President Barack Obama delivered a speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa at the Department of State on May 19, 2011. Recognizing the changes that have taken place in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, President Obama announced a new approach to promoting democratic reform and economic development, as well as peace and security across the region.
The President said, "...We face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be."
While welcoming the President to the Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said:
"Mr. President, it is fitting that you have chosen to come here to the State Department to speak about the dramatic changes we have witnessed around the world this year.
"Now, on the back wall of this historic Benjamin Franklin Room is a portrait of the leader of Tunis, given as a gift in 1865 by the people of Tunisia in honor of the enduring friendship between our nations at the end of our Civil War. A century and a half later, Tunisians -- and courageous citizens from across the region -- have given the world another gift: a new opening to work together for democracy and dignity, for peace and opportunity. These are the values that made America a great nation, but they do not belong to us alone. They are truly universal. And it is profoundly in our interest that more people in more places claim them as their own.
"This moment belongs to the people of the Middle East and North Africa. They have seized control of their destiny and will make the choices that determine how the future of the region unfolds.
"But, for America, this is a moment that calls out for clear vision, firm principles, and a sophisticated understanding of the indispensable role our country can and must play in the world."
Following the President and Secretary's remarks, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes took questions via Twitter about U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Earlier in the week, President Obama met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The President also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
Secretary Clinton met with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and together they signed a Framework Agreement on U.S. participation in EU crisis management operations. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon outlined U.S. engagement with Europe and called Europe "crucial to solving major international challenges."
Secretary Clinton also met with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully at the Department of State. The Secretary and Foreign Minister discussed cooperation in the Asia Pacific region, as evidenced by New Zealand's recent participation in Pacific Partnership 2011 and the response to the Christchurch earthquake. They also discussed goals for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit taking place later this year. The second round of the U.S.-hosted, APEC Senior Officials Meetings (SOM) took place last week in Montana, where participants focused on trade, green growth, and regulatory cooperation and convergence.
Elsewhere, American diplomats addressed a broad range of global issues, from bringing pirates to justice to responding to food price volatility. Ambassador Eric Goosby provided an update on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria board meeting, and Senior Advisor Cindy Huang shared how the U.S. is promoting nutrition through the Thousand Days initiative. In Washington, Secretary Clinton spoke at the Obama Administration's launch of the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace, which underscores U.S. efforts to achieve an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure cyberspace.
Secretary Clinton also unveiled the "Secretary's Global Diaspora Forum" -- a program organized by the Secretary's Office of Global Partnership Initiatives with USAID and the Migration Policy Institute that brought together over 300 leaders from diaspora communities across the United States to discuss and collaborate on projects related to development and diplomacy with their countries of origin. Likewise, with the Secretary's support, Americans of Mexican heritage mobilized behind a new initiative to encourage proactive engagement between the United States and Mexico. Administrator Rajiv Shah shared how the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with diaspora communities on development issues, including in Sudan and Haiti.
Administrator Shah and Ambassador Princeton Lyman provided an update on their recent travels to Sudan, while Ambassador Kenneth Merten attended the inauguration of Michel Martelly as the 56th President of Haiti. The United States is working closely with the Haitian government and people to reduce the vulnerability of their country to future earthquakes, with a particular focus on advancing seismological research and scientific understanding. A group of applied scholars and mid-career researchers from the United States and nine other Western Hemisphere nations will be addressing seismic engineering, among other topics, as part of the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research Program, which Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Alina Romanowski helped launch in Argentina.
In Senegal, Under Secretary of State Judith McHale met with young African leaders, while U.S. embassies and consulates across the continent are focusing on youth outreach throughout the month of May. Similarly, the State Department's "Doors to Diplomacy" contest encourages high school students around the world to become involved in foreign affairs; this year, teams from New Jersey and China won the competition.
In other State Department news, the Operations Center marked its 50th anniversary, a new Passport Agency opened in Atlanta, Georgia, and @StateDept passed 100,000 followers on Twitter. On behalf of everyone here at DipNote, I thank all who helped @StateDept reach that milestone. I also thank our DipNote readers for your continued engagement, and we look forward to hearing from you in the week ahead.