SOS Hillary Clinton Townterview in the Kyrgyz Republic
MODERATOR 1: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 2: Madam Secretary, welcome to Kyrgyzstan. And on behalf of Kyrgyz youth, I would like to thank you for this great opportunity to have this informal meeting. And, here with us, the students of the American University of Central Asia and lots of other universities, representatives of civil society organizations and young professionals, me and my colleagues will be helping you to have this dialogue.
Kaarmanbek Kuluev is the anchor of the TV talk show on the Public TV and Radio in Kyrgyzstan, and Kadyr Toktogulov, he is an AUCA alumnus and correspondent for Dow Jones news wires and Wall Street Journal.
MODERATOR 1: And, sitting next to you, we have Elvira Sarieva, who is the chairperson of the supervisory board for Kyrgyz Public TV and Radio.
MODERATOR 2: And, before we start, I would like to thank the American University in Central Asia, the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, and Public TV and Radio Corporation for organizing this wonderful event. So, let’s start. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 1: This is not your first visit to Kyrgyzstan, and you have been to (inaudible) American University in Central Asia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR 1: Many things have changed through that. Even the students, for example, the alumni is a big one. They’re waiting for you. So how does it feel to be back?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for hosting this. And I want to thank, of course, our embassy and the American University of Central Asia, and the new chancellor. And I particularly want to thank public television and public broadcasting here in Kyrgyzstan. I am a big supporter of public broadcasting, and I appreciate this opportunity. (Applause.)
And it’s very exciting to be back. As you say, I helped to inaugurate the university back in 1997. It’s wonderful to return. The United States is proud to continue to support that university, and support many other important programs in Kyrgyzstan. And there could not be a better time than right now to be here, as you are forming a new government.
The constitutional referendum and the parliamentary elections were widely appreciated around the world. In fact, many people said Kyrgyzstan, in the midst of all of the problems, was able to do elections better than many other countries in other parts of the world. So I think that the people ought to be very proud of that. And the United States will continue to support the government and people. We are very committed to the future of Kyrgyzstan. So it’s wonderful to be back. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 2: Thanks so much. And I guess everybody is interested in both your key message to Kyrgyzstan and you have already met with the President of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbayeva. What did you talk about?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we had an excellent meeting. And we talked about many different things. We talked about the formation of the new government, which, of course, I wish well when that is finally accomplished; the challenges facing Kyrgyzstan, in terms of economic development and opportunity and social and human development and human rights; security and stability. We really talked about a broad range of both challenges and opportunities that are facing your country.
And I think it’s fair to say that the next few years will be critically important to your future, because you are primarily students, and you are going to be able to make a contribution, not only to the improvement of your own lives, but to the improvement of your country.
So, I want to hear firsthand from you what you see happening in Kyrgyzstan, what more the United States can or should do to help to bring about a better future for the people of this country. And I enjoyed greatly my conversation with the president, because there is a great deal of hope and optimism that we have about the future. But even a friend and a partner like the United States wants to be, can only do so much. The hard work is really up to the people. And we want to support that.
MODERATOR 1: Thank you. Now, I think some of us have some questions, and so we will give the floor to students.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, was it difficult to figure out U.S. Administration’s response to April events which ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s always difficult when violence happens, and when government changes occur. But we were ready and willing to help immediately with the humanitarian issue. The results of the violence, the problems that occurred not only in April, but then again in June, where people were killed, where families were displaced, where housing was destroyed, we have provided direct aid.
And we also were quite encouraged when the interim government pledged that it would immediately carry out elections. You don’t see that everywhere. Lots of times, if there is a change in the government, especially if it’s precipitated by or accompanied by violence, you don’t see a commitment to early elections. And I remember very well lots of people around the world were saying, “They can’t have that constitutional referendum in the middle of all of the problems that are going on,” and the president and the people around her said, “No, we have to do it, because we want to prove that we didn’t do it for ourselves, we wanted to turn it over to the democratic process.” So, we were ready with help, and we were pleased at the way that – the reaction from the government and the people had proceeded, and now we stand ready to help the new government.
