Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Wheels Down Dakar

Mme. Secretary is safely on the ground on the first leg of yet another marathon trip.
U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks as she arrives in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for July 31, 2012

The plane that will take U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a trip to Africa, starting in Senegal, waits for her arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Public Schedule for July 31, 2012

Public Schedule
Washington, DC
July 31, 2012

TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2012


Secretary Clinton departs on foreign travel. Please click here for more information.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hillary Clinton's Itinerary in Africa

Well, the Africa trip is official, and we can see why it took awhile for the State Department to post the itinerary - it's another long one, and arranging it must have been very complex since it does not coincide with earlier reports.  More than a week,  it's another killer - six countries/11 days.  Ghana and Nigeria are not mentioned, but Kenya and South Sudan are.  I think I speak for everyone here in wishing her a safe and successful trip and hoping she manages to sneak in a little vacation time when she gets back home.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Travel to Africa

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 30, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Africa July 31 through August 10, 2012. During this trip, the Secretary will emphasize U.S. policy commitments outlined in the Presidential Policy Directive - to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, advance peace and security as well as promote opportunity and development for all citizens
The Secretary’s first stop will be Senegal, where she will meet President Sall and other national leaders and deliver a speech applauding the resilience of Senegal's democratic institutions and highlighting America's approach to partnership.
Next, Secretary Clinton travels to South Sudan where she meets with President Kiir to reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship.
In Uganda, the Secretary meets with President Museveni to encourage strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights, while also reinforcing Uganda as a key U.S. partner in promoting regional security, particularly in regard to Somalia and in regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army. She will also highlight U.S. support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The Secretary will then travel to Kenya where she plans to meet President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga, and other government officials to emphasize her support for transparent, credible, nonviolent national elections in 2013. To underscore U.S. support for completing the political transition in Somalia by August 20th, Secretary Clinton will also meet with President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the Roadmap to End the Transition.
The Secretary continues her trip in Malawi, visiting President Banda to discuss economic and political governance and reform.
In South Africa, Secretary Clinton will pay her respects to ex-President Mandela, and to participate in the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue focusing on the partnership between our two countries in addressing issues of mutual concern and our shared challenges on the African and world stage. Secretary Clinton will be accompanied by a U.S. business delegation.

Hillary Clinton upon the Release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report

