TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
A typical week for me -- if any week can be called "typical" -- is
filled with different activities and challenges. But some weeks, like this one,
are interrupted by the unexpected -- in this case, the loss of an admired
I was en route to a United Nations conference in the Netherlands when I
learned of the death of Jordan's King Hussein. Because of my husband's and my
esteem for the King and his family, I immediately traveled to Amman to meet the
President for the sad duty of paying our last respects, visiting with our
friend Queen Noor and meeting the new King, Abdullah.
I was moved by all I saw on that memorable day. Hundreds of thousands
of Jordanians left their homes to line the city's streets to pay a final
tribute to their beloved monarch. Leaders from around the world, including my
husband and former Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush, joined together to honor a
courageous champion of peace.
As I contemplated this extraordinary occasion on my way back to The
Hague, I was struck by the fact that, in a strange way, these two events -- the
funeral and the U.N. conference -- were connected. King Hussein will always be
remembered for his ability to imagine a new and different future -- a future of
peace in the Middle East. This will always be one of his enduring legacies.
I saw the same feat of imagination at work in The Hague, where leaders
from nearly 180 nations gathered to envision a new and better future for people
all over the world. They had come to this history-filled Dutch city to talk
about the progress we've made in the five years since the 1994 United Nations
International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. There,
countries had put aside often profound differences and agreed upon common goals
for the year 2015 -- including reducing child and maternal mortality and
guaranteeing universal access to family planning and education.
At this week's conference, I heard about the important steps being
taken to reach Cairo's goals, despite the great challenges that remain.
I met with delegates from Yemen -- where the number of girls going to
school has tripled in some villages in the last five years. I listened to young
people from around the world talk passionately about what they were doing to
end domestic violence and help stop the spread of AIDS. And I heard story after
story about loan programs that are giving women a chance to turn dreams into
successful businesses, about health clinics that are teaching women how to care
for their newborns, and about family planning services that are reducing
abortions and saving lives.
I brought news of what the United States has done to fulfill the
commitments we made in Cairo -- most significantly in our efforts to reduce
teen pregnancy. Finally, today, fewer American teens are getting pregnant,
engaging in sexual activity and having abortions.
And yet, too many are still not getting the message. I'm always stunned
when I meet pregnant girls who assure me that as soon as their boyfriend gets a
job or gets out of jail, they'll be a family, and everything will work out just
fine. No one has ever told these young women that teen pregnancy is too often a
one-way ticket to shattered dreams.
We know that young women get pregnant for a whole host of reasons. Some
don't understand why it's a bad idea. Some are coerced by older boyfriends.
Others can't cope with school or family and see motherhood as a way out.
Whatever the reason, we will only address the problem if we work to create a
new and better future for all young people.
This administration's teen pregnancy prevention strategy includes
everything from abstinence education to more after-school programs and family
planning. In cooperation with the non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen
Pregnancy, we are seeing comprehensive, community-based health programs reduce
teen pregnancies and sexual activity.
Most of all, we have to listen to our children. When asked what parents
could do to prevent their own children from becoming pregnant, one young man
from Texas answered: "Don't leave us alone so much." His message was clear: We
need to fill our young people's lives -- with love and guidance, a solid
education and productive activities they enjoy.
Striving to imagine and to create a better future for the world is not
only the work of leaders like King Hussein and those who were in The Hague this
week. It is a job all of us share.
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