And there are a couple of very important issues that I think have to be addressed: continuing assistance for people in need, particularly people who have suffered because of the changes over the last month, but really trying to help with greater economic opportunity for all of the people; working on tensions between different groups in society, how do you overcome the suspicion that, unfortunately, exists; bringing to justice those who committed crimes, but doing it in a way that follows the law and the constitution and makes it clear that everyone, no matter who they are, or what they’re accused of, in a democracy, is entitled to due process; working on security and stability so that there can be a strong foundation on which the country can move forward.
So, we have been very encouraged by what we have seen since the events of April and since the violence of June.
MODERATOR 1: Let’s take some questions now.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, please.
MODERATOR 1: Please state your name.
QUESTION: Maria Ciskova (ph), American University of Central Asia. Yesterday, during the briefing with media in Kazakhstan, you said that Kyrgyz nation can be proud of their achievements. Although we in Kyrgyzstan do not have the natural resources like oil and gas, what are the achievements that Kyrgyz nation can be proud of? Thanks. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s an excellent question. First, the resilience and the determination of the people of Kyrgyzstan over the 20-plus years of your independence, it has been a turbulent time. But there has been a commitment to education, as evidenced by the universities – not just the American University of Central Asia, but the other universities represented here – and, in the last year, the commitment to parliamentary democracy. That doesn’t exist in any other country in Central Asia. And it is something that I think that the people of Kyrgyzstan deserve a lot of credit for.
A parliamentary democracy can help to ease the tensions between different regions of the country and different groups of people, because in a parliamentary democracy – as you have seen with the formation of the government – people have to compromise. Compromise is not a dirty word in a democracy. In a democracy you rarely, if ever, get 100 percent of what you or your group want, because everybody’s interests and needs have to be taken into account.
So, I would say that the strong character of the Kyrgyz people, the incredible resilience that you have shown since independence, but, most importantly, the path of democracy that you have chosen now. This will not be easy. You are pioneers. Look around you in this region. You are trying to do something that no one else has done.
And I also have to say the fact that you have the first woman president of any country in this entire area – (applause) – I loved calling your president “Madam President” today. And, in fact, I announced that the United States will sponsor a conference for women leaders from Central Asia, including Afghanistan, here in Bishkek in May. (Applause.) And we are coming because of your accomplishments.
MODERATOR 1: Madam Secretary, we have a question from this side.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, hi.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Akin (ph), I am from Kyrgyz National (inaudible). And my question is, what is the final decisions of (inaudible) air base in Kyrgyzstan? Thank you.
MODERATOR 1: It’s Manas Air Base (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, the transit center. Well, first, I publicly thank the president, the government, and the people of Kyrgyzstan for hosting this air base. This air base is the central transit point for soldiers from 49 nations going into Afghanistan, not just Americans, but from across the world, from Australia to Denmark and many places in between.
And we have had some serious issues regarding the air base that we have worked to answer and resolve. I publicly said today that we are working to help the Government of Kyrgyzstan set up an organization, transparent, that will be able to provide a significant part of the fuel, and that the funding will go into the Government of Kyrgyzstan.
We are also aware of the investigation that is going on of the oil – the fuel company of the past, and we will await the results of that investigation. Of course, if there is any evidence of wrongdoing, we will work to follow up on that. But we want to be a good partner with Kyrgyzstan.
We think that it’s not only the air base that is important to our partnership; we have a much broader partnership. We have the Peace Corps here in Kyrgyzstan. We have U.S. AID, our Agency for International Development. We have many other partnerships. But we are very grateful that the people have hosted this air base. And I explained to the president that we decided at the meeting in Lisbon, Portugal a few weeks ago, of all the nations participating in Afghanistan, that we will begin to transition to Afghan security starting next year. And the goal is to have the Afghans in charge of their own security by the end of 2014. And then we will look to see if there is any continuing mission that would be of benefit to Kyrgyzstan that would be continued there.
MODERATOR 1: Another question coming from right here.
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) Bishkek Humanities University. First of all, I would like to say that it’s a big honor for me to be here, and to talk to the person who has been a role model for me for several years. So my question is to you.
