26 September 2005State's Hughes Visits Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, September 26, 2005
(Under secretary opens new dialogue to address "generational struggle of ideas")
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes is visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to begin what she calls a new dialogue in public diplomacy intended to address “a generational struggle of ideas.”
“I view this trip as the beginning of a new dialogue that is very much people-driven -- public diplomacy is people-driven and it's policy-driven because our policies affect people's lives,” Hughes told reporters en route to Cairo, Egypt, September 25.
She said her trip to the three predominately Muslim countries with close ties to the United States takes place within the context of a long-term struggle of ideas that, over time, will lead to a shift in overseas attitudes toward U.S. policies.
Hughes predicted a change in attitude toward the United States will occur as the United States works to create “greater freedom” and “more space for people to achieve their legitimate aspirations.” She said that, in contrast to terrorists’ values, U.S. policies are designed to promote education, opportunity, freedom of speech and expression.
The under secretary said discussions are under way about a “revitalized interagency process” within the U.S. government that makes public diplomacy an integral part of a national security strategy “to wage and win a worldwide struggle of ideas.”
Involving the private sector is another means of making U.S. public diplomacy more effective, she said, adding that organization of a university presidents’ summit is being considered to focus on ways to attract more foreign students to study in the United States and to encourage more American students to study abroad and learn different languages and cultures.
She also said she is interested in creating a program that would allow retired teachers, lawyers, business leaders and other professionals to go overseas and provide training.
“[W]e will train them for English language teaching, for business development. My own husband is going to Kazakhstan next month to teach -- … it's a partnership with a university there, and I realize [there are] so many people like my own husband, who are at a point in their lives where they want to do things like that, and it could be a wonderful program for our country to help share some of the knowledge and expertise that we have that some of the world wants, in a way that also links citizens of the world with Americans,” Hughes said.
Hughes said that she would be listening to a wide spectrum of opinion leaders during her stays in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and that she hopes for reciprocity from her hosts.
“I hope to listen, to seek to understand, to show respect. Listening is a two-way street, and so I hope that those people I meet will also return that open spirit and be willing to listen,” Hughes said.
The under secretary said this is a time of great promise for Egypt as a result of economic and democratic reforms. She said the United States hopes to see greater democratic progress take place in Egypt when parliamentary elections are held in the near future.
In keeping with President Bush’s support for interfaith dialogue, Hughes scheduled meetings in Cairo with Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi of Al-Azhar University and Pope Shenouda, the leader of the Coptic Christian church in Egypt. Hughes said she also plans to speak with young people and women. (See related article.)
Commenting on her stop in Saudi Arabia, Hughes said the kingdom is an important partner with the United States in the War on Terror. She said she intends to raise U.S. concerns about human-rights issues in Saudi Arabia, while understanding that change in this matter “will come at its own pace.”
Turkey, the third stop on her trip, is an important democratic state and a key U.S. ally that bridges Europe and Asia and is carrying out important peacekeeping functions in Afghanistan. She said Turkey and the United States are similar in that both countries have assimilated people from many different backgrounds and places.
During her discussions in the three countries, Hughes said she will not try to conceal the shortcomings of American society. Hughes said democracies have imperfections and she will acknowledge to her interlocutors that the United States does not have all the answers to social ills.
For information on U.S. policy in the region, see Middle East and North Africa.
Following is the transcript of Hughes’ briefing en route to Egypt:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen
Hughes En Route to Cairo, Egypt
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'm excited about our trip. I think we're going to have a great trip. To back up and say just a little bit, I'm really, I'm really glad to be, I've really enjoyed the last several weeks being back in Washington on the job since August 15. I just -- only this week -- took my son out to Stanford, so he's starting on Monday as we are on this trip he'll be taking his first classes in college. Mom cried (laughter) but I -- it basically reinforced for me that I think I made the absolute right decision three and a half years ago and moving home to Texas. I think my son had a wonderful high school experience that he feels has really grown up a lot for those of you who saw that my, at my swearing-in ceremony -- he's grown up a lot physically, I think he's grown up a lot and matured a great deal, he's really a grown up young man. So anyway I feel really good about the last three years of being home and spending that time with him and I also feel very excited about taking on this new challenge.
