Instead, he focused on the broad global challenges that he said actually present “opportunities” for international cooperation and American leadership. Such challenges include “a dramatically changing climate,” demographic changes (defined most starkly by countries in North Africa and the Middle East, he said, where about half the population is under 20 years old), human rights, and global stability and security.
Kerry received some of the longest applause of his speech when he included “gender equality” among the values the US must be promoting. “Countries are in fact more peaceful and prosperous when women and girls are afforded full rights and equal opportunity,” he noted.
His second major theme was the opportunity presented by an expanding and globalizing economy – and how the US risks missing that opportunity if it focuses too single-mindedly on domestic economic and budgetary challenges.
Citing the implementation of the Marshall Plan after World War II, Kerry said the US must have the same “foresight” today to assist those developing countries that have the same promise that Europe’s destroyed economies did then of becoming America’s partners down the road.
“After the war, we didn’t spike the football; we created a more level playing field,” he said, “and we’re stronger for it today.”
Kerry also warned that other major powers are not standing idly by as the US considers its domestic budgetary challenges, noting that China “is already investing more than we do” in Africa and its growing economies. “Developing economies are the epicenters of growth, and they are open for business,” Kerry said, “and the US needs to be at that table.”
Kerry closed his speech by telling how, as the 12-year-old son of a Foreign Service officer living in a divided Berlin, he ventured one day across to the communist part of the city “that hadn’t received any help from the United States and its courageous Marshall Plan.”