Remarks at Joint Civilian Service Award Presentation
February 14, 2013
GENERAL MARTIN E. DEMPSEY: Secretaries, fellow general and flag officers, dedicated military and civilian servants here in the Pentagon, and our guests
today from the Department of State, happy Valentine's Day. (Laughter.) You know, the lore of martyrdom says that St. Valentine was actually martyred
because he was marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry by the Roman law of the day. So he was a man who loved soldiers and servicemen and women. And
it's fitting in that regard that we're here to honor our recent and great secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who herself, by the way, has been an
enormous champion of military servicemen and women and their families. So it is a privilege to honor one of our nation's most dedicated public servants.
This is the highest award that I can present to a civilian. And the secretary is no stranger to awards. We know that you've got eight honorary degrees, a
George C. Marshall Foundation award, a Woodrow Wilson award for public service, an airport named after you -- (Laughter) -- 11 straight years as the most
admired woman in the world, and a Grammy. I didn't know about the Grammy, but she actually has a Grammy. I'm jealous of that, by the way. (Laughter.) She
has a Grammy for the spoken word of her book, "It Takes a Village." And she was also named in 2007 as the Irish-American of the year. Now I'm really
Your favorite secretary of state, William Seward, didn't earn quite as much recognition, although he did have that rather clever purchase up in Alaska, but
you do have similar backgrounds -- effective politicians with roots in New York and New York state, faithfully serving presidents that were once your
rivals. Of course, Seward went on a trip around the world after he retired and, as you know, our secretary has flown enough miles to circle the globe 36
times. In fact, you've been airborne for the equivalent of 87 days during your tenure as secretary of state. That's a lot of airplane food. (Laughter.)
Along the way, you've been an exceptional representative of the men and women of the Department of State, working tirelessly in the aftermath of the Arab
Spring and to ensure we had a strong coalition in Libya, building consensus for unprecedented sanctions against Iran, and which for those of us in uniform,
we were very much appreciative of so that we can avoid the use of force, although remaining ready to do so, if necessary.
And at home, you've strengthened your own institution, the Department of State. You've moved diplomacy into the 21st century. You've recognized that there
are limits to hard power and that we need both hard power and soft power. You've harnessed innovative ways to accomplish engagement, including social media
and global town halls, all the while remembering that it's the investment of your personal time that builds relationships. And you've been one of the -- as
I said at the beginning, one of the staunchest supporters of the military, in my personal experience, more than any secretary of state in my career.
Now, I expect you'll slow down a bit. Maybe you can add a Tony or an Oscar to your Grammy award. (Laughter.) But before you go, I'd be honored if you would
allow me to add to the list of your distinctions with the award of this Joint Staff Medal. Would you join me here, Madam Secretary?
ANNOUNCER: General Dempsey will now present Secretary Clinton with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award.
Attention to orders. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton distinguished herself by exceptionally superior service while serving as the secretary of state from
21 January 2009 to 1 February 2013.
Throughout her tenure, Secretary Clinton has significantly provided outstanding support of all operational efforts of the joint military forces worldwide.
Executing her smart power strategy of combining military strength with United States capacities in global economics, developmental aid, and technology, she
enhanced the coordinated role of diplomatic and defense initiatives in the international arena.
Capitalizing on this effort, she instituted the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Developmental Review for her department that mirrored the military's
Quadrennial Defense Review, resulting in a consolidated interagency approach to all foreign endeavors.
Secretary Clinton's success in cultivating a more powerful Department of State, a larger international affairs budget, and expanded role in global economic
issues greatly facilitated the role of our combatant commanders and the respect of our military troops on every continent. Visiting more than 100 countries
and logging more than 500,000 miles of travel, she has been an exceptional example of our nation's commitment to fostering better relations abroad and to
directly supporting our developed troops in those areas.
Most noteworthy, as evidenced in all her years of federal service, she has consistently been a staunch advocate of all personnel programs and initiatives
that have enhanced the lives of our military personnel and their families. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
reflect great credit upon herself, the Joint Staff, and the Department of Defense. (Applause.)
Please be seated.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 23rd secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA: Thank you very much. What a great honor to be able to recognize this very special person.
All the leaders of the department, friends, colleagues, distinguished guests, we are truly delighted to welcome and to recognize someone who's a dear
friend to me and Sylvia, someone that I've been working with and working for over the last 20 years, a strong and dedicated partner of the Department of
Defense, and I believe without question one of the finest public servants of our time.
This is, as Marty raised, probably a great Valentine's Day present for all of us here at the department. The second best Valentine's present would be to
allow Sylvia and I to get the hell out of town at the end of the day. (Laughter.) (Applause.)
I feel like it's Groundhog Day around here. (Laughter.) As first lady, as United States senator from New York, and as the 67th secretary of state, Hillary
Clinton has been a stalwart advocate for the U.S. military. And that's really why we honor her today. She's been a champion of our servicemembers, our
veterans, and she has been a forceful voice for American leadership in the world.
This morning, we're all honored to be able to honor her with the highest awards of this department, the highest awards that we can bestow. As I said, I'm
extremely proud of my association with Hillary over these last two decades. It was about 20 years ago last month when I first joined the Clinton
administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget. It was a different world then. Think about the key political challenges that we had back
then, health care issues, gun control issues, partisan gridlock, budget deficits. On second thought -- (Laughter.)
On second thought, the only thing that has changed is that Hillary and I are a little older, perhaps a little wiser, a little less patient, particularly
with political dysfunction, a little bit less tolerant of B.S. in general, and it is probably a good thing at this point in time that we have a chance to
get some damn rest.