We're going to be visiting, as you know, three unique and very important countries, three countries we have a very strong partnership with one of them. We also face very significant public diplomacy challenges in one of them. One of my missions is to go to listen. I hope to listen, to seek to understand, to show respect. Listening is a two way street, and so I hope that those people I meet will also return that open spirit and be willing to listen. I'm going to take a lot of questions, I'm going to participate in a lot of give and take and I hope they'll be willing to listen to my discussion (inaudible). You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is of course the most populous Arab country, it's a key friend and ally, and Egypt's a leader, a leader for peace. Obviously, President Anwar Sadat who was a very courageous leader for peace, and Egypt continues to be a leader in the Middle East. We're also going to Egypt at a time of great promise. We've seen significant economic reforms. Egyptians have just for the first time gone to the polls and taken out a ballot that had more than one name on it, and for them to chose, now that was a step. Someone said -- I know that the Secretary said that in her speech in Cairo -- that President Mubarak had unlocked the door for change and someone said that it was ajar just a little bit, well, it's a -- there's a step in the door, we clearly need, we had hoped that the people of Egypt will insist that the door will be pushed further open, as we head toward the parliamentary elections this fall, but its a time of promise there. We're going to, while we're there, one of the things that I'm going to work to foster, that the President has asked me to work to foster throughout the world in my travels is interfaith dialogue, so I'm going to be meeting with religious leaders both on this trip, and as I travel the world, so in Egypt I'll visit al Azhar and I will meet with the President and Sheikh Tantawi, who as you know has spoken out against violent extremism and lead discussion of Islam as a faith that is tolerant and does not condone violent extremism. I'm also going to meet his holiness Pope Shenouda, the leader of the Coptic Christian church there, so I'll be meeting both of them. I'll also be meeting, at every stop along the way, at all my stops, I'll be meeting with young people, I'll be meeting with women, I'll be meeting with opinion leaders. So, its very much designed as -- tends to offer an opportunity for dialogue and for give and take and for me to listen to people's ideas, for you know, what they think we can do to improve the American dialogue with the world, as well as me to answer questions and try to erase any misunderstandings about our policies, and why we are doing, why are we acting as we are in the world.
Saudi Arabia is our second stop, it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites. It's a -- Saudi Arabia has become a very important partner, in the war against terrorism, really a leader in working with us on counter terrorism. Now, obviously, fifteen of these September 11th highjackers came from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia since that time has been itself the victim of terror attacks and has seen loss of life and killing of innocents in terror attacks and has become an important partner of the United States in counter terrorism measures. We are concerned, and I'm going to say it in Saudi Arabia that we continue to be concerned about human rights issues in the kingdom. Concerned ... they've got a long journey there and a lot of work to do. As the Secretary said that we recognize that change will come at its own pace and sometimes comes slowly -- after all, in our own history change came very slowly, but we think it's important to continue to talk about change, and talk about human rights.
Turkey, the third stop, is an important democratic state, again, a key ally that bridges Europe and Asia. We arrived at a time when Turkey is preparing to begin its EU accession talks. That's something that we strongly support, we believe in support for Turkey. Turkey has been a key coalition partner in the global war against terror and of course they're a key NATO ally. When I landed in Afghanistan one of my friends there I was greeted at the airport by a Turkish general, because the Turkish army was securing the airport there. So, they are a key major ally that has been a great partner of ours. Its also -- Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, yet has the -- is proud of the saying that "all are Turks." So, much as our country has assimilated people of many different backgrounds and from many different places -- Turkey has become -- Turkey is very proud of its identity of all of its citizens even those from diverse backgrounds are Turks. It also works for peace, its foreign policy slogan is "peace at home and peace in the world."
I just wanted to talk a little bit to answer your questions about, kind of, my approach. As I said I view this trip as the beginning of a new dialogue that is very much people driven -- public diplomacy is people-driven and it's policy driven, because our policies affect people's lives. I don't see this as a matter of opinion polls or public relations, I see this as a matter of policy. That's really what drew me to public service in the first place. When I first decided to leave reporting and go to the political process it was because I realized that the decisions made in the political process made a very real difference peoples lives. So when I talk about people I'm talking about policies, I'm talking about our policies and the impact they have on people. I think that's what we've got to focus on here. I also -- I go as an official of the United States government, but I'm also a mom, a working mom, and so I hope that I could help, in some places, put a human face on America's public policy.
