'MOU signing with Phelps Stokes Fund for their Ralph Bunche Societies'

Mr. Cahn, Friends of the Phelps Stokes Fund and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, It’s a pleasure to be here to sign and celebrate this memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Phelps Stokes Fund and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

We also very much appreciate the support given to us by: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of  Texas, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois and Congresswoman Diane Watson of California.  This MOU demonstrates what we all know to be true: Together we can accomplish far more working in partnership and collaboration than working apart and separately.

MCC and Phelps Stokes Fund share a common goal.  We both seek to expand and deepen minority involvement in the international arena.  Given the diversity of the world in which we live and work, it makes perfect sense to equip the next generation of leaders with professional experience and career development opportunities to actively participate in and be leaders in the global community.  This is a future in which everybody wins.  As a flagship initiative to reduce poverty, MCC wants to make sure that the best and brightest minds form the foundation of this endeavor. 

MCC deeply values the immense contribution diversity brings to the success of our mission. The complexities, demands and challenges of international affairs field are many, and we need a diversity of backgrounds and experiences to achieve the most creative solutions to resolve these challenges. 

The Millennium Challenge Corporation partners with some of the world’s poorest countries to reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth.  With grants totaling $5.5 billion to 16 countries in Africa, Central America, Eurasia, and the Pacific, MCC is changing the lives of the poor through our innovative, different, and demanding approach to development assistance.  Built on accountability, MCC allocates aid based on how well countries perform on a set of 17 independent and transparent political, economic, and social indicators, and on their willingness to deliver meaningful results through their own development efforts. 

Not only are we focused on helping the world’s poor, but we also openly recognize that it is in our national interest to reduce global poverty.  Poverty is seen as a breeding ground for hopelessness, resentment, and terrorism that could endanger our country and require the defense of our democratic ideals.  The Phelps Stokes Fund understands the importance of our interdependent, global society.  Dedicated to building bridges of intercultural, interracial, and international understanding,

Phelps Stokes Fund is establishing Ralph Bunche Societies—on college campuses across our country—to prepare minority students to engage globally. As the first person of color to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Ralph Bunche was a dedicated civil servant of both the State Department and the United Nations.  The societies that bear his name inspire today’s minority students—indeed, all students—to follow in his footsteps and be tomorrow’s leaders in international affairs.  When I was a young man, Ralph Bunche was an inspiration to me and I feel personally humbled and honored to be the head of an organization that is partnering with Phelps Stokes Fund, particularly its Ralph Bunche Societies, to develop globally conscious students to assume such future leadership.

Paving the way for the cooperation we commemorate today, the United States State Department, under the leadership of Secretary Condoleeza Rice, who also serves as chair of MCC’s board, paid tribute to Ralph Bunche during the official launch of Phelps Stokes Fund’s Ralph Bunche Societies just two years ago. We at MCC are proud to add our MCC voice to this tribute through concrete actions that underscore a commitment to both “development” and “diversity”. The memorandum of understanding between MCC and Phelps Stokes outlines four main areas of cooperation to achieve our mutual objective of increasing minority participation in international affairs.

First, we will engage in student leadership development activities.  Members of Ralph Bunche Societies, for example, will be invited to learning seminars, or “brown bag lunches” as we call them, at MCC, a place where innovative programs and global engagement co-exist.

Second, we will foster summer internship experiences by providing members of Ralph Bunche Societies with internships that will allow them to gain practical experience in international development. I am very pleased to announce that April Evans will be joining us as our first intern through this program.  A student at Winston Salem State University in North Carolina, April will participate directly in the many facets of our work, including the substantive rigors of developing compacts with countries that seek to partner with us. We look forward to welcoming April to the MCC family this summer.

Third, we will participate in Ralph Bunch Societies’ expanding mentoring program.   MCC staff will serve as caring mentors to members and interns from Ralph Bunche Societies. 

And, fourth, we will participate in speaker exchanges. Professionals from both MCC and Phelps Stokes Fund will be invited to speak at one another’s international education events and conferences. 

MCC welcomes all these opportunities to positively impact the lives of students interested in the development field, and in preparing for a possible future career in development.  We want to do our part to establish leadership and career development tracks for minority students in international affairs; and, in partnership with the Phelps Stokes Fund, that is exactly what we are setting out to do today.

The memorandum of understanding we sign this afternoon is an important step in ushering in a new day of cooperation that will further expand and strengthen the diversity of the professionals dedicated to making our world a better place.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation is honored to work with the Phelps Stokes Fund’s Ralph Bunche Societies toward this shared vision.  

Thank you very much.