She's made it. (Laughter.) She's made it. And, you know, I'm -- I'm going to have as broad a smile as she does, hopefully, in a few days. (Laughter.) I
have a hard time -- (Laughter.) You know? I've got -- my office is packed up. Sylvia is packing at home. I'm ready to go. It's like, "All right."
For four years that I had the honor of serving in the Clinton administration, both as director of OMB and as chief of staff, I really had the opportunity
to work with her in a very close, close way, because she was interested in the issues, she was involved in the important issues, obviously, particularly
health care, women's rights, children's rights, all of the issues that she really fought for and pioneered, not only during that period, but for most of
And I saw firsthand her knowledge and her passion for the issues that we deal with. The issues that we confront in this country -- I mean, obviously, you
know, you can -- you can study these issues, you can read about these issues, but the only way you really deal with the problems in our society is to have
a passion for the problems that people face and try to find some way to help people achieve that better life. And that's what I saw in her, was that
passion to want to do that to try to help her fellow citizens.
For all these reasons, I was truly delighted to have the opportunity when I was asked to join the Obama administration to come back and be alongside of her
again as part of his national security team. As part of that team, I witnessed early on how hard she works, how dedicated she is, and how she truly
developed, I think, one of the best diplomatic skills as a secretary of state of anyone that I've known in that capacity. She had the problem -- she had
the understanding to see the problems that people are facing. She had the ability to connect with the leaders of the world, to understand their challenges,
to understand the issues that they had to confront.
And it takes that. You've got to be -- you've got to be a human being in these jobs. You can't be a robot. You can't just go through the act. You can't
just read the talking points. You've got to have a sense of what others are facing and who they are and what they're about and what worries them.
I think, having worked with President Clinton, one of the great capabilities he had was to always make other world leaders understand what is in their
national interest, not what's in the United States' interests, but what's in their interest. And Hillary had that same capability to make others understand
what is in their interests, and that's what made her so effective.
In my past role as CIA director, she was someone who understood the importance of intelligence, understood the importance of intelligence operations,
understood the importance of doing everything we could do to be able to go after those who attacked our country on 9/11.
As a senator, she saw the terror of that moment firsthand. And I -- she never lost sight of the fact that we had to go after those who attacked us on 9/11
and use every capability we have. And she was always there supporting our missions and supporting our operations, and I appreciate that -- that support.
Particularly during the bin Laden, which, you know, there is a movie out on this. (Laughter.) And, you know, the guy who plays me isn't quite -- quite
right. (Laughter.) I mean, I was -- my preference probably would have been Pacino. (Laughter.) But, you know, the truth -- I -- I've been asked -- I've
been asked about that, and, you know, the fact is, I lived -- I lived through that operation. And there's no way you can take 10 years of all of the work
that was done, even in the last four years or the last two years up to that operation, that I was involved with. There's no way you can take that and put
it into a two-hour movie. The fact is that there was a tremendous amount of teamwork involved in that, both by our intelligence and our military officials,
did a tremendous job working through all of those issues.
But ultimately, it came down to a tough decision that the president had to make. And, God bless him, he made a very tough decision. But I can tell you that
Hillary Clinton, sitting in that room, sitting with the National Security Council and trying to work through all these issues, a lot of different views, a
lot of different opinions, but she was always there. And I deeply appreciated her support for that effort.
It's been even more rewarding to have become secretary of defense and developed a very close partnership with the State Department. Actually, this
partnership, I think, developed with my predecessor, Bob Gates, but as someone who's been in and out of Washington for the last almost 50 years, I know
from personal experience that rivalry can hurt the relationship between the Department of State and the Department of Defense. That kind of rivalry is very
bad for both departments and the country, because you really do need a strong partnership between the State Department and the Defense Department. There's
too much at stake. You've got to work together. You've got to put your egos aside and work together on the issues that you have to confront. To do that is
indispensable to America's national security.
Because of that, during the time that we worked together as secretaries, Hillary and I did all we could to sustain the tightest possible bonds between
ourselves and our departments. Together, we have dealt with some very tough issues. We've dealt with a lot of the threats that confront this country across
the world. We've taken part in some very tough debates and some very tough policy discussions on the Hill, at the White House, involving Afghanistan and
Syria and terrorist attacks, and even on our own defense strategy, including the whole issue of Asia Pacific rebalance.
We've also traveled to some of the same meetings with foreign counterparts, here, overseas, NATO summits, the Australia-U.S. ministerial, heads of state
visits. I don't think too many people recognize how long meetings and sleepless travel and endless conferences and tough questioning can bring two people
together, because most of the time you're trying to figure out where the hell you're at. You're walking in circles. And you've got to look at each other
and say, we now have to face up to what we have to do to try to deal with the situation that confronted us.
In all of those discussions, Hillary has always brought us back to Earth, with the right argument at the right time. Her ability in the end to be very
pragmatic about what it takes to get something done is, I think, part of her genius as -- as a leader, the ability to cut through it, the ability to listen
to all the arguments, but in the end, to cut through it and make the decision that has to be made. She is honest. She is forceful. She's a persuasive voice
for doing what's right for the American people.
We have fought on opposite sides of the issues. I'd sure as hell rather have her on my side than be against me, because she is so good in making her
More often than not, she and I have stood side by side in making our recommendations when the president has faced difficult choices in Iraq and Afghanistan
and Libya and the Middle East. And because of her leadership, our nation's diplomats and our development experts are working toward a common mission with
the men and women of the Department of Defense, and I'm confident that our successes will sustain the bonds that we have built between the Department of
Defense and the State Department.