I wanted to just tell you a little about how I'm approaching this. We had left the Bush administration three years and what about four months, and so I'm looking at -- I know that this is a long time (inaudible) the war of ideas is a long term struggle, and I'm looking at it as I'm trying to put in place the institutions and the approaches that can help, so that when I leave, when we leave office at the end of the President's term that we put in place some institutions, some mechanisms that will help America, over the long term, to prevail in what we know is a generational struggle of ideas. So some of the things that I'm working on -- some of those things I think that many of you have heard, heard at our town hall meeting where I laid out the strategy, but some of those things that I will also be working for are making public diplomacy as an important part of our national security strategy, and I think that that its already happening, you see that, as you see the importance that the Secretary places on it, that the President places on it, that they look to the State Department. For my swearing in to send that signal that it is a key part of our national security strategy, that you can say its now the job of every Ambassador to engage in public diplomacy. I'm looking on -- in fact yesterday, not yesterday -- Friday in Washington had a first meeting of a brain trust group to put together a revitalized inter-agency process to make sure we get all the agencies of our government coordinated and to develop a specific national security strategy in partnership that comes under our national security strategy to wage and win a worldwide struggle of ideas. We've already talked about need for public diplomacy to have a seat at the policy table -- that has already happened at the State Department, and we're working on further changes to ensure it continues to happen and institutional changes to make sure that it continues to happen.
We're working to engage the private sector. This week, I was out meeting with Jeff Cowen, the former director of the Voice of America, now Dean of the Annenburg School of Communication at USC, who is developing a public diplomacy masters and doctoral degree program, and we talked about ways to partner with the private sector to -- such things as a university president's summit to focus on ways that we could both attract more foreign students to study in the United States and also encourage more of our American students to study abroad and to learn more about different countries and different languages. The Secretary is working on a strategic languages initiative to encourage our young people to learn to speak the languages that will be so important in the future. We're also working on improving our technology and our ability to communicate in technology and frankly that's something government's not very good at. But the American private sector is very good at it. And so, one of the most fascinating discussions at the Annenburg School was about all the different new uses of technology and how me might tap into all the new technology to better communicate our message.
A couple of things that you'll notice on this trip -- I mentioned interfaith dialogue, I mentioned reaching out to young people, which I think is absolutely vital, because they're the future, and most of you know that during the past several weeks, I really emphasized reaching out to American Muslims because I believe they are a very important part as we seek to engage the wider Muslim world its very important to listen to our American Muslim community to try. The very first week I was in office, I met with a number of American Muslim. I attended the ISNA conference in Islam, sorry, ISNA conference in Chicago. I'm also a big believer in our citizens being great Ambassadors for our country so I have brought along with me on this trip, as a symbol of things to come, two citizens, one a young Muslim American, Tina Karima who met the very first week in my office when I asked to meet with a group of Muslim students from universities in the Washington area, and she came to that meeting and she followed up and sent me an email and said she was really interested in some of the things I said and could we have lunch? So we had lunch and I talked with her and learned more about her, and discovered that she was already working at the State Department on a small project -- she could tell you exactly what it was -- a fellowship project, but it was in something like -- it was very administrative. And so I said maybe we could get her to come help us with public diplomacy, and so she in fact is now working with us on public diplomacy on that fellowship and is traveling with us on this trip, but I think it's - to show again the importance of our own American young people reaching out to young people across the world, which I hope to foster more of.
