February 3, 2011

Bill Gates Says Foreign Assistance a Smart Investment

Madeleine Albright & Tom Ridge Honored by U.S. Global Leadership Coalition for Support of Strong, Effective International Affairs Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the new Congress begins to confront deficit reduction and examine prospective spending cuts, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a well-timed address urging federal policymakers to continue to invest in foreign assistance as a critical means of strengthening U.S. economic interests.

“Well-spent aid is uniquely effective among all the different kinds of spending our government does,” said Mr. Gates. “Growth in poor economies will be an engine of our own economy, and our success is tied to the progress of those around us. The investments we make today in the developing world will help create the jobs of tomorrow here in America. Right now, the tough choice is to maintain foreign assistance, not to cut it. Right now, the bold act of leadership is to defend spending on key international programs, not to attack it.”

Gates spoke to an audience of the nation’s leading foreign policy and opinion makers gathered by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) at a tribute dinner for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge who co-chair the group’s Putting Smart Power to Work campaign.

Gates used the venue to underscore the need for international affairs programs and civilian led tools of development and diplomacy – not just for humanitarian purposes, but for the economic future of the U.S.  Albright and Ridge spoke about how important a strong and effective International Affairs Budget is to our national security, economy, and humanitarian values as a nation.

“Greater engagement through diplomacy and development is not an option in today’s world: it is a necessity,” said honoree and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “Investing in American diplomacy serves the interests of our country in all corners of the globe and helps create a better, safer world.”

“Fully utilizing our civilian smart power tools is critical to our national security,” said honoree and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. “Keeping America safe and competitive in the global economy is a value both Democrats and Republicans share, and a strong and effective International Affairs budget is a great return on investment for the American taxpayer.”

“Secretary Albright and Secretary Ridge epitomize the bipartisan support that exists for a smart power approach to our foreign policy and the need for a strong and effective International Affairs Budget,” said Liz Schrayer, Executive Director of the USGLC. “Along with Bill Gates, these two remarkable leaders make a powerful case for the risks to our national security and economy if we do not effectively fund our investments in international affairs programs.”

Co-chairing the dinner on behalf of the USGLC’s many member organizations were Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE, and Robin Lineberger, CEO Federal Government Services, Deloitte LLP. ABC News and NPR Correspondent Cokie Roberts served as master of ceremonies.

Past honorees of the USGLC’s Tribute Dinner include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Senators Dick Durbin, Chuck Hagel, and Paul Sarbanes, and Representative Chris Shays.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (www.usglc.org) is a broad-based influential network of 400 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders in all 50 states who support a smart power approach of elevating development and diplomacy alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world.

# # #