Our personnel are putting themselves at risk from Afghanistan to North Africa, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, and making great personal sacrifices
in order to prevent conflict, to advance the cause of peace and security, and to help achieve the American dream of giving our children a better life.
That dream has been Hillary Clinton's dream. And today, the Department of Defense recognizes her for her great work in helping all of us better defend this
nation and to provide that better life.
In my time in and out of government, Hillary Clinton is one of the most informed, most passionate, and most dedicated public servants that I've had the
privilege to serve alongside. She has devoted her life to expanding opportunities for everyone, to build a better future for this country and the world,
because she believes everyone deserves the chance to fulfill their dreams and their aspirations.
And in many ways, I have to tell you, it was her inspiration that encouraged me to move forward to be able to bring down the last barriers for women in the
Department of Defense and to give them the ability to have a chance to engage in combat. I thank you for that inspiration.
Seventy years ago, the only person to serve as secretary of state and secretary of defense, George Marshall, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. When
he accepted the award, only months after the armistice on the Korean peninsula, Marshall reflected that -- and I quote -- "A very strong military posture
is vitally necessary today, but it is too narrow a basis on which to build a dependable and long-enduring peace," unquote.
Marshall went on to say that, "Perhaps the most important single factor will be a spiritual regeneration to develop goodwill, faith, and understanding
among nations. There must be wisdom and the will to act on that wisdom," unquote.
Today, just 70 years ago, it is now clear that we need to maintain a strong military force to deal with the unstable and unpredictable and undeniably
dangerous world that we live in. But it is equally clear that we must enhance our other key levers of power, our economic and diplomatic power, if we are
to truly achieve peace in the 21st century.
Delivering on that vision will require wisdom, and it will require a will to act, qualities that Hillary Clinton exemplified throughout her career and as
secretary of state. Her legacy is the inspiration, the wisdom, and the will to fight for the American dream, and that, very simply, is why we honor her
Ladies and gentlemen, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Secretary Panetta will now present Secretary Clinton with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Attention to orders.
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton is recognized for distinguished public service as United States secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013.
Secretary Clinton played an indispensable role in formulating and, with great success, implementing the president's United States national security,
foreign and development policies in an era of dynamic shifts in global affairs. Applying an innovative, smart power approach, Secretary Clinton led efforts
to invigorate traditional alliances, engage emerging powers, and develop new partnerships to advance American interests, security, and values.
Her sound counsel, strategic vision, and steady hand guided the United States response to the global economic crisis, political changes in North Africa and
the Arab world, and new opportunities and challenges in Asia. She provided invaluable leadership to United States efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan during
the security transitions in those countries.
Secretary Clinton's transformative leadership elevated America's diplomatic and development corps' role as able partners for addressing the growing
spectrum of security challenges and forged a strong relationship with the Department of Defense. The distinctive accomplishments of Secretary Clinton
reflect great credit upon herself, the Department of State, and the United States government. (Applause.)
Thank you, Secretary Panetta.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 67th secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.)
Thank you. Well, this is certainly a memorable Valentine's Day, I have to tell you. It is such an honor and personal privilege for me to be here with
people whom I admire, respect, and just like so much.
Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey, all of you military and civilian leaders alike, thank you for what you do every day to keep our nation safe and
It has been a real pleasure for me to work with all of you, starting out with Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen, now working with Secretary Panetta,
Chairman Dempsey, and let me also thank Vice Chairman Sandy Winnefeld. You have been great partners and colleagues. It has been a singular honor of my life
to be able to work with all of you and to try to do what we can in a time of such momentous change and even turbulence to chart a steady course for the
nation that we serve and love.
I also want to thank my traveling companions, General Paul Selva and Admiral Harry Harris. Some of you may not know that Paul and Harry had to fly all over
the world with me, representing, first, Secretary Gates and, then, Secretary Panetta. I'm still trying to figure out why they got to get off the road
halfway through my four-year tenure and switch places, but whenever there was a problem with the plane or any other issue that arose, I would always turn
to them to help us fix it.
Harry, as you know, is Navy, but he came through time and time again to get us -- (Laughter) -- back in the air. And I'm grateful to you.
I also want to say a special word of thanks and greetings to my former colleagues from the State Department who are here. It is bittersweet, as I've said
to them before. The senior leadership at the State Department over the last four years is really responsible for all the very kind and gracious words that
were said about me.
And they worked seamlessly, not always in agreement, but always getting up every day to work toward our common objectives with the DOD senior leadership
here today. So I want to thank my friends and colleagues with whom I served over the last four years.
This is a tremendous honor for me. Some of you know that I have had the great privilege of knowing Leon for what he said was 20 years. I think Al Pacino
would have been more appropriate, also, but on every step along the way, from his service in the Congress to the White House to the CIA to the Pentagon, he
has demonstrated the highest caliber of integrity, wisdom, and patriotism, and he's been not only a great partner, but a great friend.
I think you can now -- you'll have to postpone for a little while removing the eight-second delay for the censors until he actually does leave the
building. (Laughter.) But what he said about humanity, about being a human being in these roles is worth repeating. It is easy to get so caught up in the
work and the intensity, the drive necessary to work those long days and short nights, that it is sometimes too easy to forget why we do what we do, both
military and civilian. For many of you, it has been a career choice, both my colleagues from the Defense Department and from State.
