Being here today is a tremendous honor for me. I am thankful to President Obama and I am humbled that my philanthropic experience could be helpful in some measure and can be used to amplify the message and work of the President and this Commission.
Latino youth are the fastest-growing group in America, and more Latino children are living in poverty than children of any other racial or ethnic group. For a number of reasons, young Latinos in this country disproportionately drop out of school and far too few finish college. And as I have seen in my own Foundation work, the only road out of poverty is education - of that I am convinced.
Investing in the educational achievement for Latinos will not only determine the economic future and competitiveness of this nation, but can serve as a model for the world.
I hope that through my appointment to this commission, I will be able to share what I’ve learned through the 15 years I have been involved in the education of Latino children. I am sure you will agree with me that race and ethnicity shouldn’t be factors in the success of any child.
It is my belief and its also been demonstrated that if we provide early childhood education to Latino children it would take less than a decade to reap the benefits since investment in early education is proven to generate the fastest returns to the state.
With more ECD programs there will be less Latino students being held back, less dropouts and less crime involving school-age children; and they will be more productive individuals to society.
It's proven that most Latino kids who drop out of school and perform poorly in high school didn't have access to an early childhood education and lacked essential attention, stimulation and nutrition during the first 6 years of their lives.
Therefore, it is clear that the most powerful avenue for boosting academic achievement is improving the basic academic skills of children before kindergarten.
The Obama administration has made a point to improve Latino education and – as I spoke to the President previously – I am extremely passionate about working with the White House to plan an early childhood education summit in the coming year.
Latinos are the largest minority group in this country and as the Latino population grows, the U.S. economy becomes more and more dependent on its success. Americans must better understand the impact that the growing Latino population is having on the way we live today and on this nations future. Inevitably this country and its economic prosperity will also largely depend on our Hispanic kids.
There is no doubt that the future of the United States is inextricably tied to the future of the Latino community here and the education of its youth.
Thank you again, this is a great honor for me, I am so happy to be here.
Discurso de Shakira en Harvard:
Transcripción del discurso:
President Faust, Dean Smith, Dean Fitzsimmons, Professor Pfister
Dr. Counter, my dear friend Howard Buffet and, above all, the students of Harvard university.
Thank you so much for the honor you have paid me today.
I’m thrilled to be here, thank you so for such a warm welcome, I've had a lovely day here in Harvard and I feel extremely humbled
I graduated school when I was 15, and except for taking a history course at UCLA in the summer of 2008, I promise you I haven’t been in a classroom. So… as I entered the premises today I had to call my mother and tell her: hey mom guess what ! I got into Harvard! Of course she knew it was only for a day!
Now, normally when I get on stage, and for the audience’s sake and sanity I'm allowed to sing and dance ONLY.
It’s why you’ll have to forgive me for making the most of this occasion abusing the podium and sharing some of my thoughts.
Not every day I'm presented with the opportunity to talk to a group of people that soon will plant relevant ideas in the heads and hearts of generations to come.
So don’t blame me if I'd like to share with you some of the thoughts that crossed my mind on the plane ride coming here or things I've learned from people I've known through my trips while advocating for universal education in the developing world.
Now I don’t have to tell this audience about the power of education.
This is the place where the brightest and the best have come to study, to learn and to teach for well over 300 years.
Your predecessors, the graduates of this university – and a few of her drop-outs – have gone onto shape this country and our world for the better.
So you have – just like I do today in receiving this award – big shoes to fill.
But that’s a challenge you will relish. For you are not at Harvard by accident or luck. It’s your intelligence and hard work that got you here.
And there is nowhere better to help you shape your human potential than this great place of learning.
Not everyone can study at this university, of course.
But everyone, wherever they live, whatever their background, deserves the chance to make the most of his and her potential.
Now, as you will know I am certainly no Mother Teresa. And there are many worthy people who dedicate their lives to changing those of children around the world.
It is they who should be on this stage before you talking about education. But not all of them have this chance, today I do.
