Talking It Over
A typical week for me — if any week can be called "typical" — is filled with different activities and challenges. But some weeks, like this one, are interrupted by the unexpected — in this case, the loss of an admired leader.
I was en route to a United Nations conference in the Netherlands when I learned of the death of Jordan's King Hussein. Because of my husband's and my esteem for the King and his family, I immediately traveled to Amman to meet the President for the sad duty of paying our last respects, visiting with our friend Queen Noor and meeting the new King, Abdullah.
I was moved by all I saw on that memorable day. Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians left their homes to line the city's streets to pay a final tribute to their beloved monarch. Leaders from around the world, including my husband and former Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush, joined together to honor a courageous champion of peace.
As I contemplated this extraordinary occasion on my way back to The Hague, I was struck by the fact that, in a strange way, these two events — the funeral and the U.N. conference — were connected. King Hussein will always be remembered for his ability to imagine a new and different future — a future of peace in the Middle East. This will always be one of his enduring legacies.
I saw the same feat of imagination at work in The Hague, where leaders from nearly 180 nations gathered to envision a new and better future for people all over the world. They had come to this history-filled Dutch city to talk about the progress we've made in the five years since the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. There, countries had put aside often profound differences and agreed upon common goals for the year 2015 — including reducing child and maternal mortality and guaranteeing universal access to family planning and education.
At this week's conference, I heard about the important steps being taken to reach Cairo's goals, despite the great challenges that remain.
I met with delegates from Yemen — where the number of girls going to school has tripled in some villages in the last five years.
I brought news of what the United States has done to fulfill the commitments we made in Cairo — most significantly in our efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. Finally, today, fewer American teens are getting pregnant, engaging in sexual activity and having abortions.
And yet, too many are still not getting the message. I'm always stunned when I meet pregnant girls who assure me that as soon as their boyfriend gets a job or gets out of jail, they'll be a family, and everything will work out just fine. No one has ever told these young women that teen pregnancy is too often a one-way ticket to shattered dreams.
We know that young women get pregnant for a whole host of reasons. Some don't understand why it's a bad idea. Some are coerced by older boyfriends. Others can't cope with school or family and see motherhood as a way out. Whatever the reason, we will only address the problem if we work to create a new and better future for all young people.
This administration's teen pregnancy prevention strategy includes everything from abstinence education to more after-school programs and family planning. In cooperation with the non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, we are seeing comprehensive, community-based health programs reduce teen pregnancies and sexual activity.
Most of all, we have to listen to our children. When asked what parents could do to prevent their own children from becoming pregnant, one young man from Texas answered: "Don't leave us alone so much." His message was clear: We need to fill our young people's lives — with love and guidance, a solid education and productive activities they enjoy.
Striving to imagine and to create a better future for the world is not only the work of leaders like King Hussein and those who were in The Hague this week. It is a job all of us share.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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