And we also brought a teacher (inaudible) Senate confirmation hearings. Russ Feingold, a Senator from Wisconsin and I talked about the fact that America's public diplomacy is bipartisan, its not Republican or Democrat, its American. And so we -- Senator Feingold and I, both share a belief in the importance of using our citizens to help communicate on behalf of our country, because whenever you have exchange students come to America they talk about how their opinion of America is forever changed by being here. You ask why and they say "because I met Americans." And so we think it's really important throughout the world to have the opportunity to meet Americans, so I called Senator Feingold and asked him to recommend. We talked about the fact that we have a lot -- we talked about the generous spirit of America, and we have a lot of Americans who are retiring, or willing to, at a point in their lives where they want to give back. One of the things I hope to do is foster a structure that will allow teachers, lawyers, business leaders to in some way give back by going on, going overseas and helping to train people in areas that we want, we will train them for English language teaching, for business development. My own husband is going to Kazakhstan next month to teach -- to do some legal training, a part of, its part of something our church does, it's a partnership with a university there, and I realize there's so many people like my own husband, who are at a point in their lives where they want to do things like that, and it could be a wonderful program for our country to help share some of the knowledge and expertise that we have that some of the world wants, in a way that also links citizens of the world with Americans. And so I've brought Senator Feingold recommended a teacher, I have not met him until yesterday, but he came with us as a, as again, an example that I think our American citizens are, can be very helpful in mobilizing our American people to be a very helpful part of this huge challenge that's ahead of us.
Do you have anything else to add?
Yeah, but just one of the points that we're going to make as we meet with people is, is talk about our American story and how it's a collective story that's written by individuals. We all have unique stories to tell. My own background as a granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner and a Kentucky railroad worker. Dina, of course came here from Egypt, and we're very proud that our first stop in Egypt we're going to be taking someone who I think Egypt is very proud of Dina, the fact that she emigrated from Egypt as a young child, and has risen to the highest levels of our American government, and that's a wonderful American story.
Karima has her own American story. She is the daughter of a Palestinian father and a German mother and I'm sure that Bill has some part of an American story, although I haven't heard it yet (laughter) I'm sure he will be glad to share it with you. He currently lives in Wisconsin and I don't know what his family roots are.
QUESTION: What is the teacher's name?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: William O'Brien, and it's Tina Karima Dauod. So that's that. I'll be happy to answer questions.
QUESTION: Poll after poll of the Arab world shows that they respect American values, they don't like American policies. And in fact every one of the countries you're going to go to, there is a great relationship, well, pretty good relationship at the governmental level with Egyptian government -- the United States government, the Saudi government -- the United States government, there's been some tensions with Turkey, but generally it's been a good relationship, and yet underneath that, polls show a lot of resentment at American policies, having to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict, the invasion of Iraq. So how much of this -- you know you talk about the four E's -- but how do you get at that issue? It's not -- they love American values, they all want to come to America, to live, to work, to study, it's just they don't like the policy and that's where the anger and resentment comes from.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well we certainly have a lot of work to do and I think it's wonderful -- he talked about those polls showing that basically the problem was policy and how would I handle that. Certainly we have a lot of work to do and that is why I said that I intend to talk about policy. For example, I believe that people in the countries we are visiting support the idea of an independent Palestinian state, so does President Bush, and in fact he is the first American president ever to call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. We want the Palestinian people to have better life. We want the Palestinian people to have jobs, and economic opportunity, and education, and a bright future. Now let's contrast that with what our opponents want. They want Palestinian youth to strap on bombs and go kill themselves. That is not a very hopeful vision of the future. That's why I think it's a choice between those futures. I think a lot of people in those countries would agree, yes, they want a Palestinian state, but lets talk about Iraq. You know, it's very difficult to break, no one likes war. On September 11, when I woke up that morning, no one in this country, including me, ever thought we were going to have to go war. We have, and we would be facing the sudden shock of that day and faced the growing problem of extremists throughout the world and then we faced the new light of that day, the new light of September 11. We have to look at what is in the world differently, we had to look at the part of Saddam Hussein, the only place in the world that was shooting at our pilots, at our planes as they were enforcing the world sanctions.