For others of us, you know, it is something that we came to later and were involved in, luckily, that gave us a chance to serve. But for all of us,
remembering, you know, why we do this work and how important it is to the future, especially future generations, is something Leon Panetta has never
forgotten. And I know that as Leon does eventually head back to California, he will, along with his absolutely wonderful wife, Sylvia, continue to use the
Panetta Institute to help train up the next generation of leaders.
I also want to say a special word of thanks to Chairman Dempsey. I've really enjoyed working with Marty Dempsey. Our men and women in uniform have no
greater champion, and it has been for me a great treat getting to see him in action and also to meet you, Deanie, and to -- as I said to you out in the
hall, to see you with some of your grandchildren coming out of Easter Egg roll a year or two ago.
Now, it is no secret -- or if it had been, Leon spilled the beans -- that historically the Departments of State and Defense have not always had the best
working relationship. In fact, I have been quite surprised and even amused in talking to some of my former predecessors who are bewildered that we get
along and who say things like, you know, that's odd, as if I'm somehow letting down my side that I -- I am not, you know, causing you as many problems as I
can, trying to push you offstage, as if that were possible.
But I have been around this town, certainly, for long enough to know that it is an unfortunate historical precedent. And so when I became secretary four
years ago, I was determined to do my part to change that. You know, I like being on the American team, not the State Department team, not the Defense
Department team, not the partisan team. I like being on the American team. And I think when we take these positions and take that oath of office, we really
pledge to be part of the American team.
Now, we will have different perspectives, different experiences that we bring to the tables that we sit at. But we should walk out of those rooms
determined to be on that team for our country and for the president we serve. So from day one, we have formed the strongest partnership in most living
memories. And I do hope that continues.
Now, Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen set the tone by emphasizing the importance of fully funding the State Department and USAID, quite a remarkable
position for a secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs to take. And Secretary Gates, even before I was secretary, made quite an important
speech talking about how there were more members in military bands than there were diplomats and that we had to increase the strength of our diplomatic
corps and our development experts in order to do our part.
Now, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey have continued to build our partnership even further. They have been steadfast advocates for integrating the 3
D's of our national security, defense, diplomacy and development, into a unified smart power approach.
And because of these efforts, our diplomats and development experts all over the world are working more closely than ever with all of our soldiers,
sailors, airmen and Marines. Whether it's advancing the transition in Afghanistan or responding to the triple disaster in Japan or pursuing terrorists in
North Africa, we have seen that America is stronger and more effective when we work together.
And I think we have gone a long way to restore America's global leadership and to make progress on some of the great challenges we face, from taking the
fight to the leadership of Al Qaeda to reasserting the United States as a Pacific power. And we have pioneered a nimbler, more innovative, more effective
approach to foreign policy, so I am enormously proud of what we have achieved, and I'm confident about the future, having left the State Department in the
capable hands of Secretary John Kerry, himself an accomplished diplomat and decorated Navy veteran.
So I believe that we've established a strong base for this kind of collaboration, which I think is essential in going forward against the challenges and
threats that we face.
Now, I happen to have grown up in a Navy household. During World War II, my father was a chief petty officer, training sailors at Great Lakes Naval Base
before they were shipped off to the Pacific. And he never forgot -- and used to tell my brothers and me -- how it felt watching those young men get loaded
onto troop trains, knowing that many would never return home.
After he died many years later, I received an outpouring of letters and photographs from some of the men he had trained who had served and returned home
and built lives and families of their own. I just couldn't believe that that experience, being yelled at by my father -- (Laughter) -- was so formative for
them. And I was glad to hear it, frankly.
I saw this same sense of dedication and duty when, as first lady and then senator from New York, I visited with servicemembers and their families all over
the world. Then I was honored to serve on the Armed Services Committee and to work closely with men and women throughout this building, and in particular
with Secretary McHugh, who had become a great partner with me on behalf of our military bases and personnel in New York and what we did to try to keep
moving forward in improving readiness and modernizing capabilities.
I was so impressed by the Quadrennial Defense Review that I did launch a similar effort at State called the QDDR, or the Quadrennial Diplomacy and
Development Review. And now four years as secretary of state has ended, but my appreciation for everything you do is deeper than ever.
I've had the chance to visit with many of our forces overseas, sometimes in the company of some of you in the audience today, especially, of course, in
Afghanistan, but also here at home, from Hawaii to Norfolk to Annapolis.
This past May, I had the chance to go down to Tampa and speak to a special operations conference sponsored by Admiral McRaven. And I had the chance then,
too, to thank them for their remarkable service and to talk about the complex and cross-cutting threats that we face.
So we do have to keep innovating and integrating. We have to get our house here at home in order. We have to avoid devastating self-inflicted wounds. We
have to remain committed to upholding America's global leadership and our core values of freedom and opportunity.
Now, Leon and I have both seen this as we travel the world. American leadership remains respected and required. There is no real precedent in history for
the role we play or the responsibility we have shouldered. There is also no alternative.
But I often remind myself that our global leadership is not our birthright. It has to be earned by each successive generation, staying true to our values
and living up to the best traditions of our nation. Secretaries and presidents come and go, but this responsibility remains constant. It truly must be our
So in the years ahead, we will be looking to all of you and to your successors to carry this mission of American leadership forwards, to keep our nation
strong, free and exceptional.
So thank you for this tremendous honor that has been bestowed on me by the chairman and also the honor by the secretary. I thank you all for your service,
and I thank both of you and others of you here today for your friendship. Let's wish our country godspeed. And please extend to all with whom you serve my
deepest gratitude, not as a retired public official, but as an American citizen.
Thank you all. (Applause.)
