Address by First Lady Jill Biden in Ecuador

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Carondelet Palace
Quito, Ecuador

2:21 p.m. CET

FIRST LADY BIDEN: Thank you, María de Lourdes, for that very kind introduction.

Mr. President, Madam First Lady, María Mercedes, Minister of Foreign Affairs Holguín, and Ambassador Baki, Ministers of State, and to you, people of Ecuador:

Here, in the center of the world, there are so many things that amaze us: the majestic Andes, the volcanoes like gods of fire waiting to wake up. From the Galápagos to the Amazon, the story of our earthly origins. The breathtaking coast and the history that sprinkles every stone and brick that lines the streets of Quito.

And no less spectacular is the heart of the Ecuadorian people. Thank you for your warm hospitality and welcome.

I am honored to be here in this beautiful capital today. And on behalf of my husband and the people of the United States: Buenas late. (Applause.)

Ambassador Fitzpatrick, you and Silvana are doing a great job here. And our U.S. Embassy team represents the United States with excellence every day. Thanks to you two. (Applause.)

Two hundred years ago next week you won your independence from Spain right here in Quito at the Battle of Pichincha.

And since then, you have built a democracy that can withstand the tides of time.

Today you have a president and a first lady who serve the people.

President Lasso carves out a place in your story by reaching out to those who have often been ignored or left behind, listening to those who have faced inequality, discrimination and poverty, and finding solutions for their life.

As he said in his inaugural speech, “I have not come to satisfy the hatred of a few, but to satisfy the hunger of many”. (Applause.)

Thank you, President Lasso, for leading with courage and conviction.

And, Madam First Lady, today I saw your heart through your work serving the most vulnerable children in Ecuador. And God bless you. (Applause.)

Ecuador, the progress you have made here is a beacon to your neighbors. And your enlightenment can bring a more equitable and sustainable future to this corner of the world.

But alone you can’t do much. Each of us cannot do much. So that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today: how, when we work together, we can make our nations and our world stronger.

Just over a week ago, in a small school on the other side of the world, I sat with Ukrainian mothers, tears constantly in their eyes, as if they could barely contain their sadness.

As they wore brave faces, they grabbed their children’s hands or touched their children’s hair, unable to bear losing the physical connection for even a moment.

The mothers I met there told me about the violence; days and days without food, housed in basements, without sunlight. They never wanted to leave their home, but what else could they do?

You might be wondering why I am telling you about mothers who are nearly 7,000 miles away. After all, there are desperate parents all over the world.

I met them just two days ago in Buffalo, New York, in my own country – a mother and father mourning the daughter whose life was stolen in a heinous massacre.

I met Syrian mothers in Jordan who told me that they could not protect their daughters from the soldiers who came to abuse them.

I met a mother in a refugee camp in Kenya who told me of leaving the lifeless body of her child in the sand because she only had the strength to carry one of her two children.

And I will meet the children of Venezuelan parents later today when your First Lady and I visit students whose families have fled their homes.

It is tempting to believe that other people’s problems should be solved alone. What does a terrified mother in Ukraine matter to someone who is far from the oceans? What does a starving child in Ecuador matter to a family in New York? How important is inequality in the United States to young people right here in Quito?

But they matter. Injustice and corruption, poverty and pollution, disease and despair are not contained by any borders.

If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, from these past years of sickness and grief, it is how a deadly virus can spread across the world, how hunger and violence are woven together, how a war in Europe can spread the stock markets and supermarkets here, how the loss of trees in your Amazon can take a chunk of the future from us all.

But we have also seen something else in recent years. We’ve seen how kindness can spread through something as simple as wearing a mask. We’ve seen calls for injustice [justice] echoing through the streets of cities near and far. We have seen countries rise up against tyrants and offer shelter to their neighbours. Unexpected acts of kindness that speak to our very humanity.

Yes, we are connected, especially in the Americas. If a nation is vulnerable to authoritarianism or a health crisis or poverty, it won’t be long before these same problems reach us all.

But when the nations of South America embrace democracy, you become living proof that governments can serve the people they represent, inspiring others to follow your example.

When parents in every hemisphere don’t have to worry about how to feed their children or protect them from violence, when they can work in their home countries and build their communities, their children can learn , grow and become the leaders and innovators we need.

My husband, Joe, has always said politics is personal, and that’s why he’s worked so hard to build relationships around the world and here in Ecuador.

You know Joe, and I hope you know he cares deeply about you. And me too. And that’s why I’m here today.

The United States is attached to Ecuador. Together — (applause) — thank you. Together we have vaccinated your people and we are working — we are working to strengthen your health system. Together we have trained and mentored entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially those run by women.

And together, we’ve worked to preserve Ecuador’s precious environment, helping more students go to college. And together, we will defend your government against cyberattacks.

And it’s not just Ecuador. The United States, like you, is investing throughout this region. And, like you, we are committed to building lasting relationships.

Tomorrow, I will visit Panama and then Costa Rica, two other critical democracies. Whether it’s visiting schools, meeting students, or learning more about healthcare systems and how they serve patients, I’m going to see things that make life better.

And, in June, Joe and I are thrilled to invite leaders and their spouses to Los Angeles, California for the Summit of the Americas.

At the summit, our leaders have an ambitious agenda to come together on topics including realizing an equitable and sustainable future, building pandemic health and resilience, and strengthening democratic government. [governance].

But let – today let me say this: the United States stands with you, the people of Ecuador – (applause) – and all those who believe in education and health, democracy and justice, and work together to build a stronger world for all of us.

There are moments that transcend words; it’s often the language of motherhood: a deep pain that runs down her shoulders and says, “My child is in danger and I don’t know what to do. Or the movement of a jaw, determined with determination – a small shadow that says to the world, “There is nothing – nothing – that I would not do to keep my children safe.”

Sometimes it’s a sigh that echoes from a place I know well, somewhere hidden inside all parents, where we hold memories of first steps and the familiar sweet scent of your child resting in your arms. . Or it’s a smile that has seen the hard edges of the world but leans toward hope.

Nobody needs to translate this force, this aspiration, this love.

Every terrified mother or father, every starving child, every hopeful student, and every hard worker who dreams of a better world, they are not just “other people”. The threads of their lives are linked to ours, no matter how far apart we are.

No one can heal the wounds of the world alone, neither the United States nor Ecuador. But we can be the arms of welcome and the hands of kindness.

We can stand side by side and lift ourselves when we fall. We can and we will. And we will build a better world together. (Applause.)

Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

END 2.35pm CET

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