Secretary Kerry and I just returned from Antigua, Guatemala, which served for two centuries as the capital of Guatemala. It is a beautiful, historic place and truly illustrates why Guatemala is known as "the land of eternal spring." We went to Antigua to bring the Obama administration's spirit of partnership to the annual General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is the region's most inclusive and respected international organization. As Secretary Kerry said, "If the OAS didn’t exist, we'd have to invent it,” both because it embodies our remarkable community of shared interests and values and because it has played an essential role in forging norms and institutions that safeguard our hemisphere's commitment to peace, democracy, and human dignity.
The theme of this year's OAS General Assembly -- "Comprehensive Policy to Fight Drugs in the Americas" -- responds to a profoundly relevant issue we all are working to address. The Secretary discussed with his hemispheric counterparts our shared responsibility for fighting drugs, as well as the success our country has had domestically in reducing demand for drugs.
Delegates to the General Assembly also elected members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I can't overemphasize the Commission's importance to protecting the human rights of citizens throughout our hemisphere. I am delighted that the U.S. candidate for the commission, Stanford University law professor James Cavallaro, was elected -- with Secretary Kerry's strong support -- to serve on this prestigious body.
But whether we are talking about human rights, drug policy, immigration, economics, security, or any of our other myriad intertwined interests I think it is worth noting why we do it. In the Secretary’s last event on this trip, he met with Guatemalan students who receive U.S. assistance to learn English. Our future, our kids' future, is a hemispheric one…and the path to our shared economic success runs through the school house door.
Throughout President Obama and Vice President Biden's recent travels in the region, as well as Secretary Kerry's visit to Guatemala, they all have met leaders of countries where democratic elections are no longer exceptions, but have become the rule. The wars are over, we have free trade agreements from North to South, and we are focused on how we can partner with our neighbors to grow our economies and ensure security and opportunity for our citizens. The prospects for our shared prosperity with the hemisphere on issues from economy to education to security have never been brighter. This is why the administration has committed to sustained high-level engagement with the Americas as a key foreign policy priority for the second term.
About the Author: Roberta S. Jacobson serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.