Washington — U.S. global leadership and the country's diplomatic and trade relations need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world while continuing to respond to urgent and unexpected threats, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a forum on global transformational trends.
Speaking in Washington November 29, Clinton said, "Many of the constants that shaped American foreign policy for decades are shifting. And that poses new challenges for our global leadership."
Clinton said that for there to be a renewal of American leadership, the United States must reach new generations who have no memory of its accomplishments during the 20th century.
"New generations of young people do not remember GIs liberating their countries or American development assistance changing the face of their economies or literally saving generations from hunger and disease," she said.
Today's youth "are more connected and engaged with the wider world than their parents and grandparents could have ever imagined, but they face mounting social and economic challenges and are not automatically pro-American," Clinton said.
U.S. leadership is rooted in "the values that we champion and the ideals and aspirations we represent to the rest of the world," rather than merely on economic or military strength, and the secretary said a "post-Iraq generation of young people" need to be reintroduced to "principled American leadership."
During her tenure as America's top diplomat, Clinton said, she has visited 112 countries and participated in town hall meetings where she could speak directly with young people. She also used her position to draw wider attention to the concerns of religious and ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; the economic and social benefits that come with empowering women; and the need to approach global development in a way that "puts human dignity and self-sufficiency at the heart of our efforts."
Clinton said the United States "should be at the head of a growing column of democratic nations, always extending the frontiers of freedom and opportunity, of peace, prosperity and progress." That goal is at the core of what it is to be American, and is "what makes us such an exceptional country."
Shared democratic values, as well as common economic and security policies, are bringing the United States closer to emerging democratic powers such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, she said.
"The key going forward will be to ... take up the responsibilities that come with global influence, including defending our shared democratic values beyond their borders," Clinton said.
In the modern world, she said, emerging countries "are gaining influence more because of economic prowess than military power, and market forces shaping the strategic landscapes are clearly driving change."
The world faces a "set of cross-cutting and interconnected global challenges that defy both national borders and easy solutions," she said, citing climate change, poverty, hunger, disease, nuclear proliferation, human trafficking, women's rights and international terrorism.
"No one nation can solve any of these problems alone," she said. America's leadership is being tested, Clinton said, through its efforts to build global partnerships not only between nations, but also with businesses, international and regional organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, and others.
"Only the United States has the reach and resolve to rally disparate nations and peoples together to solve problems on a global scale, certainly in defense of our own interests but also as a force for shared progress," and "that, in the end, in the 21st century, is what leadership is about," Clinton said.
While U.S. policymakers are focused on solving individual crises, such as North Korean and Iranian nuclear activities, they should also be thinking of broader issues at the top of the U.S. agenda.
"There also has to be room to think out of the box. We have to deal with the urgent, the important and the long term all at once," Clinton said.