U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Newseum, Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Alberto, for not only that kind introduction but you and your colleagues’ leadership of this important institution. It’s a pleasure to be here at the Newseum. The Newseum is a monument to some of our most precious freedoms, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to discuss how those freedoms apply to the challenges of the 21st century.
Although I can’t see all of you because in settings like this, the lights are in my eyes and you are in the dark, I know that there are many friends and former colleagues. I wish to acknowledge Charles Overby, the CEO of Freedom Forum here at the Newseum; Senator Richard Lugar* and Senator Joe Lieberman, my former colleagues in the Senate, both of whom worked for passage of the Voice Act, which speaks to Congress’s and the American people’s commitment to internet freedom, a commitment that crosses party lines and branches of government.
Also, I’m told here as well are Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Ted Kaufman, Representative Loretta Sanchez, many representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, ambassadors, charg/(c)s, participants in our International Visitor Leadership Program on internet freedom from China, Colombia, Iran, and Lebanon, and Moldova. And I also want to acknowledge Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute, recently named to our Broadcasting Board of Governors and, of course, instrumental in supporting the work on internet freedom that the Aspen Institute has been doing.
This is an important speech on a very important subject. But before I begin, I want to just speak briefly about Haiti, because during the last eight days, the people of Haiti and the people of the world have joined together to deal with a tragedy of staggering proportions. Our hemisphere has seen its share of hardship, but there are few precedents for the situation we’re facing in Port-au-Prince. Communication networks have played a critical role in our response. They were, of course, decimated and in many places totally destroyed. And in the hours after the quake, we worked with partners in the private sector; first, to set up the text “HAITI” campaign so that mobile phone users in the United States could donate to relief efforts via text messages. That initiative has been a showcase for the generosity of the American people, and thus far, it’s raised over $25 million for recovery efforts.
Information networks have also played a critical role on the ground. When I was with President Preval in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, one of his top priorities was to try to get communication up and going. The government couldn’t talk to each other, what was left of it, and NGOs, our civilian leadership, our military leadership were severely impacted. The technology community has set up interactive maps to help us identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search-and-rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help. Now, these examples are manifestations of a much broader phenomenon.
The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something happens in Haiti or Hunan, the rest of us learn about it in real time ,— from real people. And we can respond in real time as well. Americans eager to help in the aftermath of a disaster and the girl trapped in the supermarket are connected in ways that were not even imagined a year ago, even a generation ago. That same principle applies to almost all of humanity today. As we sit here, any of you ,— or maybe more likely, any of our children ,— can take out the tools that many carry every day and transmit this discussion to billions across the world.
Now, in many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. And even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.
For more information go to Financial Times website at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f0c3bf8c-06bd-11df-b426-00144feabdc0.html
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010