Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks on “Our Opportunity in the Americas” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on March 18, 2011. The Secretary spoke about President Barack Obama's upcoming travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador and discussed how different areas of opportunity will be a roadmap for U.S. engagement in the region. Secretary Clinton said:
"...Now, obviously, there is a lot going on around the world and much that demands our urgent attention from the historic changes in the Middle East and North Africa where I just was yesterday to the tragedy unfolding in Japan. But as I often say, we have to deal with both the urgent and the important at the same time. And with President Obama departing for Brasilia in just a few hours, now is a good time to turn our attention from the urgent events of the day and consider another important part of the world.
"The President's trip coincides with the anniversary of a major milestone in hemispheric relations. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress, pledging that the United States would join with Latin American leaders to address head-on a development challenge that was, as he put it, staggering in its dimensions. He understood that our failure to tackle poverty and inequality in Latin America could tear the social fabric and undercut democracy's prospects throughout the hemisphere. President Kennedy announced the alliance here in Washington to an audience of Latin American ambassadors at the White House. President Obama will mark this anniversary in Latin America. And I think that is fitting.
"Too few Americans have noticed that something remarkable has been happening in the region. Now, there are, of course, plenty of challenges and they often hog the headlines -- transnational crime, continuing inequality and poverty, inadequate education and so on. Now, those are challenges that apply in many cases, including in our own country.
"But the real story of Latin America today runs in a very different direction. It is a story of political transition and a broad commitment to democratic development, a story of pragmatic leaders who helped turn a once-troubled region into an area of dynamic 21st century economies and societies, a story of active new players on the global stage.
"Now in the coming days, President Obama will visit three countries -- Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador -- each is living this story in unique ways. The President will build on the pledge he made at the Summit of the Americas early in his presidency to work as 'equal partners' in a 'new chapter of engagement' based on 'mutual respect and common interests and shared values.' He and the three leaders hosting him will show, in word and deed, how much such a partnership can accomplish.
"But I want to focus on why this partnership matters to us -- what this story means for the United States: For our economic interests, as we rebuild our economy and renew our competitiveness for a new time; for our security and global strategic interests, as we design a 21st century architecture of cooperation with the help of like-minded partners; for our core values, as we promote democracy and human rights around the world; and for our society and our culture as the growing connections between our peoples make us all more vital and innovative."
You can read the Secretary's full remarks here.