U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave this town hall/interview at Zumbi dos Palmares University in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 3, 2010.
QUESTION: Madam State Secretary, I arrived recently from Tehran, where I interviewed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And he was really happy with what he described support from the Brazilian Government. My question is, are you happy, too?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, first let me say how happy – is this working? Can you hear me?
How happy I am to be here at this university. I am delighted to be at the first Afro Brazilian university. It is very similar to our historically black colleges and universities, so I feel very much at home. And I want to congratulate the rector and everyone who has created this opportunity for higher education for the students here. It’s wonderful to be here with William and Maria for this conversation.
And the first question is a challenging question. He’s an experienced journalist; he knows that. I had excellent meetings today in Brasilia with President Lula, with the Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, and others about the situation in Iran. And we share the same goal. The goal is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Both Brazil and the United States were like this. We absolutely agree. We are discussing the best way to achieve that goal. And we both believe that negotiations, diplomacy are always better than another approach, but sometimes you have to put more pressure on in order to get a sincere negotiation.
So we are proceeding in the United Nations Security Council, working with many other countries who share our concerns, to create that pressure through greater sanctions that will get the attention of the Iranian Government. And the Brazilian Government is working also to achieve the goal, so we will continue talking about how we get to where we both want to end up.
MS. BELTRAO: Okay. Madam Secretary, first of all, thank you so much for being here. I know all of us, but especially the students are delighted to welcome you this evening here. And my question is: In South American in general, but especially in Brazil, there is a certain feeling of dissatisfaction regarding this loneness with which the Obama Administration has been showing changes in American policy for Latin America. We expected a little bit more after Bush Administration. Can we assume that your visit is part of a long-awaited change for us?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say I am so honored to be here on behalf of the United States and President Obama. We are still very excited by his election. And we believe that he has already changed many things about the way the world sees the United States.
Change is never easy. You know, it’s not easy in a life. You wake up one day and you say, “I’m going to change. I’m going to get an education. I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to start exercising.” But then it takes time to actually realize the change. And I think that because of the excitement that President Obama generated all over the world, and particularly in Latin America, people might have forgotten that change is hard. If it were easy, anybody could do it. But he is committed to changing the relationship between the United States and Latin America, and so am I.
And we are working on many common matters. Today in Brasilia, we signed memoranda between the United States and Brazil on how to improve gender equality, so that girls and women are given the same opportunities as boys and men. We talked about how to work together on climate change. These are all significant historical problems that take time. But I think that most people are understanding of that. We all get impatient. We wish it would happen yesterday. But I think that as I have been here in Brazil and I was before in Uruguay and Argentina and Chile, the terrible earthquake there, people believe in President Obama and his vision for the relationship that we’re building together.
MR. WAACK: Okay. Let’s take the first question from the floor.
MS. BELTRAO: We don’t see where the mike is. Here?
QUESTION: First of all, good night, Hillary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello.
QUESTION: And welcome to Sao Paulo.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: I am (inaudible) and I’m (inaudible) and we are a social project where anyone can come no matter your social class and (inaudible) one more about Brazilian culture, so we have dance classes, we have percussion classes, we have (inaudible), we have English and a lot of classes. So there I learned that if I studied and if I dedicated myself, I can do anything.
So my question, like a student, is how a person that wants to study in the United States can do if we have to leave there and pay the college? It’s possible the uprooted student works in the United States or by some law in America, this is not possible.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me congratulate you for your strong conviction that you can do whatever you want to do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And your understanding that education is the key to being able to do that. That’s what this university stands for. We want to increase educational exchanges between the United States and Brazil. I would like to see thousands of Brazilian students coming to the United States every year and thousands of students from the United States coming to Brazil every year. And we’re looking for ways to do that.
I just met with a group of Brazilian business leaders who had American companies based in Brazil, companies like Microsoft and Ford and Motorola, very famous companies. They are working together to help more students in Brazil learn English. And in fact, I told the rector that they told me tonight that they are going to sponsor 15 scholarships for students here at Zumbi University to learn English. So we want to do more of that.