Also, I work in an international nongovernmental organization. I think it’s the biggest nongovernmental organization in the world. So are there any steps being taken to enhance the activity of nongovernmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan (inaudible)? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. And thank you for those kind words. And I am very happy to hear that you are working with a nongovernmental organization. Before I came in I met with some representatives of other nongovernmental organizations. I am a very big believer. I started my career as a young lawyer in a nongovernmental organization. When I got out of law school, I went to work for an organization called the Children’s Defense Fund. And I have worked over many years to promote civil society, which nongovernmental organizations are a part of.
Because, you see, if you look at countries around the world, and you think to yourself, “What are successful countries,” successful economically and politically that benefits the vast majority of their people, you need a good, functioning democratic government. You need a free market economy, properly regulated, that provides economic benefit to its people. And you need a strong, vibrant civil society. It’s like a three-legged stool, in order to be stable.
So, I think civil society has a very important role to play in Kyrgyzstan. And I would promote civil society. The United States, through our aid programs, support many organizations. In fact, universities are part of civil society, and our support for education here in Kyrgyzstan is a part of our commitment to civil society. So I am a very strong supporter, not because I have personal experience, so much as because I think civil society will be very positive for Kyrgyzstan. And it is not only an important part of a stable, democratic society, but it’s also a way for young people often to get experience that they then can take either into government or into the private sector, because you acquire certain skills that will be beneficial to you.
MODERATOR 1: There is a question on this side of the house.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from American University of Central Asia. We know that the situation in North Korea is getting complicated. And my question concerns the entire world. Will America enforce pressure on military forces? And if yes, is your country ready to deal with China, that has strong ties both with North Korea and America?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a very important question. And North Korea poses an immediate threat to the region around us, particularly to South Korea and Japan. It poses a medium-term threat if it were to collapse to China, because of refugees and other instability. And it poses a long-term threat to the entire world, because of its nuclear program, and its export of weapons around the world.
So, the United States is very concerned about North Korea, and we want to work with the countries in the immediate region – Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and the United States – to change the behavior of the North Korean regime, and to try to begin to move it away from its provocative behavior, like the sinking of the South Korean ship, and the attack on the South Korean island, and its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, like the recently disclosed uranium enrichment facility.
So, on Monday – I will get back to the United States over the weekend, and on Monday I will hold a meeting with the foreign ministers from South Korea and Japan. I have already spoken to high-ranking Chinese and Russian officials. And we will discuss how we can work together to try to avoid conflict.
South Korea has exercised great restraint. I want you to think – some of you will be the future leaders of Kyrgyzstan. Think if you were in a high-ranking government position, and in the last several months a neighboring country has sunk one of your naval vessels, killing 46 of your sailors, and attacked one of your villages, killing military and civilians, and you have restrained yourself because you don’t want war. So you had not attacked, but you have got to stop that behavior. You cannot permit another country to be attacking your people. If they just continue.
So, we are going to work with our partners in this effort, to try to avoid war, to try to restrain the North Koreans, to try to convince them to give up their nuclear weapons, and to try to show them that there is another way of running a country than what they are doing, which is to the benefit of a very few people, namely the rulers. So it’s very challenging, but we are determined to try to achieve those objectives.
MODERATOR 1: (Inaudible) take one question for – I’m going to ask it myself, actually. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go right ahead.
MODERATOR 1: So (inaudible) of foreign policy of the United States, the Color Revolution, the Russian media was accusing that the United States was the one who was directing all this Color Revolution in Georgia, Ukraine, and in Kyrgyzstan. And then, as we see, like none of this Color Revolution didn’t bring as (inaudible) a result that it had promised from the beginning.
So, how do you think – I mean, first of all, is that true, that America was directing it? And, second, why this dedication of democracy was failed in the state?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say we did not control or direct any of the Color Revolutions. The United States has always stood for democracy. We have always encouraged people to speak out for human rights. And we were very pleased when the former Soviet Union dissolved, and people were given a chance to go back to their own country, have their own governments, and chart their own futures. But that’s a relatively short period of time in human history, because, remember, it was 1989, 1990, 1991 when all of this happened. So 20 years is not a lot of time for countries to have a stable, functioning democracy.