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES CONT: We had to look at that quite differently and ultimately we made the decision -- because Saddam Hussein is a unique threat we thought -- to have to go into Iraq. But again, I think once we're there, we're there now let's look at, do the people of the world believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein? I think you'll find widespread consensus on that issue. Do the people of the world think that now we're there that we need to live up to our obligations to the people or Iraq and to try to ensure that Iraq is united and is secure and is free? And I think again most people would agree with that. Now we face a lot of challenges, no doubt about it. There's a lot of, there's a lot of miscommunication, there's a lot of incitement, there's a lot of hate speech, there's a lot of inaccuracies, there's a lot of inflammation. One of the reasons I wanted to bring a large group of our American press along is, and I hope you'll talk with you -- I hope you'll talk with your peers as you meet your peers around the world. One of the things I want to do is foster journalistic exchanges. Make sure that we have a commitment to journalistic practices that are independent and that are fair and that are objective.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well again, I think that we -- it's important that countries in the region work with us in constructive ways to try to improve the situation in Iraq. And we would hope and call on countries in the region to do that because they all have a stake in that we all have a stake in making sure that Iraq emerges united and able to defend itself and (inaudible). We think it's important that countries in the region work with us in constructive ways. The minister had met with Secretary Rice the day before he made those comments and I don't believe that they were made in one-on-one meetings. One of the things, Steve, that I'm going to try to focus on is -- the problem in Iraq today is being caused by an insurgency that is indiscriminately killing innocent Iraqis and fellow Muslims. And the people of Iraq -- I just read a report from Al Jazeera last night that a suicide bomber driving a bus full of people, full of Muslims, headed to Friday prayer blew them up, thereby indiscriminately killing innocents. They were all civilians. And I think it's very important that we focus on the cause of the problem in Iraq, that it's the innocent...that it's the indiscriminate killing of innocents that is causing the problem and surely leaders throughout the Muslim world do not condone that and do not support that. And I think it's important that and hope that they will work with us to speak out about that. You've seen a number of situations like that recently. The horrible situation where the -- where the suicide bomber attracted day laborers who were looking for jobs trying to support their families. And attracted them to I guess a vehicle and then blew them all up indiscriminately. And you know, I think we need to focus on what is happening in Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you concede that your job is an uphill battle or not and if so how do you describe how steep the hill is?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I think it's fair to say, it's fair to say it's a huge challenge. That it's long-term challenge for our country. It's not - I'm very realistic that this is very long term struggle and that's why I said I'm looking at what would I put in place. What type of things can I do to either create institutions that will help over the long haul or we'll, we'll set an example that can help over the long haul. For example this listening tour I hope is not, is the first of listening tours, not the only listening tours. This is not about Karen Hughes going to listen. This is about setting an example for our entire government and the hope is for here that Cabinet Secretaries I plan to report to the Cabinet and challenge the Cabinet that if they conduct business across the world that they would, they would decide opportunities for listening events and so they can listen and exchange in dialogue with people in the foreign publics that I would hope in sub-Cabinet leaders. We have hundreds of government officials who travel across the world every day. And as well as business leaders and I hope to set an example that again, that can help us. I recognize that this is not something that one person can do so I think part of my job is to set that example. Another part is too as I said put in place some of the institutional things that will help us. And again, I understand many of the, many of the differences and many of the concerns are deep seated and that I'm probably not going to change many minds. But if I make a connection, if I make a connection with a person or two that I can keep following up with after I leave here from this trip, I will consider it a success.
QUESTION: To what extent do you think Americans' presence in Iraq will help or hurt your mission? I mean I know, you know, our goals in Iraq are clear. The president has made them clear but you know, to what extent is our presence there in the region going to affect our public diplomacy?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, it's, you know it's a big part of the challenge because no one likes war. We don't like war; no one wants our sons and daughters to be at war. No American likes war, just as no one in the region, no Iraqi, they want to live in peace, they want to live in stability, its always difficult in a time of war, to talk about the end goal, which is peace and stability, and, and its sort of interesting you ask me about policies, I've had a lot of my meetings, people ask me about changing our policies. Well, we have made one very substantive change in our policy, and that is for sixty years, we had a policy of stability in the Middle East and ignoring the freedom deficit there, thinking that would give, lead to greater security, and instead what it lead to was this, as Secretary Rice has said, this deep malignancy that is so profound that it actually has caused people to get on planes and fly them into buildings full of innocent people. And so, we've got a lot of work to do but we believe that as people, as we work to create greater freedom, as we work to create more space for people to achieve their legitimate aspirations, that that, over the long term is the way people begin and that is a significant change in our policy.