And we will be working together to give you more opportunities. And if you personally will come to – this is our Ambassador right here. There’s Ambassador Shannon in the front row. If you will find him after, he will make sure you get information about all of the programs and the scholarships you can apply for, because there are probably many more than you know right now that you might be eligible for. And we’re going to have, I hope, even more in the future.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And I want to invite you to know our project (inaudible) any time you want. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. WAACK: (Inaudible.) There is a question from the internet which relates very much with what was asked right now about the visa requirements for Brazilian citizens who wish to enter the U.S. soil. We Brazilians are hardworking people in the United States. We need to have an immigration reform in your country. The question is: Does the United States see us, Brazilians, as a threat?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No – (laughter) – not at all. I live on a street in Washington just about six houses away from the Brazilian ambassador’s residence, and what used to be the visa office for the Brazilian Embassy. So every day I would drive by dozens and dozens of Brazilians in America going in to get their visas renewed or to get them verified. We want more exchanges between Brazil and the United States. We want more Brazilians coming to study and visit and work and we wanted more Americans to come to Brazil. Now, there are two big reasons why Americans will come to Brazil in the next few years: the World Cup and the Olympics. So we want to make it easier.
And one of our problems which I learned about yesterday was that we only have a few places. We only have – we have the Embassy in Brasilia and then we only have three consulates in Sao Paulo and Rio and Recife, and that makes it very hard in a country as big as Brazil for people to get visas. So the ambassador and I are working on ways to make it easier, because we really do want to increase the exchanges between our two countries. I believe that Brazil and the United States are the two countries more alike than any two countries in the world.
MS. BELTRAO: Why is that so?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because we are big –
MS. BELTRAO: Oh, yeah. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- we are pluralistic. We are dynamic. We’re mostly happy.
MS. BELTRAO: Mostly.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are two countries that have so much in common and I want to bring us closer together.
MS. BELTRAO: Wonderful.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s such a very important question, and I think every country has to ask itself what are we doing to preserve what we inherited for the next generation? We had nothing to do in creating the beauty that is around us. I mean, Brazil is such a beautiful country. I think my country is a beautiful country. And more than 140 years ago, American leaders began creating national parks to preserve some of the beauty from development, so you mentioned Yellowstone. There are many others, like Yosemite. There are so many across our nation. That was a very important step. And I think every country should look at its patrimony, its physical patrimony, and determine how it can save some of it in its natural state. Then we all have to be more careful in how we use the earth. We’ve learned too much. What was acceptable a hundred years ago, because we didn’t know any better, no longer is acceptable. So we should be much more thoughtful as we extract raw materials from the earth as we plow it up, as we pollute the air or the water. It’s going to be one of the most important challenges for every country and every citizen in this century.
And the final thing I would say is nature is so powerful. We have seen two examples of that in our own hemisphere in the last months – first in Haiti, now in Chile. And we don’t know all of the connections between what humanity does to the earth and what the earth then does, but we can see the scars. We can see the pollution in the rivers and the lakes that kill the fish. We can see the pollution in the air that gives children asthma, so we know we are doing things that are causing long-term damage.
And part of our job now is how do we improve the standard of living, create jobs, raise incomes for people without destroying the very earth we inhabit. And that’s a question for all of us to ask. And my country is working hard on that. I know Brazil is as well, but we have lots to do.
MR. WAACK: Madam State Secretary, we have a question from an extremely popular Brazilian actor. He is popular here (inaudible), which was prerecorded.
MS. BELTRAO: Just a second. Just a second.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
MS. BELTRAO: Good question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am very proud of the progress that the United States has made in the last 50 years, through our civil rights movement, through the hard work and the sacrifice of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others. We have changed the laws so that there are not visible legal barriers to African Americans achieving in education, and in professions and in business. So we have ended overt discrimination.