But I think if you look at all of the countries that came out from under the Soviet Union – Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, all of these countries – they are functioning very well. They are members of the European Union, they have solid democracies, they have free market economies, they respect human rights. I think Georgia has economically developed very well. They have also been – is somebody from Georgia here?
MODERATOR 2: No, just a friend of Georgia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there is a lot to admire about what Georgia has accomplished. Georgia has accomplished economic growth, Georgia has accomplished some important reforms against corruption. Georgia has some challenges. And, of course, they have a real problem with Russia. They had a war in 2008, and they had lost two of their provinces, which Russia claims are not independent nations that they have recognized. So, Georgia, under very difficult circumstances, has accomplished quite a lot.
Ukraine, after the Orange Revolution, had an opportunity. But I will tell you, one of the problems in Ukraine is that the people in the government could not figure out how to cooperate, and they could not make decisions. And, as a result, they did not produce the kinds of changes that people expected after the Orange Revolution. They have a new government now. Their new president is trying a different approach, because, of course, they neighbor Russia. Russia was quite concerned about the Orange Revolution and about the elections that brought reformers to power. So now the new administration in Ukraine is trying to get along with Russia, Europe, and the United States, everybody. And they are trying to do a balancing act. We will see how it works. Not clear yet how it will work.
Kyrgyzstan, in my view, has a second chance with what you have just done. You had some real difficulties with coming out of the authoritarian regime imposed by the former Soviet Union. And many of the people who have come to power immediately out of the old Communist Party apparatus knew nothing about democracy. You can’t really expect someone whose only experience was in a totalitarian system, a command economy, to automatically understand everything about how complicated democracies are.
So, I think you are off to a good start, but it is just a start. Elections are just the beginning, they’re not the end of the democratic process. So you have a lot of work ahead. And the people have to hold the leaders accountable for getting together to solve problems, because that’s what democracies have to do. So, I hope next year, year after, in 5 and 10 years, we will look back and say that Kyrgyzstan is setting the model for this part of the world. And that’s what I would like to see. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Where does Kyrgyzstan come in – over here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, there you are. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Where does Kyrgyzstan come in in your reset with Russia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Russia and the United States, we think, have to work hard to overcome a legacy of mistrust, and try to chart a new course. So when the Obama Administration came in, President Obama and I said we’re going to try to reset relations with Russia. That doesn’t mean we will always agree, because we will not. But it does mean, where we can agree, we should. And we should try to make the world safer and more secure, fewer conflicts, fewer problems.
So, for example, the United States and Russia have worked to achieve a new treaty to lower the numbers of nuclear weapons. It’s called the New START Treaty, and we’re working hard to get our Senate to approve it right now. We have worked to reign in Iran’s nuclear program. We have worked together to help the situation in Afghanistan. So we have found areas where we can work together. We disagree on Georgia, we disagree on some of the tactics that we have seen Russians use in their relations with other countries. We disagree with their human rights record – terrible problems that journalists have had inside Russia – but we still keep working on having a positive agenda.
MODERATOR 2: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: And let me just add. So when it comes to Kyrgyzstan, we worked together after the events of April and June to try to help stabilize the situation in Kyrgyzstan. We worked together to get the OSCE to set up a police assistance program. So we have found ways to work together. And we hope that will continue.
But what’s important for us, for the United States, is that Kyrgyzstan be left alone to make its own decisions about what is best for Kyrgyzstan, and that no country interfere with or undermine the legitimate aspirations of the people of Kyrgyzstan to have a democracy that will fulfill the aspirations of you, and no one else. That is our hope. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 2: You answered my question.
QUESTION: So, good afternoon. My name is (inaudible), American University of Central Asia. America has really strong domestic policies. So how do you think – what should the new government of the Kyrgyz Republic do to develop a domestic policy of Kyrgyzstan. I mean education and health care. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s got to be at the top of the list of the new government, because democracy has to deliver results for people. So I don’t know enough to comment with much knowledge about what all the policies should be.
But emphasizing education is key, making sure that there is universal access to primary and secondary education, that there are enough university positions for people who are willing to work hard to get their college and university degree, to be able to go and do so, and afford to do so. We are going to continue to support the training of faculty and other kinds of aid for education in Kyrgyzstan.
