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High-Level Panel on Girls Education Dinner

Ambassador Killion's Remarks at the High-Level Panel on Girls Education Dinner

The dinner was held on May 26th to honor members of the High-Level Panel that was created as part of the Global Partnership for Girls' and Women's Education initiative.  The dinner was attended by several Panel members, including His Highness the Aga Khan; U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer; Prime Minister of Mali, Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé; and CEO of Grupo ABC de Comunicação, Nizan Guanaes.  Also in attendance were Princess Zahra Aga Khan, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, CBS News correspondent, Sheila MacVicar, and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for External Relations, Eric Falt.  Guests were treated to a soulful performance by rising jazz singer, China Moses and renowned jazz pianist, Alain Jean-Marie.

Her Excellency, the Prime Minister of Mali
His Highness the Aga Khan
Madame Director General
Madame Assistant Secretary
Honored guests, fellow ambassadors and dear friends,

We are honored to have you with us today to celebrate a crucial step forward in the empowerment of women worldwide.  Today marked the launch of a powerful partnership, led by UNESCO, to create a "Better Life, Better Future" for girls around the world.  We were doubly honored by having so many esteemed guests to help get this off the ground, including some of the most striking examples of female leadership.  You are the shining role models for the young girls who benefit from education initiatives, whether public or private sector - thank you so much for being here today and helping create leaders of tomorrow.

Education is a cause that hits home for me.  My first and major female role model - my mother - was a teacher. She grew up very poor on a farm.  And she excelled in school and she beat all the boys and all the girls.  She was the valedictorian of her high school.  She lived in Delaware, and in Delaware if you were the Valedictorian you got an all-expenses paid scholarship to the University of Delaware.  But her father didn't think girls should go to college.  My mother is the most honest person I've ever known, and she needed five dollars to pay the admissions fee to get the scholarship, so she took that five dollars from her father's wallet- the only thing she ever stole.  From that she touched so many lives as a teacher.  

To me, it's not just about helping girls build a better future for themselves - empowered women inspire everyone around them.  There's a saying in Haiti that women are the literal pillar of the house and thus of society.  They bear the load, they keep the roof from collapsing.  Education strengthens these pillars.  Studies done by everyone from governments to international organizations to even investment banks state clearly that when girls and women are educated, GDP is higher - in both developed and developing countries, poverty is reduced, infant mortality declines, deforestation is less, and governance is stronger.   To me, it's common sense that helping women and girls have better access to education benefits society as a whole.

We heard today from our esteemed panelists, from the Director General, from the Secretary General and from Secretary Clinton, over and over, how important it is that we work together across borders, philosophies, socioeconomic levels and genders to make girls' education a priority.  It's something we take very seriously as a Mission.  Through work with UNESCO and partnerships with companies and institutions like Procter & Gamble, the Packard Foundation, Microsoft, and so many others, we've been able to help combat dropout rates for teenage girls, fund mobile literacy programs and raise money and awareness for targeted educational programs around the world.  More and more, women are taking their place in the world as our key decision-makers.  Frankly, we as a whole are all the better for it.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce an extraordinary woman who has graciously agreed to perform for us tonight.  Ms. China Moses has headlined at jazz clubs and festivals around the world, including the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival.  The daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Gilbert Moses, Ms. Moses takes talent to a whole new level.  Performing with her is renowned jazz pianist Alain Jean-Marie.  Originally from Guadeloupe, Mr. Jean-Marie has received acclaim and prizes for his work, including the 2000 Django d'Or.  It's a privilege and a treat to have them in our home tonight.  Ladies and gentlemen - China Moses and Alain Jean-Marie!