Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
November 2, 2005
(2:00 p.m. EST)
SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would especially like to welcome the members of the Diplomatic Corps who are here. I want to welcome all of you here to the audience as well as everyone who is joining us live via satellite from Jordan and Costa Rica to the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room.
Today it is my great pleasure to present the 2005 Awards for Corporate Excellence to two American companies that understand that the best way to do well is to do good.
President Bush believes that free markets, free enterprise and free trade are the best ways to enable free people to create wealth for themselves and their families and to create jobs for the economy. But the President also understands that capitalism is not merely a deterministic system of individual self-interest; rather, the continued success of capitalism rests on the selfless qualities of human beings and families and communities -- their compassion, their generosity and their moral desire to help the weakest and the worst off among them.
As he has said, "In the long run there is no capitalism without conscience and there is no wealth without character." This past year, in particular, America's business community has demonstrated its conscience and character in response to the tragic natural disasters that have caused such great suffering around the world and right here in our own country. After the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the outpouring of support from America's private sector was unparalleled: over $560 million in relief aid and assistance from our corporations and their employees. Similarly, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, our nation's business community is helping to lead the dramatic response effort with its total contributions of nearly $1 billion thus far in cash and kind. And last month America's corporations responded generously to ease the human suffering the wake of the terrible earthquake in Pakistan and the flooding and landslides in Guatemala.
These are extraordinary responses to extraordinary events, but they are not the limit of the compassion of American companies. Every day in virtually every country in the world, American businesses are giving back to people, to communities and to the countries that enable them to thrive. And today we honor two exemplary companies with the Award for Corporate Excellence.
This Award was created in 1999 to recognize the important role that American businesses play abroad as responsible corporate citizens. All around the world our chiefs of mission submit the names of companies that exhibit conscience and character and integrity in their business practices. This year we received 60 compelling nominations, more than in any previous year, from which we have selected this year's two winners.
I am pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2005 Award for Corporate Excellence in the Small and Medium Size Category is Lapa Rios of Costa Rica. (Applause.)
When John and Karen Lewis sold all their worldly belongings to purchase a lush and beautiful tract of rainforest in Costa Rica, they did not seek merely to create a hotel; they sought to develop an entire concept of ecotourism which they realized in Lapa Rios. The guiding principle of Lapa Rios Ecolodge is to adapt itself to the local environment, not to change the local environment to meet its own needs. The company uses energy-saving generators and solar panels to operate more efficiently. It has developed a comprehensive plan for water conservation, waste management and recycling to operate more cleanly. And working with local and international partners, Lapa Rios even established a 400-hectare biological reserve in Costa Rica.
Lapa Rios not only preserves and nurtures the local environment in Costa Rica, it also works to strengthen the local communities. The company contributes to local health clinics, supports the local police and helps to maintain community roads and bridges. Lapa Rios also built the Carbonera Elementary School which the Government of Costa Rica now operates with the company's support.
More than a hotel, Lapa Rios is a model of environmental stewardship and enlightened corporate leadership. It is therefore my great pleasure to present the Department of State's Award for Corporate Excellent to Karen Lewis, co-founder of Lapa Rios. (Applause.)
(The Award is presented.)
MS. LEWIS: Madame Secretary, Under Secretary Shiner, Assistant Secretary Wayne, Ambassador Langdale, Honorable Members of the Diplomatic Corps and invited guests here and overseas: It is with profound gratitude to all who have shared our conservation vision that I accept this Award on behalf of Lapa Rios.
Lapa Rios is a small enterprise, yet one that makes a big difference to people and the environment. The Award validates not only our 15-year effort but also the concept of ecotourism. It verifies that ecotourism, when built on sound environmental and social principles, can be a successful business.
We designed Lapa Rios to give back to, rather than take from, the local culture and the local environment. The Lapa Rios Reserve and our staff successfully educate our guests and neighbors about cultural and land conservation values while providing the Osa Peninsula with financial benefits and 1,000 more acres of wilderness protection.
Over a generation ago, Costa Rica Government began land use planning with a goal to preserve over 25 percent of the country's land mass. The private sector followed with ecotourism, employing former hunters and subsistent farmers in communities buffering national parks. Recently, Costa Rica responsibly instituted a certification for sustainable tourism program to measure our businesses' social and environmental practices. Lapa Rios received its highest certification.
I am grateful my life's journey pointed me to the Osa Pensinula in 1990 and that I am able to share skills inherent to ecotourism with locals confident enough to trust themselves and our goals. I treasure my parents, who placed the importance of education above all and proved that achievement follows resolve, discipline and patience with oneself. And I treasure pivotal experiences that developed my values, including my 30-year music career that taught me to share yourself and affirm others; the American Field Service and the United States Peace Corps that reinforced the idea that people everywhere need to shape their own destinies; and my enchantment with nature that grew from Girl Scouts and dedicated Minnesotans who envisioned the boundary water canoe area; and Audubon Society members who inspired an interest in birding. These groups of people deepened my belief that when people take action, they will best protect the environment.
Cherished relationships include my visionary partner, John Lewis, who focuses always on possibility, and our children Andrew and Wendy whose lives demonstrate a capacity for compassion, sacrifice and endurance; Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, our management team and CEDARENA and the Nature Conservancy, land trust organizations and people who envisioned Lapa Rios beyond its founders; and finally, our exemplary Lapa Rios staff employees and our loyal guests. I thank world travelers who value pristine, sustainable destinations and the U.S. State Department for valuing the benefits ecotourism provides to conservation of culture and place.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY RICE: Karen and I were just making a date to play four hands piano at some point in time. (Laughter.)