I cannot sit here and tell you where we have ended racism. That I cannot say because that is not true. Just like I can’t sit here and say we’ve ended sexism or other forms of discrimination. They still exist in our country, as they do around the world. But the United States has made so much progress and affirmative action played a big part in that. There are those who criticize affirmative action, but I believe that it helped to overcome the vestiges of slavery and segregation, and it was an important phase for our country to go through. Now it is not used as much because there is a feeling that there’s more equality.
But I still believe we have to focus on poor children – black, white, brown, whatever background – who too often are born into circumstances where the deck is stacked against them, and they still need more assistance with education and health and the basic building blocks of a successful life. But the election of Barack Obama, many believe was the greatest accomplishment of all because it demonstrated that an African American could be elected President of the United States.
And look, I ran against him and ran very hard against him, and he won fair and square. So I think it was a great tribute to the American people and the American system, and I hope that similarly in Brazil and other countries, that same kind of progress can occur.
MS. BELTRAO: If I may, you said sexism still exists. Since International Women’s Day is upon us on March the 8th, and we have many examples of women in top government here in Latin America. You were with Michelle Bachelet. You were with Cristina Kirchner. And your career is an example, I think, for many women here. I’d like just a brief response about what are the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman in politics today?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that Latin America has a number of examples of women coming to the top of the political system, and I know that a woman will be running here in Brazil for president as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Two women.
QUESTION: Two women.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So I think that is a very good sign of what is possible. But there are still a lot of barriers to women’s participation, some of them more psychological, some of them more cultural and historical. But again, we’ve seen a lot of progress but we still have to make sure that we stand against domestic violence, because it cannot be tolerated anywhere, anytime; that we make sure that schools and healthcare is open to girls as well as to boys. This is not as big a problem in our hemisphere as it is in other places in the world, but we still have work to do.
QUESTION: (Via translator.) A very good evening, very nice, Secretary Hillary. I am a professor of (inaudible) law here. And I’m also a doctor in law here.
Our dean explained very well what is happening in our supreme court here, the discussion about affirmative action, about quotas – racial quotas. What would you make as a technical recommendation to the supreme court so that the supreme court would be totally impartial in its discussion about racial quotas for universities?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do not know the details, the details of the case before your supreme court. But I know some statistics that are very significant, in my view. A statistic I was told today is that the Afro Brazilian population is slightly more than 50 percent of the country, but only two percent of the students in higher education in Brazil are Afro Brazilians. So that suggests to me that some special steps need to be taken to recruiting and admitting students so that they can have a chance to succeed.
Affirmative action in our country was an opportunity to get in the door, not a guarantee that you would get the degree. I taught in a law school, and I taught students who had been admitted under affirmative action – African American students. And the students I taught were extremely motivated and very ambitious, but their educational training prior to law school often had not been good enough to prepare them to compete. So I spent a lot of time with my African American students, a lot of tutoring time, a lot of effort to help them be successful. And many of them succeeded, but not all of them.
But I think what affirmative action should be is a recognition that historical barriers have shrunk the pipeline. Not very many people can get through it. So it needs to be opened up. And the education system is the passport to opportunity, so let more people into that. Give people a chance. I think that talent is universal, but opportunity isn’t. So the more you can universalize opportunity in a society as dynamic as Brazil, the more people will rise and the more the meritocracy will work. And in my discussion earlier this evening with the heads of these American companies based in Brazil, and they are Brazilians themselves, the point they made is that with the Brazilian economy growing, often the only thing holding it back is having enough qualified students who are engineers, who do IT, who can do the jobs of today and tomorrow. So the education system needs to expand affirmatively to get more people in.
And then the final thing I would say, what I learned when I was a law professor is that it’s not fair just to admit students and then stand by and watch them fail. There have to be programs to help them succeed, because so many of them come with problems from the past. And so admitting on an affirmative action basis and then working to create as many success stories as possible is what I hope you will see happen.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Madam Secretary, good evening. I am Leonardo, and I would like to ask a question about subsidies to products. The U.S. is a developed country. Therefore, couldn’t it be a little more flexible when it comes to negotiating subsidies to certain products? Because if it did so, that would help developing countries. And that would help these countries develop on the social area, it would help these countries organize better, produce better, it would help these countries strengthen their economies. So both sides would gain if the U.S. was more flexible in subsidy negotiations.