In health care there are some good models around the world about how to create universal access to health care. And we would certainly encourage the new government to look – see, I hope what the new government does is to look around the world at what has worked – what do you want Kyrgyzstan to look like in 10 years and 20 years and 30 years – and have a plan about how to get there. And then, do the hard work of achieving those goals. Do not get deterred by inter-ethnic fighting or political advantage or all of the stuff that happens that takes your eye off what is really important.
I also think opening up the economy – try to have the freest economy in the region and support entrepreneurs, support small and medium-sized businesses, create a good investment climate, have good laws that govern the mining industry, because you have mineral resources that can help all of the people of Kyrgyzstan. Don’t let people come in and get sweetheart contracts that will benefit only a few, but look to see how the results of taking the minerals out of the ground could benefit the schools and the health of the people of Kyrgyzstan.
So, there are many models. The United Nations can help. The OSCE can help, which Kyrgyzstan is a member of. The United States will help. We really want to see you succeed. So we are ready to provide technical assistance and any other advice and help that you need. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Secretary Clinton. My name is Elisa (ph), I am from International University of Central Asia. And my question is (inaudible) the government of America that it helped our country from establishing its independence. And my question is if your government grants some financial resources, in your opinion, which areas of business should be supported firstly?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the United States wants to help you fulfill your own goals. So we don’t want to come in and tell you, “This is what you should do.” We will come in and offer suggestions and recommendations.
But I think it’s important to help business on several levels. When I was here in 1997 I supported a program of microfinance. Do you know what that is? Where people are given small loans for their own small businesses, because you want a lot of economic activity, and you want as many people able to make a good living as possible. So, don’t forget small business. That needs to be taken into account.
Then you need good credit programs for medium-sized and larger businesses. So your banks have to be able to offer credit. And how do you set that up so that you have a good banking system? You know, we have had problems with our own banking system, so learn from the mistakes of others. Get a banking system that is well-regulated, but can meet the needs of the people.
You have these minerals that I referred to. How are you going to exploit them without destroying the environment, and without having the benefits only go to a small group of people? So, what laws do you need to make sure that the mining industry is well dispersed?
Agriculture, what’s the best way to improve agricultural productivity? So I would hope that the new government, when it’s established, will consist of people who have expertise, who understand business, who understand economy, who understand agriculture, education, health care. And they will then look around the world to get good advice and help, and you will have strong laws that protect business, so that when people come to do business they are not affected by corruption, they do not feel that their contracts will be dishonored. So there is a lot that can be done that will really begin to provide economic opportunity throughout the whole society. And that’s what I hope you do. (Applause.)
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible). And, first of all, welcome to our country.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: And here is my question. Now our country is living with tough times, and we should have good relations with other countries, also. And don’t you think that if that tension may arise – if tensions rise between Iran and the United States, then bilateral relations with Iran and Kyrgyzstan may have some impacts? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the United States doesn’t want to dictate who you have relations with. That’s up to Kyrgyzstan to decide. But we want you to go into any relations with your eyes wide open, and make sure that you are getting the best possible advantage that will help the people of Kyrgyzstan.
So, if you are doing business or in other ways involved with Iran, just know that the international community – not just the United States, but the international community, including Russia and China – passed very strong sanctions against Iran to try to convince Iran to avoid pursuing a nuclear weapons program. So, if you do business with Iran, you may run into the sanctions that the international community has placed on Iran.
So, you just have to understand that there is an effort by the higher world to try to convince Iran to be a responsible state, and to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but not for military or weapons purposes. But you are free to have relations with every country, and that is your choice. But just be sure you are going into it fully aware of both the advantages and the disadvantages in any relationship with any other country.
QUESTION: Well, I guess that’s the challenge of Kyrgyzstan, is that we are surrounded by all these neighbors with authoritarian regime, and we are trying to build democracy. And there is (inaudible) relations between the U.S. and Russia. And the media said that (inaudible) happening on the coast of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why do they say that? What is the reason for saying that?
