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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Sherman: Strenthening Understanding Through Latin American Educational Exchanges
State’s Sherman on the 100,000 Strong in the Americas

By Wendy R. Sherman
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

LIMA -- I’m delighted to be here in Lima and pleased to join with you in recognizing four leading participants in President Obama’s initiative to double, to double, the two-way flow of college students between the United States and other countries in the Americas by 2020.

We know that, in this era, the private sector does business in a global marketplace and our young people compete in a global workplace. Students who are able to spend a portion of their time learning in other countries have an important advantage, for they return home equipped with greater confidence, new skills, the ability to speak a foreign language, and contacts and friends who will last a lifetime.

Each year, some 66,000 students come to the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean – while about 50,000 young people from the U.S. studying abroad in the region. My daughter was one of them in college studying in Nicaragua. President Obama believes that, in this case, more is better. He set the goal of 100,000 students each way, a goal we are determined to reach in order to increase opportunities for young men and women throughout our hemisphere, to deepen the bonds of friendship between our countries, and to strengthen our shared resolve to address challenges that affect people from Chile, to Lima, to Alaska.

These challenges include the creation of healthy and inclusive economies, more effective democratic institutions, improved governance, energy and environmental security, and respect for the rule of law. Progress in any and all of these areas depends on the knowledge and willingness of our citizens to work together in and beyond the borders of their countries. The possibilities of such cooperation are greatly enhanced by education and especially international education. The more we know, the better able we will be able to meet the array of tests we face as individuals, as communities, as nations, and as a region.

Like the United States, Peru has always placed a high priority on freedom of expression and the pursuit of knowledge. Going back all the way to such pioneers as José Hipólito Unanue, and continuing on to the challenge of girls education to Elvira Garcia, and to the Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, yours is a culture that values learning and honors excellence. That’s why it was no surprise when, in Washington earlier this month, Foreign Minister Gutierrez confirmed to the Secretary of State Kerry that Peru has a deep interest in the 100,000 Strong Initiative, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In the past more than 1,300 Peruvians have pursued degrees in the United States through the Fulbright scholarship program, and as we speak, several thousands more are pursuing their studies at U.S. colleges and universities.

Today, we are here to build on that progress and to celebrate the work that many of you are doing to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.

The programs that we honor this morning are diverse in some respects, but they havein common an aptitude for innovation, a dedication to critical thinking, and a commitment to international cooperation, and above all, they put students first.

I am pleased to highlight their accomplishments and to make available awards on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and our collaborators, especially Freeport McMoRan and Banco Santander which provided the majority of funding for these grants.

First, I would like to recognize the National University of Trujillo. I know that they are nominated, but they have not been able to get here yet this morning because of air problems, in partnership with Northhampton Community College in Pennsylvania and the U.S. organization WindAid, the National University will teach engineering students to build and install wind and other alternative energy generators in rural communities, really a critical issue.

Our second grant recipient is the Pontifical Catholic University in Peru, which will work with its counterpart in Chile and with the University of Arizona to train bilingual students in the sustainable stewardship of natural resources.

Next, I want to congratulate Santa Maria Catholic University which will collaborate with Wisconsin’s Edgewood College to expand service-learning programs in education, nutrition, and the environment.

And, finally, I recognize the leaders of Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University, who are striving in partnership with the University of South Dakota to develop courses for greater student and faculty exchanges in both countries.

As you can tell, there are colleagues and universities throughout the U.S. who very much want to be part of this program which is really exciting.

It has been said that all history is a race between education and catastrophe. Obviously, this is a race we must win – day by day – step by step.

The programs we honor this morning and the partnership between the United States and Peru that they reflect are evidence that we are moving in the right direction. Let us then go forward to create additional opportunities for our students, to strengthen the bridges of understanding and friendship between our countries, and – in so doing -- to foster great hope for the future for all of us. I congratulate everyone who is part of this program and for the tremendous steps that are being taken we honor here this morning.

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