Did you complete your question? It’s a good question. Both – I got lost, says the questioner.
So both countries, in this case, would – it would be a win-win situation. The U.S. on one hand would be the strongest partner, who in that case – maybe I would consider this question concluded. Okay. You have the question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the point you make is an important one for all countries. I believe that there has to be more trade and open markets, but it’s also true that every country has their own political concerns. And so the United States is a very open market, probably, in my view, the most open in the world. But there are certain sectors within our economy that people are still trying to protect from global competition. And as in any country with a democracy, there’s political pressures. So we’re going to continue to do what we can to open our markets, and we’re going to ask other countries to open their markets. We’re going to take special action, like we have in Haiti, where textiles can come from Haiti totally duty free because we want to build up Haiti, which is such a poor country. And we’re going to negotiate with other countries like Brazil to create more openness.
So your general point is a fair one, but as with so much, there’s political dimensions. And we have to negotiate, we have to trade, we have to work out how best to do it, but we’re in the midst of trying to do more of that with Brazil and other countries.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, just as recently as last week, a big number of Latin American and Caribbean countries, they have a new club.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter). Yeah.
QUESTION: Excluding you and the (inaudible). How do you understand that move?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there’s a need for countries to come together in different formations. We have a North American club that consists of Mexico, the United States, and Canada. We have bilateral relationships and trilateral relationships with all kinds of countries. The United States doesn’t see any of that as unfortunate or threatening. We view better coordination and cooperation among countries as a plus.
We have so much work to do in this hemisphere, that the more we can cooperate, that we can put past grievances behind us, that we can look for ways to solve problems together – for example, Haiti, every single country in the hemisphere, even the poorest ones have contributed something. So when countries come together and say we want to do more and cooperate more, the United States is for that.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter). Good evening, Madam Secretary. Good evening to the journalists. Good evening, everyone. I am (inaudible). Unfortunately, I’m not a student here at Zumbi. I’m a lawyer, however. And not long ago, up to – not long ago, I was chairman of the non-discriminatory commission of the bar association of Brazil. Many of the questions I had to ask were answered, so I’ll ask something else.
President Obama, in view of the crisis, has been working in a different way, compared to what the U.S. is to do before. So President Obama almost nationalized some businesses – almost, I said, of course. We know that American business do their business in the Unites States according to certain policies. So why wouldn’t we do it in such ways so that U.S. – oh, we know that in the U.S. businesses and corporations sometimes carry out public business policies, I mean, to promote better social conditions and racial conditions. Why not ask those companies --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s why I was very excited to meet some of the American companies here in Brazil who are doing exactly that. They are exercising what’s called corporate social responsibility. And that is an important part of the American business ethic. Most American businesses give back to their communities, they contribute to good causes, they support colleges and universities, hospitals, arts programs. And the American businesses here in Brazil, about 104 of them, have joined together to do that in Brazil. And I hope it’s contagious, because the more businesses can be in what we call public-private partnerships, the more people can be helped.
Government can’t do everything. Business’s primary job is to make a profit through employing people and investing. But government and business working together can support a university like this, can look for other ways to help individuals and institutions do better. So you make a very good point that I’m very proud of American businesses that are corporate social responsible citizens, and I think we have to see more of that from the private sector because the public and private sector need each other. The private sector employs the students who graduate from the school systems, so they need a strong governmental commitment to education. The government can’t run unless business is successful and people are paying taxes and contributing to the well-being of the government. So public and private have to work together for the good of a country. And I think we’re seeing more of that in Brazil, and I’m very proud of the American businesses that are contributing to it.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) I am (inaudible), and I coordinate the law school of this university. Recently, the President – the President Barack Obama, mentioned Lula as a guy, a nice guy. And I would like to say that you, for being so nice to having accepted this, I would like to say that you are our guy, too. (Applause.)
