2:21 P.M. ECT
FIRST LADY BIDEN: Thank you, María de Lourdes, for that very kind introduction.
Mr. President, Madam First Lady, María Mercedes, Foreign Minister Holguín, and Ambassador Baki, Ministers of State, and to you, the people of Ecuador:
Here, at the center of the world, there is so much to fill us with awe: the majestic Andes, the volcanos like fire gods waiting to awaken. From the Galapagos to the Amazon, the story of our very origins on Earth. The breathtaking coast and the history that dusts every stone and brick that lines the streets of Quito.
And no less spectacular is the heart of the Ecuadorian people. Thank you for your warm hospitality and welcome.
I am honored to be here in this beautiful capital today. And on behalf of my husband and the people of the United States: Buenas tardes. (Applause.)
Ambassador Fitzpatrick, you and Silvana are doing great work here. And our U.S. Embassy team represents the United States with excellence every day. Thank you to both of you. (Applause.)
Two hundred years ago next week, you won independence from Spain right here in Quito, at the Battle of Pichincha.
And since then, you’ve built a democracy that is able to withstand the tides of time.
Today, you have a President and a First Lady who serve the people.
President Lasso is carving his place in your history by reaching out to those who have often been ignored or left behind, by listening to those who have faced inequality and discrimination and poverty and finding solutions for their lives.
As he said in his inaugural address, “I have not come to satisfy the hatred of a few, but to satisfy the hunger of many.” (Applause.)
Thank you, President Lasso, for leading with courage and conviction.
And, Madam First Lady, today I saw your heart through your work to serve children of Ecuador’s most vulnerable. And may God bless you. (Applause.)
Ecuador, the progress you’ve made here is a light to your neighbors. And your illumination can bring a more equitable and sustainable future in this corner of the world.
But alone, you can only do so much. Any one of us can only do so much. So that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today: how when we work together, we can make our nations and our world stronger.
A little over a week ago, in a small school on the other side of the world, I sat with Ukrainian mothers, with tears permanently in — on the edges of their eyes, as if they could barely contain their sadness.
While they wore brave faces, they grasped their children’s hand or touched their children’s hair, unable to bear to lose the physical connection for even a moment.
The mothers I met there told me about the violence; the days and days without food, harbored in basements, no sunlight. They never wanted to leave their homes, but what else could they do?
Perhaps you’re wondering why I am telling you about mothers who are almost 7,000 miles away. After all, there are desperate parents all around this world.
I met them just two days ago in Buffalo, New York, in my own country — a mother and a father weeping over the daughter whose life was stolen in a hateful gun massacre.
I met Syrian mothers in Jordan who told me that they couldn’t protect their daughters from the soldiers who came to abuse them.
I met a mother in a Kenyan refugee camp who told me of leaving her child’s lifeless body behind in the sand because she only had the strength to carry one of her two children.
And I will meet the children of Venezuelan parents later today when your First Lady and I visit students whose families have fled their homes.
It’s tempting to believe that other people’s problems are theirs to solve alone. What does a terrified mother in Ukraine matter to someone who is oceans away? What does a hungry child in Ecuador matter to a family in New York? What does inequality in the United States matter to young people right here in Quito?
But they do matter. Injustice and corruption, poverty and pollution, disease and despair — they aren’t contained by any borders.
If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, from these last few years of sickness and sorrow, it’s how one deadly virus can move through the world, how hunger and violence are woven together, how a war in Europe can ripple through stock markets and supermarkets here, how the loss of trees in your Amazon can take a piece of the future from all of us.
But we’ve seen something else in the past few years as well. We’ve seen how kindness can spread through something as simple as wearing a mask. We’ve seen calls for injustice [justice] echoing through the streets of cities near and far. We’ve seen countries rise up against tyrants and offer shelter to their neighbors. Unexpected acts of kindness that speak to our very humanity.
Yes, we are connected, especially in the Americas. If one nation is vulnerable to authorit- — authoritarianism or a health crisis or poverty, it won’t be long before those same problems reach us all.
But when nations here in South America embrace democracy, you become the living proof that governments can deliver for the people that they represent, inspiring others to follow your lead.
When parents in every hemisphere don’t have to worry about how they will have to feed their children or hide them from violence, when they can work in their home countries and build their communities, their children can learn and grow and become the leaders and the innovators that we need.
My husband, Joe, has always said that politics is personal, and that’s why he’s worked so hard to build relationships throughout the world and here in Ecuador.
You know Joe, and I hope that you know that he cares deeply about you. And I do too. And that’s why I’m here today.
The United States is committed to Ecuador. Together — (applause) — thank you. Together, we vaccinated your people, and we’re working — working on strengthening your healthcare system. Together, we’ve trained and mentored entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially those run by women.
And together, we’ve worked to preserve Ecuador’s precious environment, help more students go to college. And together, we will defend your government from cyberattacks.
And it’s not just Ecuador. The United States, like you, is investing throughout this region. And, like you, we are committed to building rela- — lasting relationships.
Tomorrow, I will head to Panama and then Costa Rica — two other critical democracies. From visiting schools and meeting students, to learning about health systems and how they’re serving patients, I’m going to see things that are making lives better.
And, in June, Joe and I are excited to invite leaders and their spouses to Los Angeles, California, for the Summit of the Americas.
At the summit, our leaders have an ambitious agenda to come together on things like achieving an equitable and sustainable future, building health and pandemic resilience, and strengthening democratic government [governance].
But let — today, let me say this: The United States stands with you, the people of Ecuador — (applause) — and everyone who believes in education and health, democracy and justice, and working together to build a stronger world for us all.
There are moments that transcend words; it is often the language of motherhood: A deep ache that just runs down the slope of her shoulders that says, “My child is in danger, and I don’t know what to do.” Or the shift of a jaw, set in determination — a small shadow that tells the world, “There is nothing — nothing — I wouldn’t do to keep my children safe.”
Sometimes it’s a sigh that resonates from a place I know well, somewhere hidden inside of all parents, where we keep memories of first steps and the sweet, familiar scent of your child resting in your arms. Or it’s a smile that has seen the hard edges of the world but bends towards hope.
No one needs to translate that strength, that yearning, that love.
Every terrified mother or father, every hungry child, every hopeful student and hardworking person who dreams of a better world, they’re not just “other people.” The threads of their lives are tied to ours, no matter how far apart we are.
No one can heal the world’s wounds alone — not the United States, not Ecuador. But we can be the arms of welcome and the hands of kindness.
We can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and lift each other when we fall. We can and we will. And we will build a better world together. (Applause.)
Thank you, and may God bless you. (Applause.)