many obstacles to being able to make those investments. Governments invest in their people, but often it’s challenging to do that to the full extent that we would like.
So we think partnerships for more educational experiences and opportunities is a very tangible way for us to deepen and further the relationship between our countries.
I told the officials with whom I have met today how personally proud I am to be the Secretary of State representing the United States and being able to come here to Mexico. When my husband and I were married, we honeymooned in Mexico. (Laughter.) We have very pleasant memories of Mexico. We have vacationed in Mexico. When he was president, we had official visits to Mexico. And we have Mexican friends who we treasure. So we are very, very happy to see this relationship growing stronger.
And so for me, working with your government and working with the people of Mexico is not only a public responsibility, but a personal privilege. And I look forward to hearing more about these remarkable young people, and knowing that they are making such good use of their education. And hoping that in my country as well as in Mexico, we can finally arrive at a point where no child’s dreams are denied, where it will be up to every single child to decide what he or she is willing to work for. And to go back to the point you made about how hard people are willing to work, but that that work will be rewarded. And we are working to achieve that in the United States. And I am very impressed and delighted to see the efforts that are represented on this stage by these young people. So please join me in showing your appreciation to these young students and to the others who are here, as well as to their teachers and the officials of the Government of Mexico who are supporting their education. (Applause.)