QUESTION: Can I go, just quickly, to back to the Saudi question that Steve asked, you said that the Foreign Minister had not mentioned to the Secretary what he said to the press the next day. Well, it seems to me that is a problem when foreign officials aren't honest with you the Secretary, American officials with what is going on in the region. Do you expect, do you think its important that the people you are on the visit with now to be honest and open with you and tell you exactly how things are in the region?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Oh, I would hope so, I would hope that that's one of the things that we seek, is an honest and open exchange. I, when I was at the White House, I attended many meeting with Pres Bush and foreign leaders and the discussions were normally very open and very honest and very frank. And that's the President's style, he's a pretty bottom-line person. I've heard Secretary Rice meeting with many foreign leaders and having very open and very honest and very frank discussions, and I didn't mean to suggest that there was, maybe he was responding to a question at a press conference the next day and just went a little further than he had with the Secretary, I don't know the exact circumstances, it was what -- was it a New York Time's fault? Those probing questions from the New York Times pushed him further than he really wanted to go! (laughter)
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: No, no but I didn't mean to imply that there was anything to that, I was just saying that, you know, we meet all the time, as leaders, and we listen to the (inaudible) of leaders all the time and we hear concerns and there are concerns about Iraq all the time. We have -- I also (inaudible) in New York a briefing that the Secretary received from one of our generals from Iraq, talking about progress that we're making in standing up the Iraqi army, and he was very encouraged by the progress that we were making.
QUESTION: Who set up most of your meetings, when you just say "opposition leaders" -- if you went through the governments -- you didn't go through the governments to set up all the meetings, did you, or are we really going to hear any opposition voices in, in some of these groups that you are going to be meeting with?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Did I say opposition? Yeah, we worked with our Embassy and asked them to reach out to opinion leaders, to a wide range of people, and students, and we, in some cases, as the head of Public Diplomacy, I oversee a lot of our exchange programs, so I'm going to be meeting with students who are participating in our exchange programs. One group of students through the YES program that is a group of high school students that we tried to reach out to younger students, and non-elites and bring them to the United States -- they came over the summer, so I'm going to meet with them and talk about their experience, and talk about what they saw -- did their opinion changed after visiting our country....
QUESTION: But are these any opposition leaders, I think that was her question.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Are you going to meet with any opposition leaders?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Such as?
QUESTION: I was just...groups that would not be sanctioned by the government, for example. Groups that maybe the Egyptian government would not be comfortable with you talking to. Was there any controversy in the people that you are meeting?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We're meeting with a group of opinion leaders who have a wide range of opinions on the second day of our visit and some of them don't agree with --
QUESTION: I'd like to be very specific, are you going to meet with anybody from the Muslim Brotherhood?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I do not believe we're...I don't believe so.
QUESTION: And, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition group in Egypt -- so they represent a large constituency --
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, we are, as the Secretary has said in the past, Jonathan, I know you've had extended conversations with her about this, we're respectful of Egypt's laws, and a, we're respectful of Egypt's laws, and it's a --
QUESTION: ...it's a public diplomacy challenge, though, I mean, that's just regardless of what the Egyptian government --
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'm going to be hearing, I think, from a wide variety of opinion leaders and meeting with a number of different religious leaders as well.
QUESTION: These are the very people though, you need to reach really into, I mean the people in the American University, they already took your point of view, so the people that, if you're talking about diverse audience, the ones who oppose your ideas, so these are the ones you need to get closer to.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: We worked with our Embassy and then asked them to recommend diverse audiences with, for me to be with.
QUESTION: It would be nice to get a list of who you are going to meet with.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Ok, yeah, I'm sure we'll be providing lists, yeah, absolutely.
QUESTION: Karen, you mentioned the damage that's been done by terrorists in Iraq, and in Saudi Arabia. Are you saying that you don't believe that the citizens in those countries have gotten the message of that kind of damage, and do you see as your role not only to talk about American values, but to a contrast our values with the values of terrorists.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I do see my role is to contrast our values with those of terrorists, because we have two competing views here, and I think we have to look, at the end of the day, what are our policies offering young people in the Middle East, and what are the violent extremist, terrorist policies offering young people in the Middle East? And our policies are designed to promote education, to, to foster opportunity, to create freedom of speech and expression and greater opportunity for young people to be able to express themselves, to make a difference to their own futures. The terrorists, their policies -- again, they didn't force young people, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons to strap on bombs and go blow themselves up, that's not a very hopeful future, to say the least.