Remarks at Vital Voices
April 2, 2013
Good evening, everyone. (Applause.) This is such a wonderful occasion that we’re here. It’s the 12th such gala event for Vital Voices, and the
most successful financially thanks to all of you. And it’s wonderful for me to be here because all those years, I’ve only missed one time – last year – and
to be back again is such a great privilege and honor.
I want to thank Jean (ph) for her introduction, but much more than that – for the wonderful work that she is doing on behalf of women and girls. And I want
to thank Vital Voices for honoring one of my dear friends and a personal heroine. We saw the short film about Inez McCormack. She never stopped working for
peace, and her legacy now stretches far beyond Northern Ireland, inspiring people across the globe. And I’m so pleased that her beloved husband, Vinny, and
her right-hand woman, Claire, could be with us tonight as we celebrate her life and legacy.
Well, that’s also true for the honorees. We’ve already met some of them, and more are still to come. Starting with that brave, young woman who stood up to
the Taliban and insisted that girls have a right to attend school; a doctor in Somalia who saved the lives of countless refugees and stood up against
al-Shabaab when they attempted to stop her and her doctors from doing their lifesaving work; an entrepreneur from Palestine who is helping women start and
grow businesses; a crusader for land rights in Cambodia, a young woman we just met who I had to call several times as Secretary of State to get out of
prison because she stood up for a fundamental right that people everywhere should have: a title to their homes, property rights that give them the same
stake in the future which everyone deserves to have; and the police chief from Brazil who is developing new ways to stop violence against women, and you
could tell from listening to her is determined that she will continue to make progress. And you will meet three brothers fighting human trafficking in
Now, each of them is a remarkable example of how much can be achieved when courage and compassion meet. So I am particularly pleased that we are here at
Vital Voices to recognize their efforts. And I am delighted that Vice President Biden will be able to join us tonight. Vice President Biden and I have
worked together on so many important issues, and one that is particularly close to his heart is the fight against (inaudible) and violence. And I know what
a personal victory it was for him to see the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized last month. (Applause.)
Now, let me also remind (inaudible) the friends and colleagues and advocates and extraordinary women and men who understand the importance of this work.
Many of us have worked and traveled together for decades; we’ve shared struggles and successes and even some foxholes over the years. It’s a little bit
like a family reunion, which is why it feels absolutely right for us to be honoring a woman who is like a sister to us all: Melanne Verveer. (Applause.)
For more years than either of us cares to admit, Melanne and I have had both a mutual admiration society and a mutual inspiration society. (Laughter.) She
has devoted her entire career to helping others live up to their own God-given potential, especially women and girls, starting as a student at Georgetown –
(applause) – as a staffer on (inaudible), at People for the American Way. Her energy and intellect has been simply unstoppable.
And Melanne has been a part of Vital Voices since the very beginning. She was there with me and thousands of the (inaudible) activists in Beijing in 1995.
The Chinese authorities didn’t want to hear what we had to say, but the voices of all those amazing women could not be denied: Human rights are women’s
rights, and women’s rights are human rights. (Applause.)
Melanne worked for this organization every step of the way – never tiring, always ready to board another plane, visit another country, meet another
aspiring and inspiring leader, forge a new partnership, break another barrier. And more than one person – probably many of you in this auditorium have
wondered, why does she do it? Why does she give so much of herself for all of us? In other words, what makes Melanne, Melanne?
Well, I have (inaudible) up close for years now. And I don’t have the answer. (Laughter.) I’m constantly amazed. I’ll say to her, “Melanne, we’re having a
meeting on Monday about X, Y and Z; can you be there?” And she’ll pause and she’ll say, “Well, I’m going from Bangladesh to Sweden, and then probably to
Colombia, but yes, I’ll be there.” (Laughter.)
I remember when Melanne was my chief of staff in the White House, and we often had meetings in a place called the Map Room, where FDR used to track the
progress of our armies in World War II. We thought it was an appropriate place for the women of the White House to meet. (Laughter and applause.) It
occurred to me that maps can tell us as much about ourselves as about the world around us. Now, you can look at a map of the world and see nothing but
problems as far as the eye can perceive. And that is especially true for those of us committed to the struggle for women and girls. We see too many
countries where women still face violence and abuse; too many political systems that treat women like second-class or even worse; too many economies that
deny women the chance to participate and prosper.
But that’s not all the map shows. It’s not what Melanne and I see. When we look at the map, we do see progress because we know people are making that
progress against the most extraordinary odds, every day, everywhere. We see the opportunities that are there to be seized. We see and hear those vital
voices. Melanne and I have always believed that women who lack opportunity – whether it is the opportunity to go to school, own land, start a business, run
for office – should not be viewed as society’s problems but rather as solutions, agents of change, drivers of progress, makers of peace. All it takes for
them to have a fighting chance. Our unwavering faith in the potential, the untapped potential of women and girls is at the heart of the work we’ve done
together over these many years.
So when I became Secretary of State, I was determined to weave this perspective into the fabric of American foreign policy so that our diplomats and
policymakers would see a map of opportunities as well as challenges. And I asked Melanne to serve as the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s
Issues, and I’m delighted that President Obama has officially made that high-level position permanent, and that (inaudible). (Applause.)
We were adamant from the start that it would not be enough to preach to the choir; you had to reach out to men, to leaders who on the face of it might not
have seen our perspective, and I’m pleased that Vital Voices has done the same. Because we knew how to make the case to the whole world that creating
opportunities for women and girls directly supports everyone’s prosperity and security. That was a case that could be made based on hard data and
clear-eyed analysis. So that’s exactly what we did. We relied on the economic research that shows that when women participate in the economy, everyone
benefits, and when women participate in peacekeeping and peacemaking, we are all safer and more secure.
