Dr. Mark Keenum speaks at the Presidents United to Solve Hunger

Dr. Mark Keenum speaks at the International launch of Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) at the United Nations Headquarters in New york City on December 9, 2014.

Co-organized by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Hunger Solutions Institute, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), USAID’s Board of International Food and Agriculture Development, the Zero Hunger Challenge, and the Alliance to End Hunger.

(Video Source: UN Web TV webtv.un.org/watch/presidents-united-to-solve-hunger-push-%E2%80%93-hunger-forum-and-public-signing/3934294784001#full-text)

Audio Transcription:

Speaker 1: Thank you so much. None of us would be in this room today, were it not for the foresight and pioneering actions of a handful of individuals. I would personally like to thank Dr Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, who was not only one of the first presidents to sign the commitment, but who agreed to serve as the first chair of the Push Steering Committee. He will make a few remarks before recognizing those signatories who could not be in the room with us today. President Mark Keenum.

Mark Keenum: Thank you, June. It is indeed an honor and a privilege for me to be here today and to thank all of you who were here today and to brave this tumultuous weather that we've had to endure here in New York, but this is a very momentous occasion for us all to be part of. Today dozens of universities from all across the United States and around the world are pledging to join with each other and with our prominent partners to help solve the problem of world hunger in the 21st century. University research, outreach, teaching have helped feed our growing global population throughout the past century. We have vital expertise to contribute to every aspect of the challenge and at every step of the food chain, from the laboratory to the farm, to the market, to the table. Now by signing the president's commitment to food and nutrition security, we're acting to pool our knowledge towards new and innovative collaborations and engage our energetic and passionate students in a push that will capitalize on the power of partnerships in our fight against hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

So congratulations to each of our institutions that have already joined this great undertaking. Your leadership obviously is very much appreciated. We hope that you and your students through your example and your advocacy will encourage others to sign this commitment as well. Of course, we are especially thankful to Auburn University to President [Goosh 00:02:39] to June Hinton and all of the team at the Hunger Solutions Institute. We're also very thankful to the FAO and to APLU for organizing the conference this past February that led to the president's commitment to food and nutrition security that we are formally about to sign here today.

As was mentioned, I was honored to participate in that historic gathering at Auburn and to see taking shape what I am confident will be a particularly effective approach to the daunting challenge before us in increasing food production by 70 percent during the next generation. I've been thinking about global hunger and it's associated threats for quite some time. Before becoming president at Mississippi State University six years ago, I was an undersecretary for the US Department of Agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services and I had the responsibility of international food aid programs that were administered by our USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

For example, the Mcgovern Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, our Food for Progress Program and of course our outstanding Cochran Fellowship programs and as under secretary I also worked very closely with USA ID with the FAO, with the World Food Program and numerous NGOs. And since then my own University of Mississippi State, we have established an international institute and have established cooperative agreements with the FAO andthe World Food Program focus mainly on food, nutrition and safety.

My career opportunities have helped me to better understand the magnitude and the gravity of the problem of world hunger and the threats that it poses not only to those most directly affected, but also to peace and stability worldwide. Also have had the opportunity to see much good being accomplished by governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the partners that are here in this room today that are part of Push. So based on what I have observed and learn, I believe that Push and the president's commitment to food and nutrition security will strengthen a vital component of the global fight against hunger.

Universities such as those represented here have only begun to scratch the surface of what research, extension and teaching and academic institutions can contribute to improve health, safety and security for millions of people around the world. We have the ability to help. We have a new avenue strengthened by close collaboration with experienced and committed partners to bring our resources to bear on critical global issues. So again, thank you. Thank all of you very much for being part of this ambitious and this very noble initiative. Now I will take the opportunity to call the roll of institutions that have signed the president's commitment, but we're not able to be here today in person.

American University of Beirut, Bastyr University, VCKV of India, California Polytechnical State University, College of St Elizabeth, Coppin State University, the Culinary Institute of America. Dordt College, Agricultural and Veterinary Institute who signed the second Morocco, North Dakota State University, the Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University. SLU Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Sul Ross State University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Texas A and M University. Troy University, Tuskegee University, the National Agricultural University of Honduras, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Miami, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Tennessee.

Now I have the distinct honor and privilege to welcome to the podium an outstanding leader, Dr Hughes, who I think exemplifies the definition of leadership that you aptly described earlier, individual that I've gone to grow and respect and admire tremendously. He's the president of the Association of public and Land Grant Universities. He's also the founding co-chair of the partnership to cut hunger and poverty in Africa. He is the immediate past chair of the board of the IFDC, it's an international center dealing with soil fertility and agricultural development and he also serves as chair of the board of of Harvest Plus an organization working on breeding crops for better nutrition. Please join me in welcoming to the podium the honorable Peter Macpherson.