Good evening. I am so pleased to join you here today for the IV Congreso Miraflores and to have the chance to address such an impressive group of young people and your families. It is also an honor to join President Peña-Nieto and Carlos Slim, who are important partners in my government’s support for the educational opportunities, youth empowerment, and workforce development necessary to make North America the most prosperous economic region in the world.
I would also like to thank Madre Salud Conde Nieto, Director General of Colegios Miraflores in Mexico, and all faculty members here. Thank you for inviting me to come speak to you all.
Today, I stand before you, a group of students who will likely become the future leaders of Mexico. Soon enough, you will all graduate and will follow in the footsteps of alumni that have gone on to become CEOs, doctors, scientists and politicians.
You will accomplish incredible feats in the arts and architecture, in medicine and mathematics. And for every one of your achievements, you will carry forth Mexico’s legacy, exemplified by Nobel Prize Laureates Alfonso García Robles, Octavio Paz and Mario Molina, Astronauts Felipe Neri Vela and José Hernández, and the promotion of Mexican’s culture set forth in Frida Kahlo’s paintings[LFG(C1] . Your actions represent not only your generation, but the hard work your parents and grandparents have put into shaping this nation and making these opportunities possible.
Your achievements begin at a time when ties between the United States and Mexico are the strongest they have ever been. We have a rich landscape of partnerships, family ties, and shared strategic interests. Mexico and the United States have long worked towards greater economic integration and reaped the benefits of a robust commercial relationship.
It has been a great honor these past several years to watch the relationship between our two nations grow through mutual respect and equal partnership.
The United States and Mexico became closer partners through the North American Free Trade Agreement more than twenty years ago. Few, if any of you students, were even alive back then! More recently, through the North American Leaders’ Summits and the landmark Merida Initiative of 2008, the United States and Mexico have cooperated to improve North American competitiveness, ensure the safety of their citizens, promote clean energy and a healthy environment.
Did you know that Mexico is the United States’ third largest trading partner (behind Canada and China) and our second largest export market? The amount of bilateral trade has boomed to over $550 billion dollars in 2014 and will continue to grow in 2015. That amounts to a million dollars a minute.
Our ties grew even closer with the inauguration of the High Level Economic Dialogue between our two nations in 2013. We have accomplished many things, including facilitating greater trade and tourism and sending more than 27,000 Mexican students and teachers to the United States in 2014, while also boosting bilateral education agreements. U.S. Embassy Mexico City’s visa unit is one of the busiest in the world, processing up to 3,000 visas per day. About 15 million Mexicans visit the U.S. every year and 25 million Americans visited Mexico last year!
Many people may tell you that you are the future of the U.S.-Mexican bilateral relationship, but that’s not exactly true. You are the future, but you are also the present. Your contribution has already begun. By educating yourselves, you ensure that the flow of ideas between our two countries continues to tie us together.
Through formal education you have learned to challenge the assumptions of the past and make quantitative decisions about your future. Your community involvement, social activism, and science projects aren’t simply building a resume for future employment, but are impacting the lives around you today.
However, research, facts, and social activism are only one side of a well-rounded education. Mexico and the United States are tied by trade, yes, but more than that, we are tied by the flow of ideas and invention. Classroom learning can only take this so far. Your high school has created a lens though which you view history, science, and politics.
Innovation and progress are only possible by challenging this lens and reassessing your views. Moving outside of the classroom makes this possible as communication and cooperation blossom from the relationship between people and cultures. We are tied across a long and active border with a shared history and shared families and communities.
Both the United States and Mexico have reaffirmed their commitment to increasing high-level educational exchanges and joint research. Both nations see the value in exposing their youth to new cultures and ideas.
Can I quickly get a show of hands to see how many of you have visited the United States?
Now can I get a quick show of hands to see how many of you have considered studying at some point in the United States?
I urge every single one of you to participate in a cultural or educational exchange.
President Peña-Nieto and President Obama recognize educational exchange as a way to foster innovation and understanding. That is why we are working closely to increase academic exchanges in both directions and the study of English. Did you know our binational Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship program is one of the largest post-graduate exchange programs, not only in the region, but in the world? Each year, hundreds of American and Mexican students and researchers take advantage of this renowned scholarship to learn more about each other’s countries, cultures, and professional opportunities. They follow in the footsteps of such notables as Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade. I urge each of you to seriously consider studying in my country as well and applying for a Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship in the future.
Our EducationUSA advising centers are a great resource for students looking to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees, or research opportunities, in the U.S. We have a center right here in Mexico City at the Benjamin Franklin Library. I encourage you all to drop by, not only to learn about the more than 4,000 universities in the United States, but to also take part in our movie nights, our English conversation clubs, and our music and film programs.
Your understanding of the shared values and experiences of our two nations will help dispel stereotypes and undermine sensational headlines that dominate our media. You can help us combat the cultural distortions which continue to undermine the progress both the United States and Mexico have made. You can represent the very best of your country in the U.S. and in the world.
Together, let’s remember that the progress and success our nations have enjoyed have never been guaranteed. Both have been fought for and will continue to be fought for. And this fight can be made that much easier through our partnership – our support for one another.
Remember that you are the present and the future of Mexico.
And as you embark on your own paths to reach whatever successes you may reach, please remember that you are now and will continue to be a part of the U.S. – Mexican relationship.
Thank you very much!