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“There is nothing micro about the human spirit.”

By Susy Cheston

This was a quote from the speech Maria Otero gave at her swearing-in ceremony as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs yesterday. Maria spent over 20 years working in microfinance, and had been serving as CEO of ACCION International when she was tapped for public service. Maria made this comment in the course of sharing what she had learned from microfinance that she would take with her into her new role.

In introducing Maria, Secretary of State Clinton declared that “There will be much more microfinance to come from this Administration.” This is good news because it takes everyone—private donors, commercial investors, and public funders—to join together to make the promise of microfinance available for all the world’s poor. While we have done so much already, we are still only reaching less than 10% of the world’s poor with the full range of financial services they need in order to get ahead.

A personal note: Maria was the founding co-chair of the Microenterprise Coalition, for which I currently serve as co-chair. She was surrounded yesterday not only by industry leaders, but also by her elderly mother and 7 of her 8 siblings. I was not the only one in that elegant State Department room with tears in my eyes witnessing this sacred oath of service taken by a friend who has done so much for the poor.

Click here to read Ms. Otero’s biography.

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