I would like to recognize the people who are here from Lapa Rios and of course members of the Lewis family. Thank you very much for being here.
I now have the pleasure of talking about Cisco Systems, which understands that education is the key to success and prosperity for all developing countries. Cisco Systems of San Jose, California, is honored today for its unprecedented contribution to education in Jordan, and I would like to welcome the Ambassador, His Excellency, from Jordan.
I am also pleased because John Chambers and I come from the same area. We've known each other for a number of years. And so, John, congratulations to you for your leadership at Cisco.
The company worked with Jordanian King Abdullah on a project on education and with many and other private and other partners to develop a vision for educational reform that is called the Jordanian Educational Initiative. This program is revolutionizing how teachers are trained, how subjects are taught and how students are prepared for the future. Working with a local Jordanian company, Cisco developed an online interactive mathematics curriculum that is already being used in Jordan’s schools.
The company is also building an internet network to link together 100 primary and secondary schools, called the Discovery Schools, and to connect them to universities and community centers and research institutions around the country. By next year Cisco hopes to unite 1.5 million students across Jordan through the power and reach of information technology.
Cisco, however, has gone even further. Working with the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the company has created 12 Cisco academies which focus primarily on preparing young women in Jordan for careers in the high-tech job market of our global economy. These academies are teaching math and science and information technology and they have produced 600 graduates so far.
Cisco's commitment to the future of Jordan is an inspiration for businesses everywhere. It therefore gives me great pleasure to present our Award for Corporate Excellence to John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco Systems. John, if you would join me here. (Applause.)
(The Award is presented.)
MR. CHAMBERS: It is truly an honor to be here today, Secretary Rice, distinguished guests, Your Excellency. It's a pleasure to share with you some views. And on behalf of all of us at the extended family of Cisco, I accept the Award.
My parents were doctors and they taught me early on that education was the equalizer in life. But it was the internet that broke down time and distance and allowed us all to participate in what can be a very bright future for this world. The futures of countries, in my opinion, are determined by their education system, their infrastructure, the environment they create for innovation and supportive government, and all four must go together. I can't think of a better example than what His Majesty King Abdullah and Queen Rania did in Jordan. A population of 5 million with literally very few natural assets other than their people. Half the population 21 years or younger. And they've giving them a chance through an education system, where they spend half of their government budget on education, to participate in the future.
But individual elements without tying it together does not accomplish those results. And as you've all found out, technology without process change does not achieve your goals. And it was an honor to literally lead 17 companies in the World Economic Forum from all over the globe, combined with 17 Jordanian companies, 11 NGOs, USAID, MEPI and others to say: How do we change education in Jordan forever and how can it be an example that then can move throughout the world?
And if you watch what has happened and if you've seen how the jobs are being created in Jordan, you look about how you carry education to math and science and computer games and network games in kindergarten, first and second grade, you look at the number of companies that are now moving into Jordan and locating their businesses there and the number of Jordanian companies that have flourished, you now understand what the power of working together can do, where the GDP is growing at 7 percent per year in what is a very challenging environment that all of us understand.
It will be replicated and we're already moving into Palestine, into Egypt, into Israel and to India. And it's something that I think we have a great deal of pride of being a part of. And if you could have seen the young kids in kindergarten, first and second grade doing math and science in Arabic in those countries, it made you very proud to be a part of it.
And as I walked out, it was something that was very unique and then one of my colleagues said, "John, what's bothering you?" And I said, "We don't do that in the U.S." And it was with a great deal of honor that last week we announced in the U.S. the Mississippi Education Initiative, where we will apply $40 million -- but more importantly time and a partnership across all the Gulf states, 20 million going to Mississippi -- where we will develop the 21st century schools, not making them a little bit better when the students return but literally developing them for the next decades and looking out -- student-centric, world-class education where the engineers are the teachers and the superintendents and literally the students themselves, and networking the community so you achieve the challenges often offered by the digital divide so all students can gain access to the schools.
But it requires supportive government at the governor level, at the lieutenant governor, at the superintendent of schools, at the individual superintendents in each of the districts to be able to do something like that.
The point that I'm really making is the Jordan Education Initiative kind of set the stage. It allowed us to realize what working together as a team we can do. The courage of the Jordanian people, the number of companies who joined us, our Cisco team led by Tae Yoo and the group, and our colleagues showed that we can really make a difference. Working together, we can truly change the world. And on behalf of all of us at Cisco, I am honored to accept the gift. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY RICE: Ladies and gentlemen, I just want to close by saying that these Awards are very important to me personally and to the United States because American foreign policy is not just the work of the American Government, it is the work of all of America's citizens and America's corporations and America's people. Whether it is fighting disease or poverty or answering the call of people who have experienced natural disaster or educating children for tomorrow or protecting the environment, we know that our official envoys from this country are tackling a lot of important diplomatic challenges. But we have a lot of help and this is an opportunity to thank those who help us to do our work. Judging by the nominees and winners of this year's Award, it is clear that the American business community is doing its part to help us seize the tremendous opportunities of this young century.
And so on behalf of the President, on behalf of the men and women of the State Department and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you again, Karen and John, for your exemplary leadership and for the example that you set for all in the corporate community to be a part of making this a better, more democratic, more prosperous and therefore a safer world.
Thank you very much, and now I'd like to turn the program over to Tony Wayne, who is going to handle the interactive part of our program. Thank you very much. (Applause.)