Ambassador Samantha Power Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

AMBASSADOR POWER: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Risch, members of the committee. It's a tremendous honor to appear before you today. I'm humbled by President Biden's trust in me and by the opportunity to join such an indispensable agency at such a critical time.

I'd like to begin by thanking my mother, Vera Delaney, a doctor whom I've watched care for her patients during the darkest hours of this pandemic; my father, Eddie Bourke, whose curiosity about the world helped spark my own; my husband and best friend, Cass Sunstein, an American original; and my 11-year-old son Declan and 8-year-old daughter Rian, whose shared love of animals and nature, remind me daily of our responsibility to our planet.

Public service does ask a lot of families, and I'm indescribably grateful for the support and generosity of mine. I'd also like to thank the members of this committee. While bitter political winds blew, continued bipartisan support for the U.S. Agency for International Development has saved and improved millions of lives while enhancing U.S. security and U.S. prosperity. I was fortunate to work with many of you when I last served. If confirmed, I'll be eager to build on these relationships and forge new ones.

I first saw USAID's impact in war torn Bosnia, where I started my career in 1993 as a reporter. I saw USAID staff and partners deliver food to the vulnerable while supporting mothers as they tried to locate their missing sons and husbands. Since then, wherever I traveled, whether in East Timor, just after it became the world's newest nation; Darfur, in the middle of this century's first genocide; or West Africa at the height of the Ebola epidemic, USAID was there. America was there, identifying needs and moving heaven and earth to meet them.

In my work, I've seen how the investments the United States makes in other countries are investments in our own security. I've seen the inextricable linkages between political freedom and broad based economic growth. I've seen that the most effective development is driven by those on the ground with local knowledge and expertise, and I have seen the overwhelming power of individual dignity as a driver of world events. Even as China increasingly uses its financial leverage to sway other nations, citizens everywhere are insisting that they be able to exercise agency, provide for themselves and exercise their fundamental rights.

If confirmed, I will work to strengthen the institution of USAID and invest in the capabilities of the agencies dedicated 10,000 foreign service officers, civil servants, locally employed staff, contractors and other personnel. This means seeking out and amplifying their insights, learning about specific local needs and adapting our programs. It means addressing the issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion and advancement within USAID's workforce. And it means emphasizing what President Biden himself and both of you, I think already have stressed, development is critical to America's ability to tackle the toughest problems of our time: economic, humanitarian, and geopolitical.

In consultation with you and others in Congress, I will aim to ensure that USAID enhances its long standing leadership in food security, education, women's empowerment, and global health, while also addressing four interconnected and gargantuan challenges confronting the world at this moment.

First, the COVID pandemic and the development progress that has been imperiled in everything from food security to gender equality, to access to education, to economic growth.

Climate change and the surge in droughts, storms, food shortages and climate associated humanitarian emergencies.

Third, with more conflicts occurring today than at any point since the end of the Cold War, conflict and state collapse.

And fourth, finally, with freedom declining around the world for the 15th straight year in a row, democratic backsliding. In tackling these and other challenges, I want to assure the committee that I will work every day to expand burden sharing in the international system. At the UN, working with my administration colleagues, I was able to help secure major commitments from other countries to care for refugees, respond to the Ebola epidemic, strengthen peacekeeping and adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. U.S. investments are catalysts that can be used to mobilize governments, international organizations, foundations and businesses to help countries achieve their own development goals.

If I'm confirmed to lead this great agency, I will work tirelessly with members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well spent. Guided by evidence, I will work with you to adapt or replace programs that are not delivering. I will be transparent and accessible, as together we chart a course that meets the needs of the current moment.

In 1979, as Senator Markey alluded to, my mother brought my younger brother and me to America from Ireland, blessing me with a life full of opportunity. As one who has been given so much by the United States, I would take it as an incomparable privilege to lead the world's premier development agency in order to expand the opportunities available to others. I thank you and I look forward to answering your questions.

Foreign Relations

Last updated: April 30, 2021

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