Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by Dr. Jill Biden at Shalom Community School in Zambia
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Hi, everyone! Thank you, Martha, for that great introduction! Dr. Scott, thank you for joining me today. I can see very quickly that we share many of the same passions.
Provincial Education Officer Ngosa Korati and District Education Board Secretary Ruth Phiri – thank you for honoring us with your presence today. Head Teacher George Kaamba and students – thank you for such a warm welcome!
It’s a pleasure to be here at Shalom Community School and to meet all of you – and to be joined by Administrator Raj Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Cathy Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and David Young, our Charge d’Affaires in Zambia.
I don’t want to keep you from your studies so I just want to say a few quick words. I am very lucky – as Second Lady of the United States, I have the opportunity to travel all around the world.
And as a lifelong teacher, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to meet students, like all of you.
What all of you are doing – putting your education first – is so important. By focusing on your studies, you are creating a lifetime of opportunities for you and your families.
So on my trip over the next few days, one of the areas I will be focusing is education.
But I will also be looking at how women’s participation in government, the economy, and civil society can accelerate economic development, improve health and educational outcomes, and foster peace and security.
The United States is committed to making sure girls and young women have the tools they need to not just survive – but to thrive in their communities.
Through partnerships with Zambia and other African governments, we hope to improve women’s lives through educational opportunities, access to healthcare, combatting gender-based violence, and empowering women – because a nation cannot reach its full economic potential until its women reach theirs.
Many countries around the world now recognize that bringing more women into the workforce is key to economic growth, productivity and prosperity.
From Japan to Italy to Mexico and certainly in the United States, governments and business leaders understand that we cannot afford to leave growth on the table and are pursuing new policies to make sure that women can enter, stay and contribute to the economy.
First and foremost, this means making sure that all students have access to quality education.
I have seen firsthand what a difference this can make all over the world.
A few years ago I had the incredible opportunity to visit a school for girls in Kenya where I saw how a strong educational foundation can provide a sense of hope – of normalcy – and the chance at a better life.
Last year, I visited a local Muslim girls’ school in India where I will never forget how enthusiastic they were to learn, and just how proud they were to show me their school. I already have the same feeling from all of you!
And today, I’m proud to stand with Dr. Scott, your Second Lady, who has been a leading voice in Zambia to raise awareness of gender violence and girls’ education.
Earlier this year, Dr. Scott’s efforts brought together thousands of young people, the First Lady, celebrities and the UN, for a “Bring Back Our Girls” event to show solidarity for the kidnapping of young Nigerian girls from their school.
The horrific event in Nigeria has rightfully captured attention and anger everywhere.
Their story reminds us that girls around the globe risk their lives to pursue their ambitions – and together, we must do more to ensure that all girls and boys have the opportunities everyone deserves:
- We all want the opportunity to pursue our dreams and be treated with respect – regardless of our gender;
- We all want to have access to resources to help us stay healthy;
- And we all want to feel safe and secure as we pursue our dreams.
Education makes all of those possible.
I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years. I love helping students – navigate their future and see it grow bright before their eyes.
And that’s exactly what’s happening to all of you.
Because of the education you are getting, you are being set on a lifelong path where most of all, you have the confidence and tools you need to succeed.
Over the next few days, I look forward to learning more about what is happening here in Zambia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in Sierra Leone.
Next month, the United States will host the first U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit where I hope to share what I learn during this trip, including your story – a story of an aspiring generation prying open the doors of opportunity to all, including women who want to participate in your government, help grow and drive your economy, and to foster peace and security in your country and throughout Africa.
Your generation will write a new chapter in the story of Africa—one of vibrant, peaceful societies – where the problems of the past are a distant memory – where young Africans are enjoying opportunities undreamt of by their parents and grandparents.
Where the sky is the limit and growth and progress are happening fast.
That Africa is already emerging, year by year.
Zambia is part of that story.
And if you work hard and study hard, that will be your story, too.
As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
You may ask yourself: how does the life of one person – me – fit into that big picture?
If you change one classroom, pretty soon that classroom has changed one school. That school has changed a village, that village has changed a province and that province has changed a country.
None of that happens if it doesn’t start somewhere.
It starts with you, making a difference in your own life. Your own school. Your own village.
Thank you so much for opening your school to me. You all are my inspiration and I’m excited to see what you do in the future.