Last month, in his first public speech since his confirmation as the 68th Secretary of State, John Kerry gave a robust defense of the value of foreign aid as not only the right thing to do for people in need, but as an investment that greatly benefits the United States over the long term.
Kerry began by rhetorically asking why he is giving a speech on foreign policy in Virginia of all places.
“Why am I in Old Cabell Hall and not in Kabul, Afghanistan?” he asks to laughter from the audience. “The reason is very simple … In today’s global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy.”
Emphasizing the interdependence of our world, he continues, “In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, environmental security, you will feel our success or failure just as strongly as those people in those other countries that you’ll never meet.”
Foreign aid and development programs impact the U.S. in two major ways: in terms of business and new markets and in terms of our values and beliefs.
Simply put, the more goods American businesses sell abroad, the more Americans they hire back at home. Since the majority of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S, he noted, “We can’t hamstring our own ability to compete in those increasingly growing markets.”
In fact, 11 of our top 15 trading partners are former recipients of foreign aid, including China, Japan, and Germany, our second, fourth, and fifth-largest trading partners respectively, with whom we had historically difficult relationships.
Foreign assistance is also a meaningful investment in American values like peace, stability, democracy, and human rights, which only makes sense, “knowing that failed states are among our greatest security threats and new partners are our greatest assets.”
“Remember,” he cautioned, “deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow.”
The Secretary responded to the idea echoed by Pres. Ronald Reagan that “foreign aid suffers from a lack of domestic constituency” by saying that he “reject[s]the excuse that Americans just aren’t interested in what’s happening outside of their immediate field of vision.”
Without a traditional lobby of its own, foreign aid is usually one of the first cuts to be made to the federal budget, but Kerry acknowledged that part of his job is to show the American people the good work done overseas for very little money and how big of a difference that investment makes at home.
In closing, he warned, “We face a … crossroads. We can be complacent or we can be competitive. As new markets bloom in every corner of the globe – and they will, with us or without us – we can be there to help plant the seeds, or we can cede that power to others.”
– Jordan N. Hunt
Source: U.S. Department of State
Photo: ABC News