Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Minister Kapil Sibal speak in Gaston
Yesterday morning, while most Hoyas were still warm in their beds, others were lining up outside Gaston Hall at the crack of dawn, hoping to get a seat for a speech by one of the nation’s biggest political figures. The speech they were waiting for was by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke at 8:30 a.m. for the opening address of the U.S.-India Higher Education Summit.
“Democracy depends on education,” Clinton said of the importance of the summit, which marks the first time that the world’s two largest democracies have come together to discuss what she believes to be the crux of their political systems.
Also present for the summt were Minister of Human Resource Development in India Kapil Sibal, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, University President Jack DeGoia, and 300 presidents, chancellors, and other important educational figures from the U.S. and India. Because of all the high-profile guests, only about a hundred of the students who lined up were allowed seats, and those lucky hundred were relegated to the balconies of Gaston.
Clinton began her remarks by welcoming the students in attendance. She took the chance to make a plug for careers in the Foreign Service—considering the sleep that most sacrificed to be there, her message probably did not fall on deaf ears.
She then outlined the United States’s commitment to collaborate on issues of higher education with India.
“Investing in education is in our common interest,” she said.
She continued by saying that education is a “passport to understanding,” along with building international relationships and the importance of “looking outward” in the world that we now inhabit.
There are currently 100,000 Indian students studying in the United States, and one of the summit’s goals is for more U.S. students to take on coursework in Indian universities. Through the Obama-Singh Initiative, millions of dollars have been committed to heightening collaboration through discourse, exchange, and other means.
Through such exchanges, the U.S. and India seek to develop a cooperative relationship for educational reform, understanding, and the ripple effect that such changes can have through other aspects of their respective countries.
Clinton stressed that this collaborative relationship should not be contained to the government, but should transcend to a more personal level—student to student, faculty to faculty, and business to business—as a means of creating viable, lasting cooperation.
To emphasize the possibilities of collaboration on a personal level, Clinton shared a story about Stanford University students who teamed up with Indian students to design a cheaper, more efficient infant incubator. They were successful in engineering a portable, no-electricity, inexpensive incubator, which, even after graduating, they are still working on and distributing.
As a framework for the summit, Clinton told participants to start “talking about hopes for a better world.”
“I challenge all of us to jump start these relationships,” she said, referring to the ways universities, businesses and individuals can work together for an “intertwined” future.
Following the speech by the Secretary of State, Kapil Sibal then addressed the room. He created an appropriate distinction between the United States, which defined much of the 20th century, and the new role that India, a nascent democracy and the largest in the world, will play in shaping the 21st century.
He described Indian youth as “energetic, on-the-move, and full of hope,” and stressed that if India can successfully educate their youth, the nation can use its huge demographic advantage to become “an integral part of the global work force.”
By 2020, the Indian government hopes for 30 million more students to attain higher education. This calls for thousands of new universities, colleges, and vocational schools throughout the country.
In reforming and developing the higher education structure in India, Sibal highlighted the U.S. and India as “natural partners in the quest for sustainable solutions.”
He stressed this as particularly important due to the international nature of 21st century issues and the need to transcend “boundaries” to address such problems.
“Technology is death of distance” he said. “Partnerships will lead to the germination of knowledge.” By seeking “global knowledge networks,” Sibal asserted that the world can witness a serious change for the better in its education.
The conference is focused on what kind of change this might be, and what such cooperative relationships should entail. Sibal, for example, imagined students being able to enroll in classes across universities, countries, and continents.
“Knowledge has no limits, he said. “Let our partnership break down the barriers that limit us.”