(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- In his first major foreign policy speech as secretary of state, John Kerry stressed that even in these economically challenging times, foreign aid is an investment in America's national security and economic prosperity.
The former senator, who called himself a "recovering politician," said that he understood why foreign aid makes an easy political target for members of Congress, whose constituents expect them to focus on domestic policies that benefit the everyday lives of Americans. But he stressed that the idea that foreign policy doesn't affect Americans is wrong.
"Deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow," he told the crowd of mostly students at the University of Virginia.
He gave examples of how America benefits from the money spent on foreign aid and diplomacy, which makes up just over one percent of the federal budget.
The secretary then spoke about what that money has done for America and its place in the world. He highlighted programs combating AIDS in Africa, particularly PEPFAR, that the U.S. funded and supported, which saved 5 million lives. Kerry stressed that those lives are now turning into productive members of their societies and providing investment opportunities for Americans. He said that Africa now has seven out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world and the United States needs to "be at the table."
Kerry pointed out that Indonesia just placed the largest single order of airplanes from Boeing and that a South African energy company is getting ready to open up a plant in Louisiana that will employ Americans.
Kerry stressed that now is not the time for America to retreat from the world, but to become even more engaged.
"Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It is not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and in a free world," he said.
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