Administrator Samantha Power at the Eighth Annual HBCU Climate Change Conference

Speeches Shim

Saturday, April 16, 2022


When I heard that there was a conference that brought together our nation’s HBCUs to address one of the biggest, most existential threats of our time, I leapt at the chance to share this message with you.

I especially want to thank Dr. Beverly Wright for founding and fearlessly leading the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and Dr. Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice, for this opportunity. Dr. Bullard once said: “When you don’t protect the least in your society, you place everybody at risk.” Those words have always been true, not just of American society, but of our entire planet.

But over the last few years, we have seen just how true they are in ways we could not imagine. We’ve seen new variants of COVID-19 emerge because some countries haven’t been able to protect and vaccinate their populations. And, of course, we’ve seen that those hit hardest by climate shocks—those who’ve contributed least to climate change— have had to flee their homes, leave their communities, and seek refuge far from home, including at America’s own borders. Environmental justice, social justice, health justice, global justice—you understand that all of these concepts are not just related, but matter in essential ways to our lives here at home.

At the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Agency I have the privilege to run, that idea is core to our mission. We work around the world and around the clock to help emerging countries cut their emissions, install new sources of power and—critically—help them adapt to changes in the climate that are already here.

That means we send in elite disaster response teams when stronger hurricanes or longer-lasting droughts hit communities. But it also means that we help communities set up social safety nets and crop insurance programs to deal with losses from hotter temperatures. We strengthen infrastructure in some of the most neglected areas of the world, so that when a climate shock happens, the power stays on and the roads don’t get swept away. And in our brand new climate strategy, we prioritize climate justice, working directly with and actually listening to marginalized communities to hear and respond to their needs.

And we want you to join us. In the past few months, I’ve been to Alcorn State, Tuskegee University, and Delaware State to sign new agreements that will push USAID to intentionally open our doors to students, faculty, and researchers from HBCUs. At both USAID and the State Department, we’re expanding the number of paid internships and fellowships we offer. And we’re doubling the number of Donald Payne Fellowships —fellowships that will pay for a graduate education and guarantee you a job at USAID.

These are just some of the steps we’re taking to build connections between USAID and the immense talent and potential that lives in our nation’s HBCUs. Together, we can help hundreds of millions of people benefit from a greener and more just planet. And by protecting those that have the least in this world, we can benefit everyone.

Thank you so very much.

Last updated: May 06, 2022

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