So we did put women on the agenda and made it a centerpiece of all that we did. We launched global and regional initiatives to translate our arguments into
results. And Melanne tirelessly traveled, making the case.
People have always said that Melanne is indefatigable. Well, her work and her travel have produced results. We promoted initiatives like the African
Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to provide access to training, markets, finance and credit. We started something called Young Women, which is working to
shrink the global gender gap in global phone access by 50 percent in just three years. And in the spirit of Vital Voices, Melanne spearheaded the launch of
a new project to support women in public service. To focus our entire government on the contributions women can make, we created a National Action Plan on
Women, Peace, and Security. And I’m thrilled that Melanne will be continuing this work in her new role at Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and
Now, because secretaries and ambassadors come and go, we had to make sure that the importance of this issue did not leave with us. And that’s why Melanne
and I worked with colleagues at every level of the State Department and across our government, and with President Obama and his team in the White House, to
ensure that it does remain a priority for the future. And we both remain committed to doing all we can outside of government to continue making this case.
So the next time you see a map of the world, ask yourself: How did Melanne see it? Not as a set of intractable problems, but as a roadmap of opportunities
to serve, to solve, to empower.
So, Melanne, thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Vital Voices and for the women in the world. Thank you for showing us what leadership
looks like and helping so many to find it in themselves.
Please join me in saluting a courageous woman, a fearless champion, and a great friend – Melanne Verveer. (Applause.)
(Inaudible) every single aspect of this evening, and tonight (inaudible). (Laughter.) And this is the major co-conspirator. (Laughter.) So I want to thank
Hillary from the bottom of my heart, and to Vital Voices.
It’s wonderful for me to be back with the Vital Voices family. I have been privileged to travel around the world and I have seen firsthand the respect that
this organization enjoys and the good that it does. But it really is I who owe a deep debt of gratitude to Secretary Clinton and to President Obama for
giving me the extraordinary honor to represent our country in this new position.
It was almost 20 years ago – hard to believe – that Hillary made that historic speech in Beijing, at the women’s conference, for all the world to hear when
she said that women’s rights were human rights. And she sparked a movement for women’s progress everywhere: from her years in the White House as First
Lady, giving voice to those who were on the front lines of change around the globe, to building and growing Vital Voices to what it is today, and most
recently, to making women and girls the cornerstone of the United States’ foreign policy. And I have been privileged to be part of this extraordinary
commitment of hers, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful.
One day, in Kabul, after a meeting with a group of Afghan women leaders, they gave me a bouquet of plastic flowers which I still have, and they told me it
was to remind me of them, and that there was an Afghan saying that said that one flower does not make a spring, but many flowers blossoming together do.
And they, in one of the most challenging, harshest environments, like so many other women around the globe and those we honor here tonight, are ushering in
a new spring – one of possibility and opportunity, one of peace and progress. And each and every one of you, and I include my two young granddaughters who
are here tonight, each of you is helping to make that spring possible by supporting Vital Voices around the globe.
After all, as Hillary often says, this is not just the right thing to do; it is also the smart and effective thing to do. And that’s why our journey must
Thank you all so very much. (Applause.)
Remarks at Women in the World summit
April 5, 2013
Thank you so much. Oh, what a wonderful occasion for me to be back here, the fourth Women in the World conference I've been privileged to attend,
introduced by the founder, creator, and my friend, Tina Brown. When one thinks about this annual conference it really is intended to, and I believe has,
focused attention on the global challenges facing women from equal rights and education, to human slavery, literacy, the power of the media and technology
to affect change in women's futures and so much else. And for that I thank Tina and the great team that she has worked with in order to produce this
conference and the effects it has created. It’s been such an honor to work with all of you over the years though it's hard to see from up here out into the
audience, I did see some faces and I know that this is an occasion as well as for so many friends and colleagues to come together and take stock for where
we stand and what more needs to be done in advancing the great unfinished business of the 21st century – advancing rights and opportunities for women and
Now this is unfinished around the world, where too many women are still treated at best as second-class citizens, at worst as some kind of subhuman
species. Those of you who were there last night saw that remarkable film that interviewed men primarily in Pakistan, talking very honestly about their
intention to continue to control the women in their lives and their reach. But the business is still unfinished here at home in the United States, we have
come so far together but there's still work to be done.
Now, I have always believed that women are not victims, we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace – all we need is a
And that firm faith in the untapped potential of women at home and around the world has been at the heart of my work my entire life, from college and law
school, from Arkansas to the White House to the Senate. And when I became Secretary of State, I was determined to weave this perspective even deeper into
the fabric of American foreign policy.
But I knew to do that, I couldn’t just preach to the usual choir. We had to reach out, not only to men, in solidarity and recruitment, but to religious
communities, to every partner we could find. We had to make the case to the whole world that creating opportunities for women and girls advances security
and prosperity for everyone. So we relied on the empirical research that shows that when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. When women
participate in peace-making and peace-keeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics of their nations they can make a
But as strong a case as we’ve made, too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society
at large. They nod, they smile and then they relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded
about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in board rooms and official offices across the world.