QUESTION: Do you feel their message is not getting through in Iraq and Saudi Arabia? Do you feel like the citizens --
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: When I read some of the media coverage, I don't think that's necessarily the way its portrayed. Lets put it that way. But at every opportunity I think I will work to point out those contrasts. We're going to go to some cultural sites in Egypt that we have worked with the Egyptian government, our government has partnered with the Egyptian government to help restore and I will remind --
QUESTION: Yes, and I will remind people that we believe its important to preserve a country's cultural heritage, including important Islamic heritage sites, whereas the terrorists in Afghanistan destroyed much of that country's cultural heritage.
QUESTION: Karen, I'm sorry -can I follow up on your last point. How are you going to -- I'll speak loudly so everybody else can here -- how are you going to respond, to perhaps questions that you will be getting about the, what the international community, and many Americans saw in the wake of Katrina. You mentioned that this is a land, the United States, the land of education, opportunity where people can succeed, but the images that so many saw on the television, that Secretary Rice herself addressed, were those of poor blacks who weren't benefiting from the education and the jobs and all the other opportunities that other Americans have.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: By very frankly acknowledging that because you are a democracy does not mean that you are perfect, and we do have persistent problems with poverty in this country, problems that the President is working to address, like his no child left behind educational reforms, and we as Americans hurt for our fellow Americans, as we saw people that we weren't able to rescue fast enough in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and the world saw that too. But what I will challenge is in the idea that it was because of race, which I saw covered again in much of the world media. As the President has said, we did not respond fast enough or effectively enough at every level, from the federal level, to the local, to the state, and to the extent that he accepted responsibility, to the extent that the federal government in its call for an investigation to find out why and, I think we're already seeing that we've learned some lessons. We saw in the preparations in Texas, for Rita, that we were beginning to act upon and learn lessons, but what I will challenge is in the idea that I saw again widely reported in newspapers that it was based on race. It was based on the fact that unfortunately it was -- we were making, everyone, particularly those of us who are government officials. We want to do everything possible to help all Americans, and unfortunately, in New Orleans, the cause of the difficulty -- we haven't had an investigation yet, but I think its fairly clear the difference in Texas, the difference in New Orleans, was that the evacuation was much more effective, they were able to move people out of those coastal areas, in New Orleans, unfortunately, it was, in many cases, the poor, elderly, children who weren't able to get out.
QUESTION: Do you think -- I'm trying to get more at the idea, that in the United States, even though we are a democracy there are a lot of poor people who don't have a good education and as a result don't have good jobs. Is that something that, you know, are you going to talk about that at all?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I expect that people will ask me about what they saw -- about the images that they saw, and that will give me an opportunity to acknowledge as I said that just because we're a democracy does not mean that we're perfect and we have significant social problems in our own country, and we still, we have we do still have deep persistent poverty in our inner cities in probably most of our inner cities. Again that's something that the President's domestic agenda is designed to work on, but I think that it, part of my approach is -- I'm going to try to be as honest as I can and acknowledge the fact that yes, we don't have all the answers. We do believe that because we have an open society, where the press is able to broadcast those images, that the public is able to see those kind of problems, the government has to be accountable for those kind of problems, the President of the United States has to answer for our hurricane response. And that is also a problem for the President to work on.
QUESTION: Have you talked, did you talk to President Bush about Hurricane Rita and since New Orleans -- I mean, have you...
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I have not talked to him about hurricane Rita. I traveled with him to UNGA last week and I was on the plane with him and we discussed a lot of different things.
QUESTION: But not in the last day or two.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: No, I haven't. But he's traveling.
QUESTION: And to what extent, are you still, I know how close you are with the President, are you still advising him on what's beyond your role now, as public diplomacy. Are you still, is he still calling you and asking you and asking --
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: You don't think I have my hands full enough? (laughter). I mean, I still talk with the President, as I said I traveled with him to UNGA, I saw him at my swearing in ceremony, I anticipate that I'll still spend some time at Camp David, but my focus is going to be on this huge public diplomacy challenge that he has asked me to take on.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, I'm looking at a lot of it. As you know we're working, Steve, on opening, in fact I think they're going to open it on a test basis while I'm gone, this rapid response center, where we can, where I can actually walk to a room in a State Department and have live, simultaneous translation. Right now I'm still sort of reading reports that tend to be written, like today on the plane I read a report of last, of yesterday's - some 8 or 9 pages, that shows me selected cartoons, some highlights of coverage and what different stations are covering, not only Al Jazeera, but Al Arabiya and others, but we are in the process, of getting our media resource center up and going. And I hope to be able to show you all -- in a month or show.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Right now, I think it, its primarily Middle East but it has the capability of being global, and I think that obviously in the future its going to need to be, we need to monitor Latin American, and Southeast Asia, other regions of the world as well.
