Inaugural Launch of the U.S.-Brunei English Language Enrichment Project for ASEAN
Good morning. Selamat Hari Raya. (Laughter.) I love this custom you have to provide gracious hospitality. Some people have remarked upon it as being so indicative, Your Royal Highness, of the graciousness of the people of Brunei.
It is wonderful to be here today, especially with my friend and colleague. His Royal Highness has been an excellent partner in so many of the important initiatives that have been undertaken by His Majesty and the Government of Brunei and by successive presidents of both parties in my country. And we are very grateful to you, sir, for your partnership and leadership, and on a personal basis, your friendship to me and to my family.
As His Royal Highness said, my husband, daughter, and late mother had the most wonderful visit to Brunei in 2000. I was unable to come at that time because I was running for the United States Senate, but I heard so often of what a fabulous time they had. I have been trying to get myself here ever since. (Laughter.) And I am so pleased that I have this opportunity to be with you.
I want to thank His Majesty for the leadership that he has provided in sponsoring this program and Brunei’s generous commitment to funding it over the next five years. I want to thank the Minister of Education. Thank you so much, sir, for being here. And Vice Chancellor, thank you for not only your support of this program but the excellent description of what UBD is doing in entrepreneurship, leadership, environmental programs, research. That is the future, and I am quite impressed with the progress that has been made in this university.
And Dr. Morrison, thank you for your leadership and for the East-West Center, which is our implementing partner, and to our ambassador, Ambassador Shields, and all of the ambassadors from throughout the ASEAN countries who are here with us today. This is a very significant event as we launch this Brunei-U.S. English Language Project for ASEAN. It is truly representative of the vision that Brunei brings to this project, and it is because of the excellent partnership between UBD and East-West Center. It is a tribute also to ASEAN and its centrality and unity and commitment to providing better futures for the young people of this dynamic, vital region.
In a few weeks, this university will welcome government officials and teacher trainers from across ASEAN. Over the course of three months, they will work together on an intensive training program to improve their English and to develop their professional skills. After their time here, the participants will travel to the East-West Center in Hawaii to continue that training.
We believe that learning English is a valuable tool in the 21st century, especially here in Southeast Asia. Scientists collaborate in English. Schools and universities often share information and ideas in English. International business and commerce rely on English. And it is the operational language for ASEAN, which makes it essential for diplomacy and regional cooperation.
Now, this is not in any way to undermine the importance of national and local languages, which are rich in meaning and culture and history. But speaking English can help foster cross-cultural friendships and partnerships, because when people from different countries are able to speak the same language, they can better understand each other, avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations, and try to find ways to collaborate to solve common problems. They can exchange ideas more easily about local, regional, and global trends and learn more on a personal level about each other’s lives and circumstances.
So this program is about more than learning a language. It’s about building ties of friendship, learning, cooperation, and partnership among the peoples of this diverse region. It’s about making ASEAN an even more effective and active organization. And it’s about strengthening the relationships people-to-people between ASEAN and the United States.
We highly value our relationship with the Government and people of Brunei, and it is so in keeping with what Brunei envisions as the kind of peaceful, prosperous future that it hopes for the region that it would assume the responsibility for this program and the funding. As Brunei assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN next year, it is having this hallmark program as one of the initiatives that speaks so clearly about the priorities that Brunei will bring to that chairmanship.
In addition to the new English Enrichment Project, Brunei and the United States will send highly qualified English language instructors out to teach in ASEAN countries. As I have now traveled to every ASEAN country, it’s been the most common request from governments – can you help us learn English? – from presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers and ambassadors. And now we are able to respond that with the generosity and leadership of Brunei, we can help do so.
All of this builds on the English language teaching and exchange programs the United States already offers for students as young as 14 throughout Southeast Asia. We believe investing in young people is good for ASEAN and the Asia Pacific, good for the United States, and especially good for the shared future that these young people will approach.
So let me congratulate all the students in the audience. Let me also congratulate this university for the quality of education – a global education – that you are offering to the students here. I am delighted that you have exchange students from the United States. I hope that you will have even more in the future. And I hope that more students from Brunei will study in the United States. I just met at our Embassy the 100th student from Brunei to get a visa to study in the United States. So we would love to have more students as well and to enhance this exchange.
So thank you to all who have made this dream a reality. I look forward to hearing reports about how it progresses, the difference it’s making, the results that we are seeing. And I also look forward to many more years of friendship and partnership between the United States and ASEAN and in particular between the United States and Brunei.
Your Royal Highness, thank you very much. (Applause.)