But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to-do. It isn't some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to
spend doing that . This is a core imperative for every human being in every society. If we do not continue the campaign for women's rights and
opportunities, the world we want to live, the country we all love and cherish, will not be what it should be.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries that threaten regional and global peace are the very places where women and girls are deprived of
dignity and opportunity. Think of the young women from northern Mali to Afghanistan whose schools have been destroyed. Or the girls across Africa, the
Middle East, and South Asia who have been condemned to child marriage. Or the refugees of the conflicts from eastern Congo to Syria who endure rape and
deprivation as a weapon of war.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries where the rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root are the same places where women and
girls cannot participate as full and equal citizens. Like in Egypt, where women stood on the front lines of the revolution but are now being denied their
seats at the table and face a rising tide of sexual violence.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries making the leap from poverty to prosperity are places now grappling with how to empower women. I think
it is one of the unanswered questions of the rest of this century to whether countries, like China and India, can sustain their growth and emerge as true
global economic powers. Much of that depends on what happens to women and girls.
None of these are coincidences. Instead, they demonstrate – and your presence here confirms – that we are meeting at a remarkable moment of confluence.
Because in countries and communities across the globe where for generations violence against women has gone unchecked, opportunity and dignity virtually
unknown, there is a powerful new current of grassroots activism stirring, galvanized by events too outrageous to ignore and enabled by new technologies
that give women and girls voices like never before. That's why we need to seize this moment. But we need to be thoughtful and smart and savvy about what
this moment really offers to us.
Now many of us have been working and advocating and fighting for women and girls for more decades than we care to remember. And I think we can be and
should proud of all that we’ve achieved. Conferences like this one have been part of that progress. But let’s recognize, much of our advocacy is still
rooted in a 20th century, top-down frame. The world is changing beneath our feet and it is past time to embrace a 21st century approach to advancing the
rights and opportunities of women and girls at home and across the globe.
Think about it. You know, technology, from satellite television to cell phones from Twitter to Tumblr, is helping bring abuses out of the shadows and into
the center of global consciousness, Think of that woman in a blue bra beaten in Tahrir Square, think about that 6-year old girl in Afghanistan about to be
sold into marriage to settle a family debt.
Just as importantly, technological changes are helping inspire, organize, and empower grassroots action. I have seen this and that is where progress is
coming from and that’s where our support is needed. We have a tremendous stake in the outcome of these metrics.
Today, more than ever, we see clearly that the fate of women and girls around the world is tied up with the greatest security and economic challenges of
Consider Pakistan, a proud country with a rich history that recently marked a milestone in its democratic development when a civilian government completed
its full term for the very first time. And it is no secret that Pakistan is plagued by many ills: violent extremism, sectarian conflict, poverty, energy
shortages, corruption, weak democratic institutions. It is a combustible mix. And more than 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed by terrorists in the last
The repression of women in Pakistan exacerbates all of these problems.
More than 5 million children do not attend school – and two-thirds of them are girls. The Taliban insurgency has made the situation even worse.
As Malala has said and reminded us: “We live in the 21st century. How can we be deprived from education?” She went on to say, “I have the right to play. I
have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”
How many of us here today would have that kind of courage? The Taliban recognized this young girl, 14-year at the time, as a serious threat. You know what?
They were right– she was a threat. Extremism thrives amid ignorance and anger, intimidation and cowardice. As Malala said, “If this new generation is not
given pens, they will be given guns.”
But the Taliban miscalculated. They thought if they silenced Malala, and thank god they didn't, that not only she, but her cause would die. Instead, they
inspired millions of Pakistanis to finally say, “Enough is enough.” You heard it directly from those two brave young Pakistani women yesterday. And they
are not alone. People marched in the streets and signed petitions demanding that every Pakistani child – girls as well as boys – have the opportunity to
attend school. And that in itself was a rebuke to the extremists and their ideology.
I'm well aware that improving life for Pakistan’s women is not a panacea. But it’s impossible to imagine making real progress on the country’s other
problems – especially violent extremism – without tapping the talents and addressing the needs of Pakistan’s women, including reducing corruption, ending
the culture of impunity, expanding access to education, to credit, to all the tools that give a woman or a man make the most of their life's dreams. None
of this will be easy or quick. But the grassroots response to Malala’s shooting gives us hope for the future.
Again and again we have seen women drive peace and progress. In Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant women like Inez McCormick came together to demand
an end to the Troubles and helped usher in the Good Friday Accords. In Liberia, women marched and protested until the country’s warlords agreed to end
their civil war, they prayed the devil back to hell, and they twice elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first woman president in Africa. An organization
called Sisters Against Violent Extremism now connects women in more than a dozen countries who have risked their lives to tell terrorists that they are not
welcome in their communities.
So the next time you hear someone say that the fate of women and girls is not a core national security issue, it's not one of those hard issues that really
smart people deal with, remind them: The extremists understand the stakes of this struggle. They know that when women are liberated, so are entire
societies. We must understand this too. And not only understand it, but act on it.
And the struggles do not end. Struggles do not end when countries attempt the transition to democracy. We've seen that very clearly the last few years.
Many millions including many of us were inspired and encouraged by the way women and men worked together during the revolutions in places like Egypt,
Tunisia, and Libya. But we know that all over the world when the dust settles, too often women's gains are lot to better organized, more powerful forces of
We see seeing women largely shut out of decision-making. We see women activists believe they are being targeted by organized campaigns of violence and
But still, many brave activists, women and men alike, continue to advocate for equality and dignity for all Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans. They know
the only way to realize the promise of the Arab Spring is with and through the full participation of half the population.
Now what is true in politics is also true economics.
In the years ahead, a number of rapidly-developing nations are poised to reshape the global economy, lift many millions out of poverty and into the middle
class. This will be good for them and good for us – it will create vast new markets and trading partners.