QUESTION: Well, I guess – I wish I knew why journalist thinks so. But probably they’re saying it’s because Kyrgyzstan needs support from stronger countries, or at least an understanding of what’s going on in this country. And the statements done by several neighboring countries were not supportive of what’s going on in Kyrgyzstan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: And the fact that you’re making (inaudible) and getting back to (inaudible), it’s – the question is whether you think that that statement was true, that there is – that’s what’s happening on the coast of Kyrgyzstan and –
QUESTION: And is there any rivalry going on between Russia and the U.S., I mean, in the region, particularly in Kyrgyzstan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to tell you that I do not believe that. And I hope that there is no basis for that, because we think having a positive relationship between Russia and the United States actually helps other countries. Reducing the tension between Russia and the United States creates more space for other countries to pursue their own national interests, because when Russia and the United States are in a tense situation, then each of us is going to try to get advantage with others, to the detriment of either Russia or my country. So, we think that the reset has actually been beneficial, because it’s lowered the tension between us.
Now, I do think that your question, though, has a different emphasis. You’re trying to be a parliamentary democracy. None of your other neighbors is. And it’s also the opinion of many now that parliamentary democracy in Russia has diminished in importance that it is not as democratic as it had once hoped to be. So you are – and, of course, China, another neighbor, is not a parliamentary democracy. So you are trying to do something which is, number one, very hard to start with; and number two, in a neighborhood where it’s never been tried, really, before.
So, are you going to face resentment and criticism from other countries? Probably, which is why I think it’s important for you to have relations with many, but not be dependent on any. Try to balance off all the different relations you have, and get the best help you can from other countries that wish to participate with you. But it’s also why the United States wants to strongly support you, because we think it’s good for Kyrgyzstan, but we also think it’s a good model for Central Asia. And if Kyrgyzstan can figure out how to be a parliamentary democracy, then other countries should also try to figure it out.
So, you’re right, that there is a lot of attention being paid to Kyrgyzstan. And we want to help you develop as strong a democracy as possible, so that you will be able to protect yourself, and develop yourself without pressure or interference from anyone else. And that’s really our goal. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 1: Madam Secretary, I have a question here.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. (Inaudible.) My name is (inaudible). I am a student of – I am a first year law student.
What is the single most important quality that you think will help women lawyers like me to succeed in today’s world? (Laughter.) Thank you very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. Good luck to you. Well, first of all, you have to be very well prepared to be a successful lawyer, and that requires what you’re doing now, getting your education. And then, once you are a lawyer, it requires working very, very hard for your client and keeping up with the law. And it also requires writing and speaking well. So, practice your writing and practice your speaking.
And it requires, for a woman, usually in today’s world still, an extra amount of effort because I think it’s – the fact that women are still sometimes judged more critically. If you are in the courtroom or you are presenting a case, it still is a fact – and this is not just in Kyrgyzstan, this is everywhere – that when a man walks into a courtroom it’s rare for someone to say, “Oh, look what he is wearing.” (Laughter.) But if you walk into a courtroom, or any young woman walks into a courtroom, people are going to notice. And that will be an additional requirement that you have to meet.
So, it’s a wonderful profession. I was – I went to law school. I was a law professor, and I was a practicing lawyer. And I very much benefited from having those experiences. And then, of course, when my husband was President, I was First Lady. And then, when I was a Senator from New York, and now as Secretary of State, I use my legal training and my legal background all the time.
So, whether you end up practicing law, or you go into government, or you go into a nongovernmental organization, or you go into business, the legal training you’re acquiring will be helpful to you. So, good luck to you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 1: People* always touch some personality of Hillary Clinton. We have some – not just silly questions, but (inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’ve never been asked a silly question in my entire life. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR 1: But they’re very short. So –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
MODERATOR 1: — very short answer, and –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay, I will try.
MODERATOR 1: Okay. Does Chelsea have political ambition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR 2: Were you scared to come to Bishkek after the explosion?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m sorry, what?
MODERATOR 2: Were you scared to come to Bishkek after the explosion that we had?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Was I scared to?
MODERATOR 2: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, not at all.
MODERATOR 1: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?
SECRETARY CLINTON: What designers of clothes?
MODERATOR 1: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Would you ever ask a man that question? (Laughter.) (Applause.)
MODERATOR 1: Probably not. Probably not. (Applause.)
MODERATOR 2: How many hours do you sleep?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s my answer.