QUESTION: Is that something you'll provide to our press, the American press, the translations and that --
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: it's mainly for you?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, for our senior -- my goal is to provide it to other --the Whitehouse, to the Department of Defense, to other -- for us to be -- at the State Department a be service provider to other agencies. Now again, a lot of different agencies do some form of monitoring of the media across the world. A lot of it tends to be copies of newspaper editorials.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Right, right, I think what's, lacking from my perspective as a communicator is a sense of perspective, and that's what I hope to gain, the big story that's dominating the news here in this market is. And, you know, sort of that sense of what people are paying attention to, what people are hearing about, what the thrust of the coverage is, and that's what I'm looking for, Steve, to be able to effectively respond, you have to, kind of, the first step is to know exactly what's getting the play and what's having resonance and what's not.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'm sorry, what?
QUESTION: I saw headlines pretty much around the world about that, yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask you -- in Saudi Arabia in public, how forcefully will you recognize that the United States made a mistake, in effectively sacrificing certain values for the sake of stability, because that will be taken as a direct reference to your whole relationship with the Royal Family.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Why don't we move that thought until Saudi Arabia, and you'll see, ok?
QUESTION: Can you tell us more....
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: I'd rather talk about it there than have it ... in advance.
QUESTION: And what you are going to monitor, do you have a feel for what you need to monitor, is it Al Jazeera and al Arabiya -- will that be the initial focus of the simultaneous translation.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, you know, I think Jonathan, it would be -- the goal of the simultaneous, is that if, if something starts happening, for example, like a Newsweek Quran story, where it started really catching fire, and provoking riots across the world, I want to be able to walk and know what's happening, I want to be able to see and have it translated and know sort of how its playing and so that's the goal. We have the capability of getting a lot of different feeds and a lot of different channels and a lot of different things, so I think it would depend on the situation and what exactly it is and where exactly it is, but again the point is that the first step is to really know. And part of this will also be done in the region and in the Embassies, and actually, because an Embassy that first alerted us to the Newsweek story.
QUESTION: But I can't believe this was not done before.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, again as I say, its -- when I got to the, when I arrived and was trying to figure out how could I begin responding, its done -- I think the answer is that its done, but its done on a piecemeal basis. A lot of it is monitoring of print media rather than electronic media, yet most of the people in the region get their media over electronic media.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Its not necessarily done real time, so when I get a report, it's a report about what happened yesterday, as compared to, as opposed to right now.
QUESTION: I just want to ask you, do you think the problem is with the message or the messenger? You explain to us so simply that it's us against them, its black and white, it's people who cherish freedom and anti-freedom, sort of, opponents or enemies. What went wrong, how can people get this message?
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Well, you know, there are a lot of different factors, there are a lot of people who are very troubled, specifically about the war in Iraq. The United States is the world's only superpower, and along with the respect that that urge comes some resentment. One of my jobs is to help show people throughout the world that we use that power for good, as well, that we are a very compassionate country. There are a number of examples of countries where people know the way in which America is (inaudible) when people know that it tends to change their opinions, but again it's a long, long process. We live in a very different world than we lived in back during the cold war. And then in the cold war, you know our public diplomacy challenge was we were trying to get information into people who wanted it, they were hungry for it. And now we live in the midst of this information explosion, you can get all the information you want, anytime, all day long, 24 hours, some of it's true, a lot of it's not, a lot of it's myth, a lot of it's rumor, a lot of it's innuendo, a lot of it's hate, and so it's a very, very complex and difficult media environment that we face.
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Exactly, exactly
UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: All right. Do I get to eat my dinner? Thank ya'll so much, I'm glad you're here.