Transcript: Mitt Romney’s remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative

Transcript of remarks by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 25, 2012:

“Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s an honor to be here this morning, and I appreciate the kind words and your introduction is very touching.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good.  All I got to do now is wait a couple of days for that bounce to happen.

“As you know, since serving as President here in America, President Clinton has devoted himself to lifting people around the world.  And one of the best things that can happen to any cause, to any people, is to have Bill Clinton as its advocate.  And that’s really true for a whole series of causes but particularly for the needy and neglected causes. If he gets behind them, it makes a real difference. And it’s that kind of work that brings us together today. And I appreciate your willingness to spend time and listen to those who are coming with their messages.

“Now, there are a number of things that impress me about the Global Initiative and one of them is that as I’ve seen it from afar, I’ve been impressed by the extraordinary power you have derived by harnessing together people of different backgrounds and persuasions. You’ve been able to fashion partnerships, if you will, across the traditional boundaries — public and private, for-profit and not for profit, charitable and commercial.

“On a smaller scale, by the way, I’ve seen the power of partnerships like this work before.

“In Massachusetts, Bill Clinton just spoke about City Year, and I have here Michael Brown – one of the founders. This was an effort where two social pioneers, Michael and his friend Alan Khazei, brought corporations and government and together with volunteers to form this entity. And it was the model, as the President said, for Americorps.

“And I actually happened to be there the first time he visited City Year. He was there investigating the life-changing successes which were being reported in the lives of these young people who’d came together for a year of service and as they were linked with corporate teams that worked with them.

“I also saw the power of these kind of partnerships in 2002 when I was asked to be the head of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. I saw what could happen when the disparate elements of a community were willing to join together in extraordinary unity, and we were able to overcome challenges that many thought would be impossible for an organization like ours to overcome.

“Now, the Clinton Global Initiative has also demonstrated the effectiveness of entrepreneurship and social enterprise.  You endeavor not only to comfort and assuage the pains of the afflicted, but to also change lives thorough freedom, through free enterprise, through entrepreneurship and through the incomparable dignity that is associated with work.

“Free enterprise, as we know, has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system not only because it’s the only system that creates a prosperous middle class, but also because it’s the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her life. Free enterprise cannot only make us better off financially, it can make us better people.

“Ours is a very compassionate nation, as you know. We look around us and see withering suffering. Our hearts break.

“Though we make up just 4.5% of the world’s population, we donate nearly a quarter of all global foreign aid—more than twice as much as any other nation on earth.

“And Americans give more than money.  Pastors like Rick Warren lead mission trips that send thousands of Americans around the world, bringing aid and comfort to the poorest places on the planet.

“American troops are first on the scene of natural disasters.  When an earthquake strikes in Haiti and care packages come from all around the world but they come first from America – and not far behind are former Presidents Clinton and Bush.

“But too often our passion for charity as a people is tempered by our sense that our aid is not always effective. We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments. We sometimes wonder why year after year after year of aid and relief seem never to extinguish the suffering and hardship, why it persists decade after decade.

“Perhaps some of the disappointments are due to our failure to recognize just how much the developing world has changed.

“A lot of our foreign aid efforts that we put in place some years ago were designed at a time when government development assistance accounted for roughly 70% of all resources flowing to developing nations.

“Today, 82% of the resources that flow to the developing world come from the private sector not the governmental sector.

“If somehow foreign aid can really leverage that massive investment by the private sector, it may be able to exponentially expand the ability to not only care for those that are suffering but also to change their lives in a permanent basis.

“Now, private enterprise is having a greater and greater positive impact actually on its in the developing world.

“As an example, the John Deere Company embarked upon a pilot project in Africa where it developed a suite of farm tools that could be attached to a very small tractor.  Then the company also worked to expand the availability of capital to farmers so they can maintain and develop their businesses.  The result has been a good investment for John Deere and greater opportunity for African farmers, who are now able to grow more crops, and to provide for more plentiful lives of their own.

“For American foreign aid to become more effective, it must embrace the principles that you see in these global initiatives: the power of partnerships, access the transformative nature of free enterprise, and the leverage of the abundant resources that can come from the private sector.

“Now, I believe that there are three, quite legitimate, objects of our foreign aid in this country.

“First, of course, is to address humanitarian needs.  Such is the case with PEPFAR, which has given medical treatment to millions suffering from HIV and AIDS.

“Second, is to foster a substantial United States strategic interest – perhaps as military, diplomatic, or economic.

“But third – there’s another purpose and one that I think has to receive much more attention and a much higher priority in a Romney Administration. And that is aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and in nations.

“As an example, a lot of Americans, including myself, are troubled by the developments in the Middle East.

“Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people.

“The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Our Ambassador to Libya was assassinated in a terrorist attack.

“Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability.

“We somehow feel that we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events.

“I’m often asked why, and what can we do about it to lead the Middle East to stability, to ease the suffering and the anger and the hate there and violence.

“Obviously, religious extremism is certainly part of the problem.  But that’s not the whole story.

“The population of the Middle East is very young, as you know, particularly in comparison with the population of the developed nations. And typically, these young people – as the President indicated a minute ago – don’t have a lot of job prospects. The levels of youth unemployment across the region are excessive and chronic.

“And in nations that have undergone a change in leadership recently, young people have greater access to information in the past that was being carefully guarded by tyrants and dictators.  But now it’s available.  They see the good as well as the bad in surrounding societies. They can now organize across vast regions, mobilizing populations. Idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and their anger grows.

“In such a setting, for America to actually change lives, to change communities and nations in the Middle East, foreign aid must also play a role. And the shape that role should play was brought into focus by the life and death of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, the street vendor whose self-immolation who sparked thereby the Arab Spring.

“You probably know about his background but it touched me. He was just 26 years old.  He had provided for his family since he was a very young boy.  He worked a small fruit stand, selling to passers-by. The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they came in and took crates of his fruit and then they took his weighing scales – his only capital equipment – away from him.

“On the day of his final protest, witnesses say that an officer slapped him and he cried out, ‘Why are you doing this to me?  I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.’

“I just want to work.

“Work.  That has to be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike.

“Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding.

“Work does not long tolerate corruption nor will it quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women.

“To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and other developing countries, I’ll initiate something I’ll call ‘Prosperity Pacts.’  Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.

“We’ll focus our efforts on small and medium-size businesses. Microfinance has been an effective tool at promoting enterprise and prosperity, but we got to expand support to small- and medium-size businesses that are oftentimes too large for microfinance, but too small for traditional banking.

“The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy–and that is that free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.

“Now when I was in business, I traveled to a number of different countries.  I was often struck by the vast difference in wealth among nations that were sometimes neighbors. Some of that was due to geography.  Rich countries often had natural resources like mineral deposits or access to waterways for transportation.  But in some cases, all that separated a rich country from a more poor one was a faint line on a map.  Countries that were physically right next door to each other were economically worlds apart.  You can think of North Korea and South Korea.

“I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn’t geography.  I noticed that the most successful countries shared something in common.  They were the freest.  They protected the rights of individuals.  They enforced the rule of law.  And they encouraged trade and enterprise.  They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty – and kept people out of poverty.

“Look, a temporary aid package can give an economy a boost.  It can fund some projects.  It can pay some bills.  It can employ some people for a time.  But it can’t sustain an economy—not for long.  It can’t pull the whole cart, if you will, because at some point, the money runs out.

“But an assistance program that helps unleash free enterprise can create enduring prosperity.  Free enterprise is based on mutual exchange—or, rather, millions of exchanges—millions of people trading, buying, selling, building, investing.  Yes, it has its ups and downs.  It isn’t perfect.  It’s more reliable, however, and more durable.  And ultimately, as history shows, it’s more successful.

“By the way, the best example of the good free enterprise can do for the developing world is the example of the developed world itself.  My friend Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out that before the year 1800, living standards in the West were appalling.  A person born in the eighteenth century lived essentially as his great-great-grandfather had.  Life was overwhelmed with disease and danger and early death.

“But starting in 1800, the West began two centuries of free enterprise and trade.  Living standards rose.  Literacy spread.  Health improved.  In our own country, between 1820 and 1998, real per capita GDP increased twenty-two-fold.

“As the most prosperous nation in history, it is our duty to keep the engine of prosperity running—to open markets across the globe and to spread prosperity to all the corners of the earth.  We should do it because it’s the right moral course to help others of our brothers and sisters.

“But it is also economically the smart thing for us to do. In our export industries, the typical job pays above what the comparable workers make in other industries, and more than one-third of manufacturing jobs in this country are tied to exports.  Sadly, we have lost over half a million manufacturing jobs over the last four years.

“As president, I will reverse this trend by ensuring we have trade that works for America.  I want negotiate new trade agreements, ask Congress to reinstate Trade Promotion Authority. I want to complete negotiations to expand the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and create what I call a ‘Reagan Economic Zone,’ where any nation willing to play by the rules of free and fair trade can participate in a new community committed to fair and free trade.

“I’ve laid out a new approach for a new era.  We’re going to couple aid with trade with aid and private investment to empower individuals, encourage innovators, and reward entrepreneurs.

“Today, we face a world with unprecedented challenges and complexities.  We should not forget—and cannot forget—that not far from here, a voice of unspeakable evil and hatred has spoken out, threatening Israel and the civilized world.

“But we come together knowing that the bitterness of hate is no match for the strength of love.

“In the weeks ahead, I will continue to speak to these challenges and the opportunities that this moment presents us.   I will go beyond foreign assistance and describe also what I believe America’s strategy should be to secure our interests and ideals during this uncertain time.

“A year from now, I hope to return to this meeting as President, having made substantial progress toward achieving the reforms I’ve outlined.  But I also hope to remind the world of the goodness and the bigness of the American heart.  I will never apologize for America.  I believe that America has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known.  We can hold that knowledge in our hearts with humility and unwavering conviction.

“God bless you and this great work. God bless my country and yours. Thank you so very much. It’s an honor to be with you.”



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