SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s really wonderful to be here in this truly historic institution that has brought Egyptians and Americans together for so many years – continues to do that, continues to build such strong bonds between our people, and especially our young people – and has been training Egyptians and Americans alike, and it’s something we place great value on.
And yes, this is my first – literally the first stop in Egypt over the next two or three days in Egypt. I’m then heading to Israel, the West Bank. But I wanted to start here for a couple of reasons. So the main reason is this: As we’re looking at the partnership between the United States and Egypt, the strategic partnership that is of great consequence to the United States, we know that going forward that partnership ultimately is going to be built and sustained and strengthened by the people here today and the people that you represent. Sixty percent of the population in Egypt, of course, is 25 years old or younger. So this is an incredibly dynamic and youthful place. It’s important for us not just to engage government to government, as important as that is, but to engage with every sector of society, and again, especially the rising generation of Egyptians because, quite literally, you will be the ones making this country and you will be the ones who are carrying forward the relationship with the United States.
So that was important for me, for us to get a chance really to hear from you, I hope as much as you may hear from me. We want to know what’s on your minds, what you’re thinking about, what you’re concerned about, and how you’re looking at things. Because for me, the most important thing is this: Just because we’ve done something one way for the last 50 years doesn’t mean we need to do it the same way for the next 50 years.
And for those of us in positions of responsibility, it’s vitally important that we’re constantly asking ourselves questions, having – hearing questions from others, and particularly thinking about new and different ways to do things – things that you’re all engaged in in so many different ways, whether it’s dealing with climate change – and I know we’ll want to talk about that, especially coming off of COP; whether it’s finding ways to build genuinely sustainable economic growth that empowers every sector of society, notably women; whether it’s looking at the challenges that we’re facing globally that affect Egyptians and Americans as well, from global health to the challenges of food insecurity. All of these things I know are front and center in your own concern and your own thinking. But we want to know, we want to understand how we can best partner together and also to, again, listen to your ideas, listen to your thoughts.
One of the things we established recently was a council of advisors for the ambassador – a youth council. But what’s so important about it is – and I know some of you have participated – what’s really important about it is it’s not just designed to advise our team and our ambassador on so-called youth issues; it’s designed to advise him and the team on every issue of concern to both of our societies, because your voices, your views, your perspectives, your ideas, your insights are by definition going to be different than the ones that we have, that people who are a little bit older like me may have, and we need to be constantly getting that input and getting that advice, getting those ideas.
So that’s really why I wanted to start here. I think this is the most vital place for making sure that we are thinking together, we are working together, as Egyptians, as Americans, but also as global citizens, which our two countries have to be given the importance (inaudible).
So in a nutshell that’s why I’m here. You said we have an incredibly diverse group.
MS AZM: Yes.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I know that. I’ve seen everyone’s backgrounds and biography, and it’s kind of intimidating. But we’ll do the best we can with that. And I’m really eager to have a conversation. So with that.
MS AZM: Actually, this is a statement of Egyptian future. They represent really the Egyptian future that – of youth, 20 or 30 years ahead of us, and you will lead – be leading this country at one point.
At this point, I would like to ask my fellow colleagues from the press to please leave with Mr. Jacob. I know it’s a frustration. (Laughter.) This is how it is. Please, if you can leave now so we can resume our discussion. Thank you very much.