During his trip to Central Asia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where he spoke at the opening ceremony of the new campus of the American University of Central Asia. By supporting this institution of higher learning, the U.S. hopes to open educational opportunities to more Central Asian students, giving them a brighter economic future and a greater stake in the Kyrgyz Republic’s parliamentary democracy.
The U.S. has already provided more than $30 million to the American University of Central Asia, including nearly $6 million in financing through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. More than 1,000 scholarships have been granted, including to Kyrgyz and Afghan students.
Over the past quarter century, more than 25,000 students from the region have visited the United States to study. The goal is to see that number grow to more than 31,000 over the next five years.
Aside from the economic benefits, a critically important function of education, said Secretary of State Kerry, is that it provides a fundamental foundation for democracy. "And Democracy," he said, "is in turn. . .the foundation of a lasting ability to have prosperity and peace."
Democracy does a better job than any other form of government in respecting the rights of individuals and is best way for citizens to realize the aspirations.
Secretary Kerry stressed that democracy can never be taken for granted. It is a pursuit that must be renewed and revitalized by every generation. And it requires every single person to transform his or her sense of right and wrong into action, to nurture a strong civil society that can hold governments accountable, and to stand up for all citizens, including men and women of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.
It takes work to keep democracy. And the American University of Central Asia has provided thousands of students with a world-class education and the opportunity to go out and do that work. It is up to the students there to make the most of their opportunity.
"And I can promise you that as you make that effort," said Secretary Kerry, "the United States of America will be there as a friend every step of the way."