Thank you, Alberto for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to be here at the Newseum. This institution is a monument to some of our most precious freedoms, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to discuss how those freedoms apply to the challenges of the 21st century. I'm also delighted to see so many friends and former colleagues.
This is an important speech on an important subject. But before I begin, I want to speak briefly about Haiti. During the last nine days, the people of Haiti and the people of the world have joined together to deal with a tragedy of staggering proportions. Our hemisphere has seen its share of hardship, but there are few precedents for the situation we're facing in Port-au-Prince. Communication networks have played a critical role in our response. In the hours after the quake, we worked with partners in the private sector to set up the text "HAITI" campaign so that mobile phone users in the United States could donate to relief efforts via text message. That initiative has been a showcase for the generosity of the American people and it's raised over $25 million for recovery efforts.
Information networks have also played a critical role on the ground.
The technology community has set up interactive maps to help identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search and rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help. These examples are manifestations of a much broader phenomenon.
The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something happens in Haiti or Hunan the rest of us learn about it in real time - from real people. And we can respond in real time as well. Americans eager to help in the aftermath of a disaster and the girl trapped in that supermarket are connected in ways that we weren't a generation ago. That same principle applies to almost all of humanity. As we sit here today, any of you - or any of our children - can take out tools we carry with us every day and transmit this discussion to billions across the world.
In many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.
During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States' belief in that truth is what brings me here today.