Remarks by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy on the Let Girls Learn Initiative Announcement with First Lady Michelle Obama

Good Morning. It is an honor to be here with three women I greatly admire to talk about one of the most important issues in the world today – the education of girls and young women.

I am deeply saddened by to learn of the loss of Japanese citizens in Tunisia and our hearts go out to their families and to the Japanese people and we pray for a recovery for all those wounded in the attack.

Nothing will make a greater contribution to peace, or to lifting families out of poverty than the education of mothers, daughters, and sisters around the world. Like so many of today’s challenges, this cannot be solved by one country acting alone.

It is going to take a partnership between countries committed to democracy and human rights. And there are no two countries more committed to those fundamental values than the United States and Japan.

Though barriers still exist, girls in the United States and Japan are fortunate to have access to an education that can transform our lives and our societies. I worked in the New York City school system for 10 years before coming to Japan and every day I saw the power of knowledge to change the world.

Since my arrival as Ambassador I have met young women who are putting their education to use to benefit this society – working to rebuild the devastated Tohoku region, working to help other women enter politics and climb the corporate ladder, advocating for people with disabilities, and on behalf of the LGBT community.

And I have met students in Global High Schools who are already helping to build schools in developing countries, increase access to clean water, studying threats of climate change and sharing the lessons Japan has learned from its own terrible experiences with natural disasters.

This broad commitment to helping others is one of the values that our countries share. Together the US and Japan provide over 40% of the worlds development aid. This weeks UN conference in Sendai on disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance was just one more example of the Japan’s leadership and our global partnership to help the world’s most vulnerable.

That work has been done day in and day out for more than 50 years by The Peace Corps and The JOCV. In places that most of us will never even visit, young Americans and Japanese are living and working in to address the most basic yet seemingly insurmountable barriers to human dignity and peace -a disproportionate share of which are faced by women.

Today, our countries are announcing a powerful new initiative with the same kind of energy that catapulted the Peace Corps to success and lasting impact. At one of his last stops in the 1960 Presidential campaign, my father stood on the steps of a college campus at 2 am and spontaneously proposed the idea that young people should spend part of their life serving others overseas – learning from them as well as teaching them skills they could use to build more peaceful and prosperous societies. In the next couple of weeks, over 25,000 students had responded – and less than 2 months after he became President, the Peace Corps was established.

As of today, more than 215,000 volunteers have served overseas – and come home to transform the United States as well.

That is the kind of response we need now on behalf of women and girls. When we ask ourselves – what will help to bring peace to our troubled and violent world?

One of the answers that has worked time and again is the practical idealism of committed people who bring change by living and working in cultures very different from their own, who work with parents and grandparents to empower their daughters and granddaughters to live with dignity, to finish school, to pursue their dreams, and to raise their families out of poverty.

By investing in the slow daily work of understanding, communicating, teaching and learning from each other Let Girls Learn can create a working model of the world we want our children to inherit.

As President Kennedy’s daughter, I am proud to be here today. I know he would be inspired by the work of our two dazzling First Ladies and the thousands of girls whose lives will be changed by the commitment they are making this morning.