What I am is a little woman with a big mouth.
A woman who has been blessed with a big platform to lend her voice for those who don’t have one.
As a child of the developing world, it is my duty to use this voice in every way I can to promote the message about the power of education to change lives.
The scandal is that many millions are condemned forever to a life of poverty and segregation even before they become adults.
I saw this all around me when I was growing up in Colombia, and in Latin America, which is the most unequal region in the world. I learnt that in Latin America, as is the case right across the developing world, that if you are born poor, you will die poor.
I remember vividly growing up in my hometown of Barranquilla, I saw children near my house who were smart and vivacious with enormous talents, children who probably sang and danced much better than me, however they were living in the streets with nothing. No hope, no future.
As a child seeing all this made me sad but, more importantly, it made me angry. Later life gave me the chance to channel all that inconformity when I realized that there were solutions to these issues (and thank God because so much anger cannot live in such small body). So I soon understood that the more we talk about those things that bother us and seem impossible to be fixed the more we can fix them. No child has to die poor and unfulfilled just because he or she were born poor. I know for a fact that with a bit of effort and a ton of conviction; fate can be changed
We know that implementing universal education is hard, especially to create the political will and reform the cultures. But it can be done.
Let¹s be bold. We have the ideas, the intelligence, the human resources, governments have the money and young people have the influence. The ball is in our court.
If we all want the eradication of poverty, promoting education for all, will be the fastest vehicle to take us there.
200 million children currently live without access to primary and secondary education this can only be a synonym of hunger, resentment, violence, discrimination, war.
Education is the way to guarantee this doesn’t happen, and to ensure global security and economic development. It’s the best strategy for peace. After all isn't that what rich and poor countries both want? Investing in education for all is good business. So why wait?
I like to think of those 200 million children around the world who don't have any access to primary or secondary school, as 200 million minds that can reach their full potential and become the scientists and the inventors of tomorrow, the teachers, the artists, the environmentalists of tomorrow, the doctors who can cure our illnesses, the wonder makers of tomorrow. I’d like to imagine the world in a few years from now as a big think tank of revolutionary and vital ideas generated by the children that today live in remote and vulnerable places in the world.
I believe in humanity, and it's enormous potential, and I believe we are only at the threshold of what we can all achieve. The best is yet to come.
It is precisely in times of economic crisis like these, when we should focus on harnessing educated minds. Because it’s been historically proven that educated minds will become the foundation of wealthy societies.
But we all know that it cannot be left in the hands of governments alone, we don't have time for bureaucracy while infinite human potential goes to waste every day, and millions of children are losing the opportunity to develop their talents remaining excluded and ostracized from society.
That’s why citizen activism is so vital.
Now you might be wondering how I became so interested in the value of education. Well, I’m only a student on these issues but I am fascinated with the way investing small efforts in education can guarantee big results over a short period of time. For over 14 years we¹ve been working in Colombia hand in hand with Maria Emma Mejia through Barefoot, the foundation I established in my country when I was 18 years old, and since then we’ve been building schools in areas of extreme poverty and conflict, working with internally displaced families. We have built six state of the art schools offering support to 30,000 families and quality education as well as nutritional meals everyday to our 6,000 students, creating a comprehensive model of education in which the school becomes the center and heart of the community.
The most rewarding thing about working on this project is to see how with only two dollars a day per child. Children who could have been recruited by the militia or paramilitary groups are now on their way to college. We are happy to share that some of our students have achieved the highest national scores in State testing this year. And that is very encouraging. A few years ago we would have thought this impossible. But today we know that all these changes occur in a matter of just a few years if the investment in education is comprehensive.
We hear all the time how education transforms lives. Well, I'm telling you, I have seen it happen. Not once or twice but time and time again.
Sure, we also work in partnership with governments but if there is something I have learned these years, is that once the private sector get it's hands on a school project then the government cannot refuse to participate.
So as citizens we can only push and push our leaders to get involved with issues that are not always at the top of their political agendas.