MODERATOR 1: Yeah, I got it. I got it. That was a tough one.
MODERATOR 2: How many hours do you sleep?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it really depends upon what else is going on. I’ve been kind of busy this week, so I haven’t slept many hours. But I try to get six hours. And then on the weekends, I try to make up for it, because you can’t go too long with too little sleep. It starts to impair your judgment. And so even when I can’t sleep a lot during the week, I try to catch up on the weekends.
MODERATOR 2: Okay. Which is your favorite movie?
SECRETARY CLINTON: My favorite movie? Oh, my gosh. I have seen so many movies over the course of my life. I had different favorite movies at different stages of my life. So when I was younger – much younger than you – (laughter) – I liked the “Wizard of Oz,” with – the classic version with Judy Garland. I loved that movie. I like the classic movie, “Gone with the Wind.” (Applause.)
When I was college, “Casablanca” was a very favorite movie, and, I don’t know, I must have seen it 100 times. I really like the actress Meryl Streep. So I love just about anything she is in, particularly “Out of Africa,” with Robert Redford.
Anyway, I could go on and on. But I like many different movies.
MODERATOR 2: What was the first words of Chelsea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The first word of Chelsea? Well, “Mommy,” of course. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR 1: What do you read during your long flights?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to read a lot of briefing papers. You see these people that I travel with? They are constantly producing papers that they expect me to read and understand on short notice, and I get piles of it. I read a lot of newspapers, because I have to keep up with what’s going on in the world. But I also like to read for pleasure, so I read mysteries, I read romances. I read things – I try to read at night, even just for a minute before I fall asleep, just to kind of clear my head.
MODERATOR 2: What inspires you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: People who have the courage to stand up for human rights of themselves, and particularly others. That I find very inspiring. Leaders who put the needs of their people and their rights ahead of their own personal benefit.
MODERATOR 1: Where do you go for vacation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I love New York, so I often vacation in New York.
MODERATOR 2: Do you have vacations?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you know what? There was a period of time when I had not had any vacations. But last year my family actually took a vacation, and I highly recommend it. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR 1: Okay. And the last question. When will the American troops withdraw from Afghanistan? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: 2011 is the time to start with the transition, not just Americans, but all of the 49 nations. And then the Afghans will be expected to take charge of their own security by the end of 2014.
MODERATOR 1: We will probably have your aid in telling us that – last question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, there are so many hands. I will have to come back. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is (inaudible), I am an American University alumna and film maker. My question is related to education. Would it be possible to improve the number of Peace Corps volunteers coming into Kyrgyz schools, please? (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes. I met some of our Peace Corps volunteers at our embassy meeting just now, and I will look into that. And let me ask you. Is the most important benefit from Peace Corps or other American volunteers the teaching of English?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. And what else are you saying?
QUESTION: Not the only.
SECRETARY CLINTON: What else?
QUESTION: What else is the defense of liberty and a stronger sense of identity we get from that sort of teaching. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will look into that, and we will see what we can do to try to provide more of that. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Can we please exchange students in America?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Let’s increase exchanges both ways. I would like more Americans to come to Kyrgyzstan, and I would certainly welcome more students from Kyrgyzstan to come to the United States. So we will look at how we can increase that, too. (Applause.)
And what other ideas? Give me some more ideas. Yes, just one more. I know I’m supposed to go, but I really welcome suggestions like that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), International University of Central Asia. I would like to ask the Secretary a question. What is the strategical significance of having a USA military base in Kyrgyzstan in the next five years? And how do you see that significance changing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the significance of it now is that Kyrgyzstan by hosting the base is assisting the efforts in Afghanistan. And the reason that’s important for Kyrgyzstan is because we do not want terrorism exported to Kyrgyzstan. So this is not only about the 49 countries whose troops go through the air base to Afghanistan, it is about stabilizing Afghanistan so violence and extremism does not get exported from Afghanistan into Central Asia.
So I think there are benefits, not just material benefits but real cooperative benefits that come through Kyrgyzstan. And the future will be up to the Government of Kyrgyzstan once a new government is established.
Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
And some other photos from yesterday that I didn’t get a chance to post. I’ll try to catch up some this weekend: