I just returned from a trip to Houston during which I met with a dynamic and diverse cross section of the Houston community over the course of two days. United Nations Day, which has been celebrated every October 24th since 1948, was the reason for my visit to Houston. It was only fitting that, on this 66th Anniversary, I travel to one of the United States' most multicultural, academic and business oriented cities to celebrate this important day. UN Day marks the anniversary of the date that the UN Charter entered into force in 1945; its creation represented the ambition of the nations of the world, who believed that by working through the UN, they could promote global peace and a common prosperity, advancing the mutual security of nations and the universal rights of all peoples.
A highlight of my visit to Houston was my attendance and participation in a United Nations Day reception and dinner hosted by the Houston Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA, Rotary International, and the City of Houston. I had the pleasure of meeting over 150 members of the community, including the city's sizable consular corps, and making the case that U.S. leadership at the United Nations has never been more important. Some in Washington are intent on forcing U.S. retreat from that role, but a vast bipartisan majority of Americans disagree. Americans understand that addressing 21st century challenges, particularly the events and dynamics we have seen this year, in an effective and financially sound way will require continued U.S. leadership at the UN. In fact, U.S. leadership is most needed during this time of political transformation and economic concern.
During all of my other meetings I underscored the Obama Administrations opposition to attempts to use the UN as a venue for addressing final status issues, which must be decided in direct negotiations between the parties. Many of the community leaders and the students whom I met with have been watching global events unfold on the news and this was an issue that came up in all of my meetings.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the local chapter of the American Jewish Committee where I was able to further underscore that leadership at the UN also means defending our close ally, Israel, from efforts to delegitimize or isolate it. We must continue to lead globally and remain fully engaged at the UN in order to continue the hard work we have done to defend Israel across the UN system.
While in Houston, I visited two universities to discuss the important role multilateral diplomacy plays in advancing U.S. foreign policy goals. First, I visited the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University headed by Ambassador Edward Djerejian. I met with a group of students from the Baker Institute's student forum. I also had the opportunity to meet students and faculty at Texas Southern University to discuss some of the issues on which the Department of State is focused. It was truly rewarding to have the opportunity to answer some of the students' very tough questions and to encourage public service careers.
I ended my trip with a lunch discussion with members of Houston's Committee on Foreign Relations and the Council on Foreign Relations at which I stressed the importance of paying our dues on time and in full at the United Nations and its specialized agencies. I explained how President Obama's decision to pay our UN assessments in full has given us greater influence with our allies and partners on global issues. I pointed out that we are far more effective at achieving our policy goals at the UN when we have paid our dues in full and on time.
It was a pleasure to spend this UN Day in the bustling international city of Houston and to meet with Americans to explain how their diplomacy advances national security, economic prosperity and human rights globally.