Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro Talking Points ORT Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network Leadership Conference Kfar Hamaccabiah Conference Center


Thank you Tzipi.  Let me first acknowledge:

Bracha Rager, Ort Israel President

Tzvi Peleg, Director General of Ort Israel

Eli Eisenberg, Senior Deputy Director General of Ort Israel

Mordechai Cohen, Director General of Tel Aviv University

Jacqueline Shechtman, Representative of Moshinsky Family

Uzi Tzuk, Chair of ORT Israel Board of Directors

Members of the Ort Israel Board of Directors

Thank you for inviting me to attend this important ceremony to recognize your efforts as educators in the 21st century.  To celebrate what all of you do, all day and every day, is highly commendable.

It is educators such as yourselves who make all the difference as to whether a child – black or white, girl or boy, Arab or Jewish, secular or religious, will have a chance in life, a chance at happiness and a chance at success.

Americans believe in the importance of creating access to opportunity. Providing such access allows for an individual – no matter who he or she is, what they look like, where they come from – if they work hard and live up to their responsibilities, they will be successful!

By giving every child in Israel the opportunity to learn the skills they need for a prosperous future – skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – you are giving them a ticket to succeed and compete globally.

By acknowledging and rewarding your principals and teachers today, you are bestowing them with the recognition and support to continue to carry out this fundamental task which impacts the lives of millions of young people every single day.  Research shows that high-quality early childhood education is one of the finest investments we can make in a child’s life.

This month, we celebrate women’s history by focusing on the accomplishments of women over the centuries, and focus on how to build on this success by providing new opportunities for girls in the United States and throughout the world.   As a father of two girls, President Obama has a particular passion for ensuring education for adolescent girls around the world.  As a father of three girls myself, having grown up with parents in the educational world, and being married to an educator, I too have a passion for this subject.

Earlier this month, both the President and the First Lady announced “Let Girls Learn,” a government initiative that will build on investments America has made and the successes achieved in global primary school education, and expand them to help adolescent girls complete their education and pursue their broader aspirations.

When a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy and educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community. The benefits go beyond the local community. Today, economists estimate that raising women’s participation in the work force to the same level as men could raise the United States by another 5 percent, and in some countries it could increase GDP by over 30 percent.

In the 21st century, quality education is an even more pressing issue when students – girls and boys – must have access to educational technologies to apply knowledge to complex situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems and make decisions.

Utilizing emerging technologies to provide expanded learning opportunities is critical to the success of future leaders.  This is accomplished by building bridges between schools and technology; incorporating these tools into the classroom and encouraging students to connect globally; giving students access to the English language and the world’s information.

But technology is not the sole answer for a child’s education today.   A good teacher is of utmost importance. One good teacher can change the path of student forever.  Perhaps even more important is to have supportive and understanding parents.  But, we cannot deny that in this modern 21st century – technology talks – and it can be an extremely powerful tool to leverage first-class impactful and relevant teaching and learning.

In partnering with ORT Israel, the U.S. Embassy has succeeded in supporting relevant, impactful, and meaningful educational tools.  Over the past decade, a variety of rich cultural and educational programs have been implemented in ORT schools to increase the bilateral understanding of our two countries.

In some of the outlying regions of Israel, ORT students study English enrichment in after school programs, and are exposed to rich cultural activities which includes American history, culture, and values through music, dance, and visual and contemporary arts.  These programs give students access to higher education by ensuring they can sit for the 4 or 5 English bagrut exams, opening up new worlds.

By partnering with ORT, together, we are able to empower, raise environmental awareness, and explore social and civic responsibility.  Arab students meet with Jewish students, secular students meet with religious students, and they explore areas of common interest, listen to one another, break down stereotypes, and foster tolerance and acceptance of ‘the other.’  These programs help create future leaders open to different perspectives.

Many ORT teachers and educators have traveled on mid-career professional development programs in the United States to share knowledge, build networks, and learn new methodologies and practices.  These exchange opportunities continue to strengthen our relationship, and the Embassy looks forward to expanding and partnering with ORT on new ventures and opportunities.

Let me end by commending all of you here today: Israel is a beautiful, young, and diverse country full of opportunity.  Israel has a lot to be proud of in its relatively short history.   In a matter of decades, Israel moved from an agriculturally based economy to becoming a leader in fields of Science and Technology, Medicine, Engineering and Defense.  Israel has always understood that the future of a successful State depends on a solid, high caliber educational system and the training of brain power.  This is a joint perception between Israel and the U.S. upon which our work is based.

As President Obama said “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite”.

Thank you and I wish you all the best for continued success.