Remarks at the Release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Washington, DC
July 30, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much, and it’s indeed a pleasure to join you here today to talk about an issue that shapes the lives of people worldwide as much as any other, religious freedom. And I want to thank Jessica Matthews not just for that introduction, but more importantly for her service of many years, but in particular her leadership as the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Fifteen years ago, Jessica was writing about trends that were just then beginning to get people’s attention, like the rise of information technologies and the creation of global networks that existed outside governments. She said then that those changes would shape global events in ways both good and bad and that governments would have to adapt if they wanted to stay on top of global change. Well, she was certainly right about that. And indeed, I’ve worked to make the integration of new technologies and outreach to civil society groups and the private sector, diaspora communities, and other nongovernmental organizations a hallmark of my time as Secretary of State so that it’s not an afterthought, it’s not an add-on, but it is integrated into the work we do, because clearly the work we do will be influenced and affected by all of those non-state actors.
I want to acknowledge two people: Michael Posner, our Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, someone with whom I’ve had just the great privilege and honor of working so closely with over the last several years; and Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, someone who I’ve also had not only the privilege of working with in the State Department, but in one of my previous incarnations as a senator from New York. Chris Seiple and Bill Vendley, two of my top advisors from civil society on this issue, I’m grateful for their efforts; and all the representatives from Congress, from embassies, members of the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, and others who recognize and are committed to the importance of this issue and what it represents.
Now, earlier today, the State Department released its latest International Religious Freedom Report. It opens with the words that guide our work and the work of governments and individuals devoted to freedom of religion around the world. They are the words of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And listen to those words again, because much of what I will say today is of course rooted in our Constitution, in our belief about the importance of the free exercise of religion. But it’s important to remember that these words were adopted by the international community, not just by the United States.
Here they are: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
Now, these are clear and straightforward principles that bring people together in both heartfelt unity and furious disagreement. For the United States, of course, religious freedom is a cherished constitutional value, a strategic national interest, and a foreign policy priority.
It’s particularly urgent that we highlight religious freedom, because when we consider the global picture and ask whether religious freedom is expanding or shrinking, the answer is sobering. More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom. New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression. Members of faith communities that have long been under pressure report that the pressure is rising. Even some countries that are making progress on expanding political freedom are frozen in place when it comes to religious freedom. So when it comes to this human right, this key feature of stable, secure, peaceful societies, the world is sliding backwards.
Meanwhile, several countries with diverse faith communities are now in the process of navigating transitions toward democracy. They are wrestling with questions of whether and how to protect religious freedom for their citizens. This goes from Tunisia to Burma and many places in between. But take, for example, Egypt, which I visited two weeks ago. I had a very emotional, very personal conversation with Christians who are deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country. What Egypt and other countries decide will have a major impact on the lives of their people and will go a long way toward determining whether these countries are able to achieve true democracy.
So this is an issue that transcends religious divides. All faiths everywhere have a stake in defending and expanding religious freedom. I personally feel very strongly about this, because I have seen firsthand how religious freedom is both an essential element of human dignity and of secure, thriving societies. It’s been statistically linked with economic development and democratic stability. And it creates a climate in which people from different religions can move beyond distrust and work together to solve their shared problems.
I’ve also seen how the opposite operates. The absence of religious freedom can create a climate of fear and suspicion that weakens social cohesion and alienates citizens from their leaders. And that, of course, can make it more difficult to achieve national progress. And because the impact of religious freedom extends beyond the realm of religion and has ramifications for a country’s security and its economic and political progress, more students and practitioners of foreign policy need to focus more time and attention on it.
Today, I want to make the case for religious freedom and why all people and all governments should support it. And I want to address directly the arguments that people who stand in the way of religious freedom use to try to justify their actions.
Let me start with what life is like for many who live without this freedom. In the harshest places, certain religions are banned completely, and a believer can be sentenced to death. Strict laws ban blasphemy and defamation of religion. And when your words are interpreted as violations of those laws, you can be sentenced to death. Violence toward religious minorities often goes unpunished by authorities who look the other way. So the message is clear: If your beliefs don’t have government approval, beware.
The same message is delivered by governments that seek the illusion of freedom by creating official state-sanctioned religious associations. They say, “Look, our people can practice whichever of these pre-approved faiths they choose.” But if people are caught going outside these associations to form their own communities or receive instruction from their own religious leaders, they can be imprisoned.
Religious freedom is not just about religion. It’s not just about the right of Roman Catholics to organize a mass, or Muslims to hold a religious funeral, or Baha’is to meet in each others’ homes for prayer, or Jews to celebrate High Holy Days together – as important as those rituals are. Religious freedom is also about the right of people to think what they want, say what they think, and come together in fellowship without the state looking over their shoulder.
That’s why the free exercise of religion is the first freedom enshrined in our First Amendment, along with the freedoms to speak and associate. Because where religious freedom exists, so do the others. It’s also why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects freedom of thought, conscience, and religion – all three together – because they all speak to the same capacity within each and every human being to follow our conscience, to make moral choices for ourselves, our families, our communities.
These rights give our lives meaning and dignity, whatever religion we belong to, or if we belong to no religion at all. And like all human beings and all human rights, they are our birthright by the mere fact of us being who we are – thinking, acting human beings – men and women alike. They are not granted to us by any government. Rather, it is the responsibility of government to protect them.
