Secretary Clinton said: "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."
Regarding the Summit, Secretary Clinton said: "This summit upcoming today and the work we do in its wake presents an opportunity for us to further a recovery that reaches all of the people of the Americas. In Port of Spain, President Obama and I will share that the United States is eager to listen to the ideas and concerns of our friends, partners and allies. But we are committed to working with you to keep our people safe and secure, to protect and harness our natural resources, and to widen opportunity and prosperity. To achieve the shared prosperity we seek, we must integrate our commitment to democracy and open markets with an equal commitment to social inclusion."
Further, Secretary Clinton said: "There is so much to talk about, but today, I want to focus on just three areas where our work as partners can address the human cost of the global recession. As we take on these challenges, we must remind ourselves that in our diverse hemisphere, one size does not fit all. We need to look at the unique needs of each country and shape our effort to meet those needs in a spirit of openness and cooperation. First, a principal area of investment must be education. And as I said earlier this morning at the school, that is the lynchpin of economic progress. The United States will invest $30 million in education projects in the region. While enrollments have swelled throughout our hemisphere, too many young people still don’t complete their studies, or they’re not benefiting from the quality of education they richly deserve."
The second topic Secretary Clinton addressed was food security. Secretary Clinton said: "Our hemisphere produces bountiful harvests. This is a very fruitful region of the world. But in places of extreme poverty where people subsist on less than one dollar a day, hunger stalks them. It malnourishes children. It stunts growth and mental development. The consequences of hunger show up in homes, workplaces, and schools. We have seen the effects of malnourished people too weak to work, chronically hungry children struggling to learn. So 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. But our goal must be to reach the roots, the causes of food insecurity."
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. So none of the advances that we make can be achieved without improvements in public safety and efforts to stem all forms of violence, including violence in the home. We all think about the violence that the drug traffickers bring with them, and this must be our highest priority. The United States must work to reduce demand for drugs and stem the flow of guns and drug profits traveling from our country for use in the drug trade.
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. As we do more in Mexico and Central America, however, we know we face threats in the Caribbean. I had discussions about this with both President Preval and President Fernandez. That is why we are planning a strategic security dialogue with the Caribbean countries to confront rising crime, illicit trafficking, and border security issues, like disaster preparedness.
The organized criminal networks operating throughout the hemisphere are adapting, and we must adapt as well. We have a very high proportion of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean. These young people are on the front lines, as those watching us today on the internet are, for online civil society. And I believe the young people of this hemisphere have untold power to stop the drug trafficking that goes on that undermines their communities, their safety, intimidates and corrupts governments and institutions."
Secretary Clinton concluded: "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."
Read the Secretary's full remarks here.