I would like to say that your participation here would be very, very important if we can convince the great American investors, as Professor (inaudible) says, if they could invest more and more in Brazil but if – with the clause that would demand that these corporations also invest in affirmative policies here. You look here, you can see that we have a very diverse nation here. However, opportunities are not the same for all of us here. Maybe your presence here will create a true revolution in the way that we will reach this opportunity and we will really conquer it. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for those very kind words – (laughter) – and I am honored to be an honorary guy. (Laughter.) And I think your wish is one that I hope is fulfilled.
Brazil is a global nation. Globalization has come to Brazil and Brazil has become a major player on the global stage. What the United States has found is that we have to invest in all of our people if we’re going to continue to be successful. And Brazil is exactly the same. So this university is a tangible example of that kind of investment. And I agree with you, perhaps my being here will bring this example to more people and more Brazilians will be very proud of this university, but also look close to home to see what more can be done in every part of the country to provide opportunity to all Brazilians.
MR. WAACK: State Secretary, this is a question from the internet which, again, relates to what you just said about Brazil being a global player. Does it mean that Brazil will have to support to you in the Security Council, playing like the big guys do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I think Brazil is a global player with an independent mind, just as the United States is. I mean, every country has to make a judgment about what is in their core interest, their security interest, their economic and political interest. And we work with Brazil on many, many issues. In the Security Council, where there will be a number of difficult problems, the most important in my opinion will be what we do about Iran – the first question, you asked me, William.
And we are hoping to get enough support in the Security Council to send a unified message to Iran that they are perfectly free to have peaceful, civil nuclear power. But they are not, under the very agreements that they signed, entitled to a nuclear weapons program. And if Iran continues to move toward a nuclear weapons program, that will send a ripple through the Gulf, and the Arab nations there will think, well, if Iran has nuclear weapons, we’d better have nuclear weapons. And then Israel will think if Iran keeps saying that it wants to destroy us and it has nuclear weapons, we’d better do something about that. We want to avoid all of that.
And we think the best way to avoid all of that is for the Security Council to vote for new sanctions on Iran to get their attention to change their behavior, and that’s what we are hoping to achieve and are working with many nations, including Brazil, to figure out the way forward.
MS. BELTRAO: So you don’t see – I’m sorry, William – so you don’t see Brazil as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in the near future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that – I hope there is UN reform and I hope there is reform in the Security Council. But that takes a lot of countries agreeing, and that is still in the formative stages. I would like to see it. The United States supports taking reforms in the United Nations, but there are a lot of countries with a lot of power that do not. So we have to, again, work –
MS. BELTRAO: Adjust.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- to get them to agree.
MS. BELTRAO: Okay.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Tamezra. I’m an international relation student, and I have two questions. One of them is really quick and I will let it to the end. But first, I’d like to know your opinion regarding the Venezuela and United States relation, considering that there is a big difference between the political and economic context in this relationship.
And my second question is regarding this book, Living History (inaudible) you wrote two years ago. I’d like to know if you could sign it to me before you go – (laughter) – and, if you don’t mind. It would mean a lot to me.
MR. WAACK: She is smart.
SECRETARY CLINTON: The second question’s very easy. Of course, I will sign it before I go. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And anyone else who brought a copy, I’d be happy to.
The first question, the United States would very much like to have a positive relationship with Venezuela. I’m sure some of you remember when President Obama went to the Summit of the Americas, he shook hands with Hugo Chavez. He exchanged words with him. He was reaching out to President Chavez. But there are many, many things which concern us about what is happening in Venezuela today.
When I was in Brasilia and here today in this university setting, I see the free press that Brazil has. I saw it in very active participation in Brasilia where there were so many cameras and so many different reporters there. President Chavez is trying to stifle the press in Venezuela. If you say anything negative about him, he tries to shut you down. That is not the way a democracy operates. He is taking over companies and taking their assets and, unfortunately now, we see the results of those economic policies. There are electricity shortages in Venezuela, a country with oil. It makes no sense.
