It was a thrill for me personally, and a great honor to the MCC, to see more than 400 people pack the prestigious Russell Senate Caucus Room of the U.S. Congress today to celebrate MCCs fourth anniversary. The standing-room-only event among MCC friends on Capitol Hill where MCC was brought into existence through an act of Congress in 2004 was tangible evidence of the strong bipartisan support that our work enjoys.
It was particularly important that some of MCCs friends from the Congress, including Chairwoman Nita Lowey, Congressman Jim Knollenberg, and Senator Norm Coleman, made time to attend the event, as well as MCC Board members Ken Hackett, Henrietta Fore, and Alan Patricof.
MCCs main message for today was that in four short years we have accomplished an astonishing amount. I am proud to tell people that what started as a great concept has become, in the span of four short years, a great reality. What was once a group of eight people in borrowed offices is now a first-rate organization with a robust portfolio of work. We are not only one of the newest, but with fewer than 300 staff, we are definitely one of the smallest U.S. government agencies. And yet, with $5.5 billion committed in 16 compacts worldwide, we are moving ahead at great speed with much more on the way.
Events like this one today are not only a chance for us to show our progress, they are also an opportunity for us to listen to our colleagues. We want to know about their experiences, challenges, and successes in the countries where we are presently working or might work in the next few years. It is an opportunity to listen to how our programs might benefit from the insight of other groups or how together we can leverage private sector resources to build another kilometer of road, provide additional infrastructure, or strengthen community services for the poor of our partner countries. I took part in some of these conversations today and observed scores more of them taking place. People who follow MCC are, for the most part, not shy about sharing their ideas. These are often constructive inputs which we welcome and many times they are stories of success that we are achieving together.
Africa in particular has been an important theme this week. The Africa Society hosted its Andrew Young Lecture Series on Tuesday, where I was pleased to deliver the keynote address. Other presenters spoke at length about how more than half of MCCs compacts and resources are dedicated to Africa. This should come as no surprise given the amount of need on the continent and the range of partners who are willing to enact policy reforms in order to secure MCC funding. I answered some tough but thoughtful questions during the event. They gave me reason to reflect on how the organization, moving from a focus on compact development to compact implementation, has a responsibility to help African countries build capacity to complete the complex task of putting MCC resources to work.
On Monday night I was also on Capitol Hill this time as a guest of the First Lady during the Presidents State of the Union Address. I was happy to hear the prominent mention of the MCC in the Presidents speech and, like many of you, noted his call for full funding of the MCC program. The applause came from both sides of the aisle for good reasons. There has been a great deal of comment on the MCC and its work since this remark and I welcome the chance to talk about our programs to those who may not have been aware of MCC before the speech. On a night when all parts of our government come together united in purpose, the State of the Union underlined what I have known since joining MCC: this work matters to America. It matters to our partners. It matters to the taxpayer, and MCC will help shape the future of our countrys credibility and legacy overseas. Even though many of the people who watched the State of the Union will never visit our compact countries, the work of poverty reduction is relevant to each of them. Poverty anywhere threatens security and prosperity everywhere. This is why MCC matters and why I am proud to be a part of these short four remarkable years