Also I find that if wee work to inspire the younger generations they will become more and more impatient, more and more active
Speaking of youth activism, at my last performance in Madison Square Garden I remeber there were some kids that I met after the show. They handed me the usual letters which I assumed were fan letters. Instead, inside were donations to sponsor children in my country.
And like them I have met countless students that have told me how they have spent their vacations volunteering in Haiti or Colombia or el Salvador.
It is through volunteering in countries across the world how young people are making a difference.
Every day more of us understand that the world is a small neighborhood and that if there is a kid with an empty stomach in Bangladesh or Latino kid, the son or a daughter of an immigrant who can’t go to school in the United States, that kid should be a concern and a responsibility to all of us.
Also through this journey I’ve had the chance to meet with experts that have taught me amazing facts that have completely broadened my vision on the impact of education. For instance how just one year of primary education means a 10 to 20 per cent increase in wages in an adult life. And every dollar invested in early childhood development programs will give back to the state another 17 dollars..
We can’t afford to miss out on this investment. Universal education is the fuel to the engine of change, and we need to start it now.
So I promise to use my big mouth to make as loud a noise as I can and believe me i can be loud when I need to be.
But in the end, you are the people that are going to have the power to make universal education a reality and shape our world in whatever shape you want. When you leave here, you will be the policy makers, the business leaders and the educators and become extremely influential to determine the order of the world
We are already seeing your generation give a lead in pressing for democracy in the Middle East.
We need to see the same courage and commitment in ensuring every child can benefit from the transformational power of education.
You are the architects of change who can – no will - make your mark on the world just like your predecessors did.
I've been told: that the students of Harvard don't look for jobs, they create them.
So I wonder can you help the rest of us create a more just society?
I say, “yes” through your future practices.
By promoting education for all, and by giving every child the chance to make the most of their potential, you will take a huge step, as the Harvard Foundation urges, “to enhance the quality of our common life”.
Thank you so much for listening to me and my vehemence. Thank you for this honor.
And remember the ball is on your court!
Discurso de Shakira en Oxford:
Transcripción del discurso:
Thank you Oxford, and thank you Oxford Union.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here today and that you have afforded me this opportunity to speak to you.
I must confess, I am somewhat mystified as to why you are here. I won’t be singing… and there won’t be any hipshaking.
So, how do I, a girl from Barranquilla, Colombia come to occupy the same stage as Newton and Churchill? Lord knows I’m no Mother Teresa, but here I am, nonetheless.
I realize that the one point of view from which I can depart is that of an artist. After all, it is who I am. We artists depend on our imaginations.
When I first learned I was coming, I thought about the past and I imagined the future. From your minds, ideas will sprout that will give new shape to the world. I cannot help but fast-forward to what the world will be like in 50 years. What will be happening? Who will we be? How will we live? What challenges can we overcome?
I have a fantasy about this future that I want to share with you.
Let me put it this way, if civilization were a car, we would have been cruising at 20 miles per hour for millions of years only to hit light speed in the last hundred.
What made us accelerate so quickly recently and how can we continue this pace? There is only one explanation: the democratization of education.
Think about it: just recently a fossil was discovered in Africa, the oldest human fossil at over four million years. Our ancestors may have been slightly smaller than they are now but not significantly so particularly if you compare them to me since I am 5’ 3”….well ok 5’2”).
From then to now, humans learned, slowly but surely, the tools and methods they needed to survive and thrive in what would become modern civilization. We learned how to walk, then run, then dance; we learned to grow our food, to store our food, to share our food; we learned the basics of commerce, and mathematics; we learned to work with tools, and fight with tools, and write with language, and fight with language. We learned how to harness fire, and harness horses, and harness the power of the wind and the sun.
All before we got here.
Over 4 million years.
We know that in the Middle Ages, education was reserved by, and for, a few, a handful of people with access to the precious resources of knowledge -- writing, reading, libraries. The rest of the population, well, they weren’t so lucky; they lived unexamined lives, carting stone and wood from one place to another, unable to participate in intellectual conversation.