So we wish for a better future for the people of Venezuela. We wish that their government would govern more in the interests of all of the people. We also wish that there would be less rhetoric and threats coming from Venezuela. But that is not our choice; that is their choice. And I can only repeat here what President Obama and I have said on many occasions: We want to have a positive relationship, but it’s difficult under the current circumstances.
QUESTION: Very short, Madam State Secretary --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: President Obama is reaching everywhere, to the Muslim countries, to Iran, China, Chavez. It’s not working.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t agree with that. I think that it’s working in many, many places, but it’s also exposing those governments and leaders who have a different agenda. When President Obama said on his inaugural day that the United States would reach out a hand to every country but they would have to unclench their fist, he meant it, and he has followed through. He has been very sincere.
So what have we seen? We’ve seen great excitement and openness to this new approach in many parts of the world. President Obama is very popular in Latin America because I think the people see a person who wants to do right and who is working hard to achieve that. But there are leaders in countries who just want to rule the way they choose. They don’t want to make their people freer, they don’t want to take away special privileges from the elite and share it with the people, they don’t want to change.
So I think we’ve exposed a lot. Many people said, well, the reason Iran hasn’t responded is because they didn’t like the former president. So President Obama said let’s change, let’s talk. There’s nothing coming back. So I think that this has been a very good policy both to show President Obama’s commitment, but also to reveal those who have a different agenda.
MS. BELTRAO: We are – sorry – we are facing a presidential election in Brazil this year --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MS. BELTRAO: -- so you were talking about concerns and leaders. Are there any issues in Brazilian politics or agenda that might be a concern for United States with the next president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, because we have confidence in Brazil’s democracy.
MS. BELTRAO: Okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is a vital, dynamic democracy. We think that the election will be exciting. I’ll follow it from the United States. And we believe that whoever is the next president will have a good relationship with the United States and we’ll continue to continue to work together.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good evening, Madam Secretary. I’m Luciano. I’m a law student here in Zumbi and I also take care of teenagers that are in trouble. I wanted to ask you what is the policy in the United States to defend children, teenagers, and traffic in persons in the United States? What are the U.S. doing against that? And what is the U.S. doing about – we talked so much about not building bombs in the U.S., but how does President Obama react to what President Bush did in Iraq?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me thank you for helping teenagers. There are so many children and teenagers that need help. They don’t have perhaps families that care for them. They are in difficult circumstances, so thank you.
And we in the United States are very committed to working against trafficking. This is a personal issue that I’ve worked on for many years. We have very strong laws against trafficking. We prosecute traffickers. We try to break up the rings that smuggle people across our borders. And we also put out a report every year that grades every country on how well the countries are doing, including ourselves this year. And we see some very positive trends. More and more countries are taking the trafficking of people, particularly children, seriously. They’ve got laws. They’re enforcing the laws. But some countries are still not willing to admit they have a problem, so we have to continue to work on this.
But trafficking in human beings is modern day slavery. It should be condemned by everyone. Police should break up these rings and rescue people who’ve been trafficked into sexual slavery or into bonded labor. Prosecutors and judges should be very harsh on the traffickers. There should be programs to rehabilitate the people who have been abused by the traffickers. And I hope that we’ll see a groundswell of support for tougher programs against the traffickers.
As to your second question, I think you know that President Obama is very different, has a very different approach to the world, and I believe that that’s one of the reasons he’s so popular around the world.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good evening, Madam Secretary, Marcos Leone. I studied terrestrial transportation here at this university. In Brazil, we have many roads. We have economic blocs here. We have Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, other countries as well as you have NAFTA in the north. And we, during this economic crisis, many economic blocs suffered. Suffered economic, suffered in terms of wages. What did the U.S. do in terms of transportation to face the crisis? Passenger crisis, passenger transportation as well as merchandise transportation. We changed the way we transported people and freight here in Brazil, and I think we should do a lot of reform in terms of transportation in order to be ready to fight against any possible upcoming economic crisis.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I agree, because I was late today, since there was an accident on the highway.
MR. WAACK: No, it’s normal.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s normal.
