Good afternoon. Dr. Lee, thank you so much for that warm introduction.
It’s really great to be with you all today, and it’s a deep honor to receive this award from your prestigious organization. The Links are famous. And while I am not yet privileged enough to be among you, I am grateful to be honored.
As the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I’m also particularly grateful for all you do to encourage young Americans to get more interested in and more involved in global affairs especially through your Model UN program. On behalf of President Obama, let me thank you for the hard work you do to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds, particularly African Americans, can live out their dreams, and especially for your efforts to expand the health care and economic empowerment in Africa.
The Links don’t just work to advance the cause of equality at home. You understand something essential about today’s interconnected world: and that is, that more and more, all of our fates are bound together. More and more, we are all linked together, at both the national level and globally. One reason for this is that poor or weak states can actually incubate threats that spread far beyond their borders including to ours—threats that can take the form of terrorism, pandemic disease, nuclear proliferation, criminal networks, environmental degradation, genocide, and more. So, in the 21st century, a threat to development anywhere is a threat to security everywhere. In our interconnected age, ignoring the plight of those suffering amid poverty, conflict, and repression isn’t just wrong. It’s dangerous.
That means that the great global gulfs between rich and poor are both a moral emergency and a security threat. The struggle for real equality, both at home and abroad, is one of my life’s great passions. The shared belief that all people have equal worth, equal consequence, and yes equal rights lies at the heart of our nation—even as we in this room recognize so well that we have many miles yet to go to make that promise fully manifest, whether at home or around the world.
We know that people can’t be truly equal if they live with hunger, oppression, or fear. We know that people can’t be equal if they lack access to lifesaving medicines and affordable health care. We know that people can’t be equal if they are unable to send their kids to decent schools.
So being serious about equality means striving together to realize the shared hopes—the dreams of prosperity, security, and liberty—that unite ordinary people across our interwoven world. Being serious about equality means helping forgotten communities and fragile states build up their capacity to deliver greater opportunity to their citizens.
Being serious about equality means ensuring that people everywhere—from Harlem to Harare—can rise as far as their talents can take them and not be shackled by the accidental circumstances of their birth.
That is why we are also fortunate that The Links do so much to serve underserved communities in America and around the world. You’re there for women in Africa who seek dignity, security, and economic opportunity. You’re there for women who lack clean water, reliable electricity, primary health care, a safe delivery for their babies, and adequate pre-natal care for themselves. You’re there for kids from Detroit to Dallas who need to understand the dangers of drugs and HIV/AIDS. You’re there for students at our colleges and universities who need help to afford the education that will make their dreams reality.
We’ve got a long way still to go. We’ve got so much more work still to be done. But you understand the links between opportunity and equality—the links between empowerment and hope—the links between unity and progress.
I’m grateful for all you’ve done to raise women up and bring people together. And I look very much forward to all that you will continue to do in the years to come.
Thank you again for this honor. And thank you for all that you do.
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