Now, this, of course, is not the view held by regimes that block religious freedom. They choose to see things differently. In particular, there are two arguments they make to justify their actions. Both are worth examining.
The first is that only some people should be allowed to practice their faith – those who belong to the right faith. They define religion in such a way that if you do not believe what they want you to believe, then what you are doing is not practicing religion, because there is only one definition of religion. They, and only they and the religious leaders with whom they work, are in possession of the ultimate truth. Everyone else, including people of the same faith who diverge on some interpretation of religious law or tradition, are wrong, heretical, infidels, and they don’t deserve the protection of the law. They may not even deserve to live.
Because this is an issue that inflames emotions, it can be hard to talk about it constructively. You can’t debate someone who believes that anyone who disagrees with him by definition disagrees with God. So let me simply say this:
People can believe that they and only those like them possess the one and only truth. That’s their right. Though they do not have the right to harm those they think harbor incorrect views. But their societies pay a cost when they choose to look at others with hate or disgust. Human rights become real not only in interactions between citizens and their governments, but also in those millions of ordinary moments among neighbors and classmates, coworkers, even strangers on the street. Every time people choose tolerance and respect over fear and animosity, they strengthen human rights for themselves as well as everyone else, because they affirm their shared humanity. That’s how religious freedom inscribed in law becomes religious harmony flourishing throughout a society.
Now religious leaders have a critical role to play in this process. And we need them to encourage their followers to embrace the principles of peace and respect, which are not only tenets of nearly every religion but also at the heart of religious freedom. And then, most importantly, we need leaders to affirm that respecting the religious freedom of others is in keeping with – not in opposition to – one’s own rights. When people of all religions can practice freely, it creates an environment in which everyone’s freedom is more secure.
Leaders and governments, meanwhile, have their own responsibilities. People can think what they want, but governments have to act in favor of protecting the rights of all. The world should and must hold governments to a different standard than individuals. Whether they are secular or religious, Muslim or Christian or Hindu or officially atheistic or anything else, governments have solemn obligations to protect the human rights of all citizens, no matter what religions they believe or don’t believe.
Now some leaders try to excuse treating some citizens differently than others by saying, “But that’s what the people want.” They say they personally believe in religious freedom, but if a majority of citizens want to see a group locked up or thrown out of schools or fired from their jobs, well, doesn’t democracy mean following the will of the people?
Well the answer to that is there’s a big difference between democracy and the tyranny of the majority. The liberty that democracy provides does not include the freedom to do violence to the equality of all citizens before the law. That’s why universal rights are often embedded in constitutions. They provide guardrails against laws that deprive members of minority groups of their rights. When popular opinion supports restricting the rights of a minority, leaders should remember that they owe their people both their loyalty and their judgment. Leaders should lead, and remind citizens that when rights apply only to some citizens and not to others – that is, when principles are subverted to power – that sows the seeds for legitimate grievances and instability. Genuine democracies use principles to guide power and to protect the rights of citizens equally.
The second argument leaders who oppose religious freedom make is that freedom is a luxury they just can’t afford – not yet, anyway. If laws restricting religious practice and expression were lifted, they argue the result would be instability: a rise in anti-government sentiment, the fraying of social ties, more acts of vandalism, harassment, and violence. Now this, by the way, is the same argument that leaders invoke to justify clamping down on political expression, press freedom, or civil society groups, or any activities that question the status quo and reflect their citizens’ democratic aspirations.
But in fact, long practice and even academic studies show that it is the absence of religious freedom that is correlated with religious conflict and violent extremism. There is also evidence that conflict is more likely when states have official religions and persecute religious minorities.
That makes sense if you think about it. When people are treated as equal under the law, hostilities among neighbors subside, and social unity has a chance to grow. And so does trust in the democratic process, because people are confident that their rights will be protected no matter who is in power.
In other words, religious freedom is one of those safety valves. It lets people have a say over important aspects of their lives, join their societies fully, and channel their frustrations into constructive outlets. When governments clamp down on religious freedom, they close those safety valves. The result can be humiliation, discontent, despair that has nowhere to go – a recipe for conflict and extremism.
Now some governments are coming to realize this. For example, in Libya since the overthrow of Qadhafi, the new government has chosen not to enforce some of his laws that restricted religious activity, and they’ve enshrined the free practice of religion in their interim constitution and outlawed discrimination on the basis of religion or sect. And earlier this year, the Libyan Supreme Court overturned a law that criminalized insults against Islam, because they have come to believe that the best way to deal with offensive speech is not to ban it, but to counter it with more speech that reveals the emptiness of the insults and the lies.
Now meanwhile, Egypt is grappling with these challenges as it navigates its unprecedented democratic transition. And during my recent visit, I met with members of the new government, including President Morsi, and representatives from Egypt’s Christian communities. Religious freedom was very present behind closed doors and out in the streets. President Morsi has said clearly and repeatedly, in public and private, that he intends to be the president of all the Egyptian people. He has pledged to appoint an inclusive government and put women and Christians in high leadership positions. The Egyptian people and the international community are looking to him to follow through on those commitments.
But I heard from Christians who want to know that they will be accorded the same rights and respect as all Egyptians in a new government led by an Islamist party. They wonder, understandably, will a government looking explicitly to greater reliance on Islamic principles stand up for non-Muslims and Muslims equally? Since this is the first time that Egypt has ever been in this situation, it’s a fair question. Egyptians are building a brand new democracy. What it will look like, how it will work, how it will handle religious pluralism – Egyptians will be writing the answers to those and many other questions for years to come.