MS. BELTRAO: Routine.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So I’m all for better transportation in Brazil and in the United States as well. What we’ve done, because it’s a very good question – what we’ve done this past year in the Obama Administration is invest in more roads, invest in high-speed rail, invest in trying to upgrade subways and other passenger transportation. When President Obama submitted his stimulus bill to the Congress, a lot of the money in that went for transportation improvements, maintenance, and new forms of transportation.
I don’t know how many hours a week people in Brazil lose to transportation holdups, but probably the average American loses a whole year in the course of his or her life, sitting in traffic, stopping in traffic, being delayed at airports that are clogged up, trains that are not running on time, all of the problems. So this is an issue for every country. And in the 21st century, it’s going to get even worse unless we plan ahead.
So our country is trying to do that under President Obama’s leadership, and I think all of us are going to have to face up to the fact that we have to be more efficient in moving people and goods if we’re going to keep growing economically and realize the benefits of that growth.
MR. WAACK: We have two minutes. (In Portugese.)
QUESTION: (Via interpreter). Good night. My name is Medina. I’m a law student from (inaudible). And I also had a great opportunity to go to the United States as a U.S. (inaudible) scholarship holder, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.
I’m not sure if you are aware that the right of abortion does not exist in Brazil, not only its legal as it – also it’s a crime. And many, like, thousands of Brazilian women die every year from illegal abortions, making it the first cause of pregnant women death in this country. The right of abortion is also not accessible to all American women. What are the steps, what are the initiatives now throughout Obama’s term to make it – to change this situation in the United States? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, President Obama and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. And President Obama has reversed policies from the prior administration that prevented women from making an informed decision. And he has also reversed what’s called the gag rule with respect to information going from aid programs to women around the world. And he’s also invested greatly in family planning services so that all women have a chance to exercise their own rights.
This is an issue that I think is a social equity and social justice issue because wealthy women have rights in every country and poor women don’t. And I’ve written about this in my book, It Takes A Village. I visited a hospital here in Brazil back in the 1990s, and I’ll never forget one of the doctors telling me that this hospital that I visited was a hospital that had the best of feelings and the worst of feelings. And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, half the hospital are women having babies, and they are so excited. And half the hospital are women who are suffering from illegal abortions, and they are very sad.” I’ll never forget that.
And so I know that in every country, this is a decision for the people of the country, but I think it is something that needs to be carefully thought about because of the great effect it has on the numbers of children that poor women have that they can’t educate, feed properly, care for, the great toll that illegal abortions take, and the denial of women being able to exercise such a fundamental personal right. So President Obama has taken steps since he became President to give the right of choice to women and to do what we can to help avoid women having to make that choice, through better planning and better information and education.
MR. WAACK: Very last question: When is President Obama coming to Brazil? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will tell him he is very much invited. I heard that from President Lula and hear it from you and I will convey that to him. He’s working very hard to try to get healthcare reform passed in the United States. And having been a senator, I understand how hard that is. And he’s going to keep working at it until he gets it done, and then maybe he’ll be able to take a break and I know he would love to come to Brazil.
MS. BELRAO: Secretary, you have been a senator, a first lady, you had a prominent legal career, Secretary of State now. Which was the hardest job, be a mom, maybe? No.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think being a mom is. I think it’s the most important job I’ve ever had, and it’s the one that gives me the greatest joy. My daughter is getting married this summer and I’m excited about that. So I’ve been a very fortunate person. I feel that I had so many advantages. I had a family that supported me. I had parents who believed that girls were just as valuable and could be their own people just as boys were. I had great teachers in my school. I had so many advantages. So I’ve been very blessed, and I’m very grateful for that. And I get to serve a country that I love and I get to work with a President who I admire, and I think that it’s a very special time in history. So I can’t be – I can’t be complaining about anything other than how hard the work is. But that is something that I relish.
So I think all of you for having me at this university. I wish this university such great success. By the quality of the questions, you have a wonderful faculty and excellent students, and I hope that there will be very great things coming from this university in the future. And thank you for doing this with me tonight.
MS. BELTRAO: Thank you very much.
MR. WAACK Hillary, thank you for the conversation.