Last week, President Barack Obama embarked on a six-day trip to Europe, where he visited Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Poland to engage our allies in the region and participate in the G-8 Summit. In remarks to the British Parliament, President Obama said:
"Together, we have met great challenges. But as we enter this new chapter in our shared history, profound challenges stretch before us. In a world where the prosperity of all nations is now inextricably linked, a new era of cooperation is required to ensure the growth and stability of the global economy. As new threats spread across borders and oceans, we must dismantle terrorist networks and stop the spread of nuclear weapons, confront climate change and combat famine and disease. And as a revolution races through the streets of the Middle East and North Africa, the entire world has a stake in the aspirations of a generation that longs to determine its own destiny.
"These challenges come at a time when the international order has already been reshaped for a new century. Countries like China, India, and Brazil are growing by leaps and bounds. We should welcome this development, for it has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty around the globe, and created new markets and opportunities for our own nations.
"And yet, as this rapid change has taken place, it's become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed.
"That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now. It was the United States and the United Kingdom and our democratic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive. And even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just."Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was also in Europe, where she joined President Obama in London and met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. She then traveled to France, where she supported the launch of the UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls' and Women's Education and chaired the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) 50th Anniversary Forum. During the OECD gathering, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and addressed the OECD Session on Development and Gender. Ambassador Karen Kornbluh, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OECD, underscored the U.S. commitment to work with the OECD on gender issues, with a focus on increasing opportunities for women in the Middle East and North Africa.
Last week, Secretary Clinton also traveled to Pakistan, where she and Admiral Mike Mullen met with senior Pakistani government officials in Islamabad. Following their discussions, Secretary Clinton said:
"We are prepared to stand by the Pakistani people for the long haul. The United States knows that Pakistan's future is imperatively important for us, but even more so for the people themselves, and we look toward a strong Pakistan, one that is democratic, one that is prosperous and stable, being a cornerstone for regional stability and global security. That is why the United States will continue to support Pakistan's sovereignty, its civilian-elected government, and above all, its people."
As part of America's commitment to the Pakistani people, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan administers the largest educational and cultural program of any U.S. Embassy in the world. More than 8,000 Pakistanis have participated in fully-funded academic or professional development programs in the United States. Inspired by their experiences in the United States, Pakistani exchange program alumni are helping to make their communities better places to live and are strengthening ties between the people of the United States and Pakistan. Last week, for example, 40 university students attended a public speaking workshop hosted by U.S. Embassy Islamabad, and 60 Pakistani students prepared to depart for a year of study at U.S. community colleges. Furthermore, Ambassador Melanne Verveer highlighted a new mentorship program that brings together Pakistani women entrepreneurs and U.S. business leaders.
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock shared how international exchange programs can empower women and girls around the world. Educational and cultural programs are building relationships between the people of Bolivia and the United States, supporting civil society in Indonesia, advancing science education in Trinidad and Tobago, and helping safeguard cultural treasures in Nepal.
In news from Washington, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg discussed the latest Iran sanctions, while Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook addressed advancing international religious freedom. The Department of State hosted a film screening of Welcome to Shelbyville to highlight refugee issues, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs convened a gathering to address global agricultural development and food security.
In consular and travel news, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs urged U.S. citizens to depart Yemen, while Ambassador Susan Jacobs recognized National Mission Children's Day and reflected on how the U.S. government works to prevent international parental child abduction.
In other news, the United States condemned offensive operations undertaken by Sudanese forces in Abyei. U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman held a press briefing on the situation on Abyei, and departed for the region to participate in ongoing peace talks about Darfur. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah underscored the U.S. commitment to respond to urgent and long-term needs in Sudan.
Elsewhere, USAID and the Gates Foundation are working to expand mobile banking in Haiti, the United States and India are partnering to advance clean energy, and Pacific Partnership continued on its humanitarian mission to Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
Today marks the International Day of UN Peacekeeping. Ambassador Susan Rice said, "The United States salutes the brave men and women who prevent conflict, save lives, and provide hope to countless vulnerable people while serving under the flag of the United Nations."
The United States commemorates Memorial Day tomorrow, Monday, May 30. On Memorial Day, we honor the generations of Americans who have fought and died to defend our freedom. We also recognize the military personnel who are currently serving in Afghanistan, the South Pacific, and other parts of the world. As President Obama said:
"Today, all who wear the uniform of the United States carry with them the proud legacies of those who have made our Nation great, from the patriots who fought at Lexington and Concord to the troops who stormed the beaches at Normandy. Ordinary men and women of extraordinary courage have, since our earliest days, answered the call of duty with valor and unwavering devotion. From Gettysburg to Kandahar, America's sons and daughters have served with honor and distinction, securing our liberties and laying a foundation for lasting peace.
"On this solemn day in which Americans unite in remembrance of our country's fallen, we also pray for our military personnel and their families, our veterans, and all who have lost loved ones. As a grateful Nation, we forever carry the selfless sacrifice of our fallen heroes in our hearts, and we share the task of caring for those they left behind."
In recognition of Memorial Day, President Obama designated the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. as a time to unite in prayer, and asked all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time.