No doubt that intellectual elite felt safe and secure in restricting knowledge and information -- believing, as they did, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But what they didn’t appreciate was that hoarding knowledge was far more dangerous.
There was no critical mass of thought that allowed humanity to truly advance, to rescue them from plague, to invent the vaccines that would extend their lives, to devise the sociological models that would allow society to flourish.
These civilizations rose and fell and rose again; but in comparison to the present, the pace of development was incredibly slow… like a river one must stare at, with unbroken concentration to detect the movement of the current.
But what they didn’t anticipate was the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and later the Industrial Revolution! Suddenly, a middle class emerged, and everywhere people began to engage with each other, sharing their knowledge -- and instead of having a few thousand people thinking for everyone, there were millions of readers, writers, creators, artists, academics, teachers and students, becoming a true collective of shared resources, an ongoing, endless exchange of our most vital resource: information.
But then, a hundred years or so ago, we really picked up the pace. Suddenly, we pushed down hard on the accelerator. Suddenly, we were aboard a space shuttle, speeding through the sky, piercing the boundaries of the earth’s atmosphere, traveling thousands of miles to the moon, staking a flag on its surface, and sharing that breathtaking moment with the rest of the world through a device known as the television. Thank God for Televisions…
How could we moved so quickly?
It shouldn’t be surprising, really. The human race, after all, has only one collective conscience. We exist in a vast ocean, but we are the school of fish that moves in concert, zigzagging from left to right, together, in unison. Education is how we communicate, how we coordinate, how we cooperate.
What we know now that they didn’t know then is that all minds form one common intellect. The more people share knowledge the stronger the knowledge base grows, just as a burning fire grows when stoked by an increasing amount of wood.
We have achieved so much and we owe it to one basic but transformational concept.
The democratization of education
It is the airplane that brought me to England, the medicine that allows grandparents to meet their grandchildren, the philosophy that expands our individual liberties, and the technology that sent us to the moon.
I do not subscribe to the idea that the older days were better days. I strongly believe that the best is yet to come, with universal access to education to feed our collective intelligence, with our commitment to meet and organize in places like this, among students like you – we could be so close to creating a network of intellects, an enormous think tank devoted to sharing the best ideas and inspiring each other to keep learning, keep informing, and keep advancing our world. And finding solutions to our common issues. Wouldn’t that be great?
We have evolved so far in the course of human history, with so many technological advances in just the past century, how will we evolve in the next ten tears, or twenty years, or fifty years – now that we know that the world has shrunk and has become just one big neighborhood.
You are the architects of change. So tell me, how many things that seem inconceivable today will be obvious tomorrow? How long will man live? How will society be structured? Will we still be organized in couples? In communities? Governed by governments, led by presidents and prime ministers? Will we be able to breathe underwater? Will we eat junk food without gaining weight? I’d like that. Will Nike invent a pair of sneakers that will allow us to fly like Harry Potter?
Like John Locke, I am too impatient to wait. He says it, I sing it: “Why wait for later; I’m not a waiter.” I like to make things happen. (by the way, that ‘s from a song on my new album SHE WOLF in stores now). Anyways…
Nine years ago, as part of the Millennium Development Goals, leaders from around the world made a pledge to transform the world so that every child would have access to a primary school by the year 2015. That is just over five years from now. Sadly, their actions have not met their promises. Sadly, at the current pace of change, we won’t have universal access to education in a hundred years, let alone five. That is unacceptable.
Especially, when the world has the resources to feed itself several times over, then, why are children starving? Latin America, alone has 3 times the necessary abundance to feed it’s own population.
These children can’t wait a hundred more years.
They need us to cure a child with Leukemia or AIDS with a simple pill or a breakthrough vaccine. We need to live in a world in which together, we can find a solution to global warming so we don’t have to worry every single time a storm begins to form on the horizon. We need to find new ways to distribute food so no child goes to bed hungry.
