I can tell I better get through my speech really quickly. Thank you all very much. It’s a real pleasure to be here with you all. My name is Alex Wolff, and I’m the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations. On behalf of the United States Mission to the UN and Ambassador Susan Rice, thank you all for joining us.
This is an extraordinary group of people, and I’m glad to see so many friends and colleagues here—from the NGO community, from our fellow UN delegations, from the Secretariat – let me acknowledge the presence of the Deputy Under Secretary-General – and elsewhere. In particular, I’d like to recognize two distinguished guests from the United States: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for whom I had the honor to work, and who was the first Secretary of State to whom we referred as Madame Secretary, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
I’d also like to thank Ambassador Melanne Verveer, our U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, who has put her heart and soul into advancing women’s rights and equality for decades.
Well, talk about introducing someone who needs no introduction. In fact, having the honor of introducing Secretary of State Clinton during a session of the Commission on the Status of Women gives me some sense of what it might have felt like to introduce Marie Curie at the National Academy of Sciences.
Let me touch on just a few accomplishments from Secretary Clinton’s extraordinary career of public service. During her years as First Lady of Arkansas, she worked as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas’ School of Law, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and served on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund. As First Lady of the United States, she led bipartisan efforts to improve the adoption and foster-care systems, reduce teen pregnancy, and provide health care to millions of children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In 2000 and again in 2006, she was elected to the United States Senate, becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in New York. And during all this she also somehow found time to write beloved and best-selling books, including her memoir “Living History” and her classic “It Takes a Village.”
She has built on that outstanding legacy as the 67th Secretary of State, for whom my colleagues and I at the State Department are so proud to work. Let me mention just a few highlights. Under her leadership, the United States is pushing to slash global maternal mortality and to provide universal access to reproductive health care. Last August, Secretary Clinton traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to shine a spotlight on the appalling and endemic use of rape as a weapon of war. And at the United Nations last September, she chaired the historic session of the Security Council that adopted Resolution 1888 to tackle the urgent problem of sexual violence in armed conflict.
It’s a source of great pride for our nation to have such a determined leader and path-breaker as our Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton passionately argued 15 years ago in Beijing that the struggle for women’s rights is one of the last great frontiers of human freedom. She reminded us that abuses and outrages against women and girls “have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence.” But in Beijing, that silence was shattered, and a powerful truth rang out trumpet-clear: “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference,” Secretary Clinton said, “let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
In Beijing, Secretary Clinton gave us not just a charge but also a challenge. For all the progress we have made in the past 15 years, we cannot be satisfied—not until we put women at the very heart of our development work—not until we have placed women’s progress front and center in our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals—not until the United Nations has a robust, efficient, and effective entity to advance women’s issues and women’s rights—not until we ensure that poor women do not needlessly perish bringing life into the world—not until all our children have the care and the opportunities they need to grow up healthy, educated, confident, and free.
We live in a world where women and girls are indispensable to national growth, national development, and national security. We seek a world in which the shackles that hold women and girls back fall broken to the ground. And we work for a world in which liberty, equality, and dignity for every woman and girl is a birthright, not a dream.
Madam Secretary, thank you for being here today. Friends and colleagues, please join me in welcoming Secretary of State Clinton.
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