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Clinton at the Conference on the Americas

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the Washington Conference on the Americas at the State Department in Washington, May 11, 2011.

"The Western Hemisphere has seen ... tremendous progress, and it is due to thoughtful, effective leadership."

"The Western Hemisphere has seen ... tremendous progress, and it is due to thoughtful, effective leadership," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 41st Conference on the Americas in mid May.

"Changes like what we have seen in terms of economic opportunity and democratic reform do not happen by accident, they’re not a part of natural evolution. They happen when people decide that they want those opportunities and changes for themselves, and leaders are prepared to lead," she said:

"There is nothing more important than continuing our work to consolidate democracy, embrace smart economic policy, continue lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty, taking on a more active role in the world, and generally making it clear that we are in this together, that we will rise or fall together in the 21st century because we have so many interests that are at stake."

To facilitate trade and economic growth, we have made ready our free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama for submission to Congress. We are requesting that Congress also renew the Andean Trade Preferences and the Trade Adjustment Assistance programs.

We are building flexible multilateral partnerships, such as the Pathways to Prosperity, which promotes inclusive economic growth, and the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that promotes energy security and environmental sustainability.

Together, we continue to work to advance our shared democratic values. And finally, we will continue to focus on reducing the inequality gap in Latin America.

Although there is a lot to be proud of in Latin America, and a lot to look forward to, many problems persist, including weak education systems, ineffective democratic institutions, inadequate fiscal policies, too much violence, unrelenting violence and chronic tax evasion. If we don’t face up to these challenges, we could waste this historic opportunity.

"I’m confident that we’re going to face up to the problems that remain and make the most of people’s energy and talents, and we are excited about the work of this council," said Secretary of State Clinton. "I hope that we will continue to work toward what certainly can be a Latin American century of hope, potential, promise for all."