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Title of the Plenary: Closing Session: A Framework for the Future

Speaker: Secretary Carlos Gutierrez

Time & Location: Tuesday June 12th, 2007 4:30pm. Marquis Ballroom B-D

As Delivered

Secretary Gutierrez:

Thank you again Margaret Spellings for coming to the Forum, for being with us, and for your words—we really appreciate it. I guess this is the end of the Forum, and I wanted to thank everyone on behalf of President Bush and his administration for being here. I want to thank all the speakers, all the participants, all the attendees, you gave a lot of your time for this and you showed a great deal of commitment to this effort and we’re very honored that you accepted the invitation so thank you very much for being with us.

I do want to recognize two of the highest level dignitaries: first of all the Vice President of Nicaragua, thank you very much, sir, for being with us, thank you. I also want to thank the Vice President of El Salvador, for being with us and all of the other ministers and dignitaries who are here from all over the hemisphere. Mayor Franklin and the city of Atlanta-- the Mayor was with us the first night and then she spoke the next morning but you can see why Atlanta is such a vibrant city with that level of leadership in the mayor. So I’m very, very thankful to Mayor Franklin. Governor Perdue and the Georgia Department of Economic Development also did a great job in helping us put this together. I want to thank them, (( )) this is Alex Mejia’s group, is Alex Mejia, is here. I’m glad you’re here. I thought that one of the outcomes of this meeting the last couple days, one of our conclusions, can be that we should get together and try to find Alex a one hour TV show. It would be called the “Alex Mejia Hour,” I think its right there. And the other request I have is that next time I’m ever in a room with my boss or future boss, I want Alex to introduce me, Alex. Thank you. Thank you for adding energy and vitality and optimism to our conference. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce as well, thank you, the Metro Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, and all of our sponsors. We could not have done this without our sponsors, if there are sponsors here in this room if you could just please stand and lest give them a warm round of applause, thank you, thank you.

You know I have half of the Department of Commerce is here, so I’m not going to be able go to through all of the names, but there are four people who have worked tirelessly I would say they have worked at least for the last four of five months, it would seem like, they have been on this project, and the more I look around and realize what’s behind this, I can see now why they have been at this for four or five months. And let me go down the list of people who have really put their heart and soul behind this conference. First of all, the head of this group, the top man, Frank Lavin. Where’s Frank? Okay, then the, I would say the mastermind here who picked up on this thing and just ran with it and had a vision for it, and kept talking about this meeting we could have in Atlanta, maybe 100 people, and maybe 200 people, and 300 and by the time we got here yesterday it was up to 800. But every single day I was signing letters and every single day I was calling someone and if I would go to a meeting I would get a note from this person going “don’t forget to remind them of the competitiveness forum” and it was every single day perusing his vision for what this meeting could be and very importantly his vision for what this could be in the future. So sometime down the road when we talk about the fifth American Competitiveness Forum, or the tenth American Competitiveness Forum I hope we recall that it was Walter Bastian who put his heart and soul into this. And then another one of Walter’s people who has worked just unbelievable hours to get us here and who has done a great job and shown a great deal of commitment and heart for this—Jack McDougal. Jack, where’s Jack? And then his last person I’m going to mention, I understand she hasn’t slept in a month, and that she’s going to take a vacation now so she can sleep for two weeks at least. But I mean it’s just been long days and long hours and I remember just sitting at my office about three days ago, four days ago, and she looked extremely tired but she had this big smile on her face saying “this is going to be so exciti ng and its going to be such a big deal” and I realize that she was right and I’m so proud that Alysia Wilson is a part of our team.

So I was thinking about this type of meeting and my old line of work we used to have these international meetings all the time. And I use to leave the meeting with two feelings: one was I would feel proud that I contributed. You know we would have different companies, and different subsidiaries and everyone would present and they would share ides and we would share best practices. And on one hand I’d be proud that I’d contribute. But I would also leave by thinking; gee I’m not doing enough. I’m not doing enough, because look what they’re doing and look what Chile is doing and look what El Salvador is doing and look what this other country is doing, and I would always be anxious to get back to my country to try the new ideas that I heard. I hope you feel that way. I hope you feel like you’ve made a contribution but you’ve also learned and you’re also anxious to get back to put into place some of the ideas that you’ve picked up here.

The interesting thing for me about what we’ve done over the past couple days and that may even go unnoticed because it was so natural is that we never talked about who is of the political left and who is of the political right, and what ideology and what party, we talked about business. We talked about becoming more competitive, we talked about creating jobs, we talked about creating a better life for our people, we talked about social justice, but things like politics and ideology even though many of us are in the political world, that was off to the side. That didn’t really matter, because we all had a common goal and that is to create a better life for each of our people, to create prosperity, to create growth, to create jobs, to be more competitive, to give people a better shot for education, that was the agenda. And everything else took a backseat. And I think that for me was one of the most impressive things that I experience over the last couple of days.

I tell you I believe that the western hemisphere can become the fastest growing region in the world. I believe that, in fact I am convinced of that. And you say, well how can you say that if today were only growing at you know, 3% or 4%, and China and Asia is growing at who knows how fast, and it doesn’t matter what’s happening today. But I look out 5, 10, 20 years, I believe that the western hemisphere can be the most vibrant, the most innovative, the most entrepreneurial, the most passionate, the fastest growing, the role model for what the future can hold for the rest of the world. I believe that in my heart of hearts. And I would ask you to please believe the same thing. Because unless you believe it, it won’t happen. If you do believe it, you know what it’s amazing the things you can do by just believing it and imagining it.

So I am looking forward to being a part of this team one way or the other, whether I’m in the private sector or whether I’m out of the private sector. To be part of this movement called the Americas. To being part of what we are all trying to do. And I know, I know that one day we’re going to look back and say we pulled it off. That this became the fastest growing, the most vibrant, the most prosperous, the most robust hemisphere, region of the world. And working together and with your leadership, and above all with the willingness to learn from each other the way we did this week where there was no pride and no pride of ownership and everyone learned from everyone else, it didn’t matter who you were learning from as long as you were learning something that would be good for your people once you got back home. That’s the important thing. If we can keep that attitude, there is no stopping the western hemisphere and I can tell you on behalf of President Bush and this administration, we are proud to consider ourselves part of it. Thank you very much for your leadership and thank you.