But no country can achieve its full economic potential when women are left out or left behind… a fact underscored day after day and most recently to me a
tragedy in India.
Concerning the young 23-year-old woman, brutally beaten and raped on a Delhi bus last December she was from a poor farming family, but like so many women
and men she wanted to climb that economic ladder. She had aspirations for her life. She studied all day to become a physical therapist, then went to work
at call centers in the evening, she sleep two hours a night. President Mukherjeeof described her as a “symbol of all that New India strives to be.”
But if her life embodied the aspirations of a rising nation, her death, her murder, pointed to the many challenges still holding it back. The culture of
rape is tied up with a broader set of problems: official corruption, illiteracy, inadequate education, laws and traditions, customs, culture, that prevent
women from being seen as equal human beings. And in addition, in many places, India and China being the leaders, in skewed gender balance with many more
men than women, which contributes to human trafficking, child marriage, and other abuses that dehumanize women and corrode society.
So millions of Indians took to the streets in 2011, they protested corruption. In 2012, came the Delhi gang rape, and the two causes merged. Demands for
stronger measures against rape were joined by calls for better policing and more responsive governance, for an India that could protect all its citizens
and deliver the opportunities they deserve. Some have called that the “Indian Spring.”
Because as the protesters understood, India will rise or fall with its women. Its had a tradition of strong women leaders, but those women leaders like
women leaders around the world like those who become presidents or prime ministers or foreign ministers or heads of corporations cannot be seen as tokens
that give everyone else in society the chance to say we've taken care of our women. So any country that wants to rise economically and improve productivity
needs to open the doors.
Latin America and the Caribbean have steadily increased women’s participation in the labor market since the 1990s, they now account for more than half of
all workers. The World Bank estimates that extreme poverty in the region has decreased by 30 percent as a result.
Here in the United States, American women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs forty years ago to nearly 48 percent today. And the productivity gains
attributable to this increase account for more than $3.5 trillion in GDP growth over those four decades. Similarly, fast-growing Asian economies could
boost their per capita incomes by as much as 14 percent by 2020 if they brought more women into the workforce.
Laws and traditions that hold back women hold, hold back entire societies, creating more opportunities for women and girls will grow economies and spread
prosperity. When I first began talking about this using rape data from the World Bank and private sector analyses there were doubters who couldn't quite
put the pieces together. But that debate is over. Opening the doors to one's economy for woman will make a difference.
Now, I want to conclude where I began, with the unfinished business we face here at home. The challenges and opportunities I’ve outlined today are not just
for the people of the developing world. America must face this too if we want to continue leading the world.
Traveling the globe these last four years reaffirmed and deepened my pride in our country and the ideals we represent. But it also challenged me to think
about who we are and the values we are supposed to be living here at home in order to represent abroad After all, our global leadership for peace and
prosperity, for freedom and equality, is not a birthright. It must be earned by every generation.
And yes, we now have American women at high levels of business, academia, and government, you name it. But, as we’ve seen in recent months, we’re still
asking age-old questions about how to make women's way in male-dominated fields, how to balance the demands of work and family. The Economist magazine
recently published what it called a “glass-ceiling index” ranking countries based on factors like opportunities for women in the workplace and equal pay.
The United States was not even in the top 10. Worse, recent studies have found that, on average, women live shorter lives in America than in any other
major industrialized country.
Think about it for a minute. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world. Yet many American women today are living shorter lives than their
mothers, especially those with the least education. That is a historic reversal that rivals the decline in life expectancy for Russian men after the
disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Now there is no single explanation for why this is happening. Prescription drug overdoses have spiked: obesity, smoking, lack of health insurance,
intractable poverty. But the fact is that for too many American women, opportunity and the dream of upward mobility – the American Dream– remains elusive.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I think of the extraordinary sacrifices my mother made to survive her own difficult childhood, to give me not only
life, but opportunity along with love and inspiration. And I’m very proud of my own daughter and I look at all these young women I'm privileged to work
with or know through Chelsea and it's hard to imagine turning the clock back on them. But in places throughout America large and small the clock is turning
So, we have work to do. Renewing America’s vitality at home and strengthening our leadership abroad will take the energy and talents of all our
people, women and men.
If America is going to lead, we need to learn from the women of the world who have blazed new paths and developed new solutions, on everything from
economic development to education to environmental protection.
If America is going to lead, we need to catch up with so much of the rest of the world and finally ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All
Discrimination Against Women.
If America is going to lead, we need to stand by the women of Afghanistan after our combat troops come home, we need to speak up for all the women working
to realize the promise of the Arab Spring, and do more to save the lives of the hundreds of thousands of mothers who die every year during childbirth from
preventable causes and so much more.
But that’s not all.
Because if America is going to lead we expect ourselves to lead, we need to empower women here at home to participate fully in our economy and our society,
we need to make equal pay a reality, we need to extending family and medical leave benefits to more workers and make them paid, we need to encourage more
women and girls to pursue careers in math and science.
We need to invest in our people so they can live up to their own God-given potential.
That’s how America will lead in the world.
So let’s learn from the wisdom of every mother and father all over the world who teaches their daughters that there is no limit on how big she can dream
and how much she can achieve.
This truly is the unfinished business of the 21st century. And It is the work we are all called to do. I look forward to being to be your partner in all
the days and years ahead. Lets keep fighting for opportunity and dignity, let’s keep fighting for freedom and equality, let's keep fighting for full
participation. And let's keep telling the world over and over again that yes, women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights once and