Speeches Shim

One Team. One Mission.



Nearly seven years ago, on the 45th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washingon, my daughter Amna was born. As my wife Shivam and I welcomed her into the world that evening in Seattle, we watched on television as Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President.


We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.


Passion for mission
We come to work to foster sustainable development and advance human dignity globally.

We strive to maximize efficiency, effectiveness, and deliver meaningful results across our work.

We are honest and transparent, accountable for our efforts, and maintain a consistently high moral standard.

We demonstrate respect for one another, our partners, and the people we serve in communities around the world.

We elevate all voices striving for global economic, environmental, and social progress.

We value our differences and draw strength from diversity.

Commitment to learning
We seek to improve ourselves and our work through reflection and evaluation.

“It is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain,” he said, “that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen—that better place around the bend.”

The President's call deeply inspired us, and within a year, Shivam and I moved our growing family to Washington, D.C. In taking that leap, we hoped for, but never could have imagined, the opportunities we would have to serve our country.

At my confirmation hearing to be USAID Administrator, I spoke of my passion for global development and my excitement at leading an Agency whose rich legacy included helping to eradicate smallpox, promote democratic transitions after the Cold War, and save millions of lives from starvation through the Green Revolution. But I also spoke of the struggles and setbacks the mission had endured and the need to rebuild the Agency as the world’s premier development institution.

Before I started, I developed a plan for my first 100 days in office so I could learn about the remarkable breadth and depth of our Agency—from its expansive portfolio in Afghanistan to its intricate procurement processes.

Five days after I was sworn in, however, my plans and priorities changed in an instant. Early in the evening on January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince—reducing Haiti’s capital city to rubble and killing 230,000 people.

I still remember that day like it was yesterday. As our ops center came alive, we received rapid updates on efforts to re-establish contact with the Haitian government and assessments of the country’s infrastructure to learn if planes could land or ships could dock. Within hours, President Obama announced that USAID would lead a swift, aggressive response that marshaled the full capabilities of the U.S. government.

USAID partners with local banks to secure financing for underserved but credit-worthy borrowers, such as this Ethiopian farmer.
USAID partners with local banks to secure financing for underserved but credit-worthy borrowers, such as this Ethiopian farmer.
Morgana Wingard

In the days that followed, our Agency launched one of the largest humanitarian rescue and relief operations in history. Under unyielding pressure and with very little sleep, our teams showed a depth of skill, focus, and compassion that inspired awe.

This strength of purpose and courage of heart is not reserved for times of crisis. In this deeply interconnected world, it is required of us every day. Time and again, we have seen extreme poverty, extreme climate, and extreme corruption push millions to the edge of survival and challenge our own security and prosperity. That is why President Obama has—in three successive State of the Union addresses—called on the United States to lead the world to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. The President’s charge reenergized our Agency and elevated our work as part of America’s national security agenda.

Over the last five years, we have seized on this challenge—pioneering a new model of development that harnesses the power of business and innovation to end extreme poverty. I saw its full potential in the months leading up to President Obama’s G8 Summit at Camp David in 2012. We had an ambitious vision to bring African countries, private sector players, civil society leaders, and G8 partners together to unlock unprecedented private investment in African agriculture. We called it the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

For months, we worked tirelessly to bring all the partners to the table and shore up real commitments to investment and reform. The weeks were a blur of exhaustion and exhilaration. There was even a marathon day trip to Ethiopia where we negotiated the final terms of their New Alliance commitments. The morning of the G8 Summit, President Obama came to USAID to deliver the first-ever presidential speech on global hunger. He spoke passionately about the moral, economic, and national security imperative to fight hunger and malnutrition. The next day at Camp David, he convened African heads of state and corporate CEOs for a 90-minute discussion on food security.

But what I remember most about those weeks was that when no one thought USAID could get it done, we refused to listen. We refused to lower our aspirations. We came together as one Agency and fundamentally redefined what is possible to achieve in development. Without question, these efforts have alleviated suffering and advanced opportunity in some of the world’s poorest and most forgotten communities.

We have the honor of serving a mission and a country that are exceptional and the responsibility to ask ourselves every day how we can get better together. This commitment to excellence and unflinching focus on results serves as the foundation for everything we do—from educating girls to tackling climate change to expanding access to clean water. Over the last five years, we have brought together captains of industry and committed country reformers to build the geothermal plants and wind farms that will provide clean energy to millions. We have equipped poor farmers from Haiti to Bangladesh with new seeds that thrive in floods, resist drought, and give children the nutrition they need to thrive.

We have helped empower civil society groups from Ukraine to Colombia to tackle corruption and confront injustice. We have brought scientific expertise and new technologies to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, where we have achieved results faster and more profoundly than anyone predicted. Above all, we have proved that development is a discipline driven by evidence, innovation, and partnership. While these efforts rarely garner public recognition, they are quietly making it possible to end extreme poverty in our lifetime.

Every day for the last five years, I have been blessed to serve alongside an extraordinarily talented community of professionals. I am especially grateful for the dedication they have shown one another and the friendships we have forged in the pursuit of something bigger and better than ourselves.

Drawn from more than 80 interviews with our staff around the world, this book is not only a record of an Agency transformed but also a celebration of those who transformed it. In hearing directly from our staff across the globe, I hope you take a moment to reflect on their courage, talent, and commitment to the American people and the communities we serve.

Thank you.

Raj Shah signature

Rajiv Shah
USAID Administrator | February 11, 2015

Last updated: May 07, 2019

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