And I know that education is our ticket.
How do I know? Because I’ve seen it.
I was born and raised in a country marked by civil conflict, social strife and inequality. Growing up in the developing world, where education is perceived as a luxury and not as right; where children beg for an education and parents are desperate to provide it; where if one is born poor, one is destined to do die poor.
But the good news, is that there is an exit strategy to break the cycle of poverty in which millions are trapped because of lack of access to education. From the moment I turned 18, I decided to establish my own foundation in Colombia. And since then we have been working on providing high quality education, nutrition for children and occupational training for their parents, building schools that also work as community centers for families that have been displaced by violence that have lost everything they had.
We found the way to keep kids in school and maintain parents involvement in their children’s education. Providing nutritious meals in schools we have decreased the number of dropouts and we have eradicated malnutrition among our students.
So we know that creating comprehensive models of education in areas where the population is vulnerable to extreme poverty and conflict, transforms the minds and the lives of not only children but entire communities. And it works. Believe me, it works.
I’m still a student on all these issues, but I’ve come to learn that there are ways to change this. So no government can say that the challenge of bringing education to every child is an impossible task. Because we know how to enroll all those 75 million kids who don’t have access to any kind of primary education, by:
Abolishing school fee’s
Hiring quality teachers
Providing uniforms and textbooks to children
And providing most importantly food, because no kid can learn on an empty stomach and because we’ve proven that it becomes the best incentive for parents to send their kids to school and reduce child labor.
Now I want to be clear about this, this isn’t about charity. This is about investing in human potential. From an ethical point of view, from a moral point of view, it accomplishes a purpose. But also from an economic point of view, this could bring enormous benefits to all mankind. Universal education is the key to global security and economic growth.
We all want safer nations. And in a world where weak states are often a haven for violent extremists, getting more children into school can dramatically help reduce the risk of instability and lay the groundwork for more stable democratic political systems to emerge. A child who lives in extreme poverty away from school is 10 times more likely to be recruited by a militant group then one who is receiving an education. For instance in Colombia we have kids in our schools who were destined to be a part of the drug trafficking business or recruited by guerrillas, today, as we speak they are going to college and like you, are graduating soon. So yes, education promotes peace and stability worldwide. Isn’t that what we all want?
On the other hand, education helps catalyze economic growth.
One single year of primary education invested means a 10 to 20% increase in wages in their adult life. For every dollar invested in early childhood development programs, that same child will give back 17. So yeah, education also boosts economic growth.
So I, for one, would definitely like to go faster. I want to go faster because, with so many challenges, faster is better. I want to go faster because faster is more just.
And they need us to do it all tomorrow. I say: let’s do it today.
So I look to you to help us go faster. I look to you to foster -- no, more than that, to become -- the network of collaborative minds that can stimulate the evolution of human understanding. I look to you to press down on that accelerator so that in fifty years, your children will look back and say:
“A long time ago, people could not formulate an efficient form of distribution of food to eliminate starvation and hunger, despite the technological advances of the time and the excess of food. But then they began to incorporate millions and millions of children in the web of knowledge -- because they began to realize that the democratization of education is the engine that propels the world.”
That is how I want the youth of 2060 to see us. That our mission for global peace consisted of sending 30,000 educators to Afghanistan, not 30,000 soldiers. That in 2010, world education became more important than world domination.
Because only education will accelerate our evolution.
Only by investing in our children, by tapping their potential that has remained untapped for too long, can they one day cure our diseases, or bring us to Mars, or secure us peace here on earth.
Because, it bears repeating, we are one world.
And so, if I have just one more thought to offer you and to add to our one collective conscience here today, it is this:
Education for all.
John Locke, who I believe was one of yours, once said, “the only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it, and the earlier the better.” So yeah, the earlier the better. There is no time to waste. It is you who are in the driver’s seat. It is your foot on the accelerator.
And please, step on it.
Thank you very much. This has been a true honor.