As I told the Christians with whom I met, the United States does not take the side of one political party over another. What we do is stand firmly on the side of principles. Yes, we do support democracy – real democracy, where every citizen has the right to live, work, and worship how they choose, whether they be Muslim or Christian or from any other background; where no group or faction can impose their authority or their ideology or their religion on anyone else; where there is healthy competition, and what we call checks and balances, so no one institution or leader gets too powerful and the rights of all citizens are respected and protected.
The Egyptian people will look to their elected leaders to protect the rights of all citizens and to govern in a fair and inclusive manner, and so will we. And if voters make different choices in future elections, then they and we will expect their leaders to respond to the will of the people and give up power. We are prepared to work with the leaders that the Egyptian people choose. But our engagement with those leaders will be based on their commitment to universal human rights and universal democratic principles.
Another important aspect of Egypt’s transition is whether citizens themselves respect each other’s differences. Now we saw that capacity vividly in Tahrir Square, when Christians formed a circle around Muslims in prayer, and Muslims clasped hands to protect Christians celebrating a mass. I think that spirit of unity and fellowship was a very moving part of how Egyptians and all the rest of us responded to what happened in those days in that square. And if, in the years ahead, if Egyptians continue to protect that precious recognition of what every single Egyptian can contribute to the future of their country, where people of different faiths will be standing together in fellowship, then they can bring hope and healing to many communities in Egypt who need that message.
As we look to the future – not only in Egypt, not only in the newly free and democratically seeking states of North Africa and the Middle East, but far beyond – we will continue to advocate strongly for religious freedom. This is a bedrock priority of our foreign policy, one that we carry out in a number of ways.
Earlier today, the United States did release our annual International Religious Freedom Report. This is the fourth time I’ve had the honor of presenting it. It comprehensively catalogues the official and societal restrictions people around the world face as they try to practice their faith, and it designates Countries of Particular Concern that have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. This report sends a signal to the worst offenders that the world is watching, but it also provides information to help us and others target our advocacy, to make sure we reach the people who most need our help.
In the Obama Administration, we’ve elevated religious freedom as a diplomatic priority. Together with governments, international organizations, and civil society, we have worked to shape and implement United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which seeks to protect people under attack or discriminated against because of their faith. We raise these issues at the highest levels in international settings; I personally have discussed religious freedom in every region of the world, sometimes over and over again. We’ve appointed our first envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We’ve launched a strategic dialogue with civil society, in which we collaborate with religious leaders and their communities to promote religious freedom, conflict prevention and mitigation, development, and inter-religious dialogue. It includes a Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group that has provided concrete recommendations on how we can strengthen our approach to religious freedom and engagement with religious communities.
Beyond diplomacy, we expanded our assistance to individuals under attack because of their religious beliefs and to human rights activists working in hostile environments to promote religious freedom. These men and women are doing vital, often dangerous work with great courage, and we are proud to stand with them.
As part of our human rights dialogue with China, for example, we’ve taken Chinese officials on site visits to see how religious organizations in our country provide valuable social services. We organized a visit to a Catholic charity that provides help to people with intellectual disabilities, an organization that fights discrimination against Arab-Americans, and more.
We’re also taking the message of tolerance and inclusion to young people. A few years ago, Hannah Rosenthal, our Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and Farah Pandith, our Special Representative to Muslim communities, attended an OSCE tolerance summit together, and they came away with an idea. They began asking young people to pledge to spend one just hour working with people who don’t look like them or pray like them. Jews were encouraged to volunteer to clean a mosque, Muslims to volunteer to help elderly Christians get to church, and many other examples. The campaign, now called 2012 Hours Against Hate, has elicited commitments from young people around the world to spend tens of thousands of hours walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s even become one of the London Olympics’ official initiatives.
And that’s something we all have a responsibility to do. Seven years ago when I was a Senator, I spoke at a dinner on religious liberty, and I challenged everyone there to think of ways that we could personally further religious freedom, including, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, in “those small places, close to home.” I said that it was up to each of us to ensure that our nation, which has always been an exemplar of religious freedom, continues to be.
Our mission is as important today as it has ever been.
The United States was founded, amongst others, by people fleeing religious persecution who dreamed of a place where they could live according to their beliefs, without fear, without shame, without the need to hide. And today, we are that place. With all of our challenges, there is no doubting the importance of religion to the vast majority of Americans or to the fact that people of all faiths and people of no faith live in America openly and at peace with each other. The religious life of our nation is vibrant and alive. And that has been possible because of our citizens’ capacity over time for tolerance and respect, but also because of the work of our government, all three branches, to uphold our Constitution, to take extraordinary care not to favor one religion over another, and to protect equally the rights of all.
This has required perpetual vigilance and effort, and we all know there have been clashes and stumbles and vigorous impassioned debate along the way. We are still searching for and moving toward that more perfect union. Of course, we, like any non-divine entity, are not perfect. But we should be proud and grateful for the wisdom of our founders and for the diligence of those who came after to protect this essential freedom. It is rare in this world. But it shouldn’t be.
Because people aren’t asking for much. They just want to worship their god and raise their children and make their homes and honor their ancestors and mourn their loved ones in a way that speaks to their hearts and reflects their beliefs. What could be more fundamental to human dignity than that?
That is what religious freedom makes possible. And that is why the United States will also stand for the value, the principle that religious freedom represents, not only for us but for people everywhere. It is not only a value that we enshrined in our constitution, but we know from long experience it goes right to the heart of the stability and security of so many countries in the world. And in this interconnected world we live in, that means it affects the security and stability of the United States of America. So thank you for understanding the importance of this value and principle, and I hope for seeking ways that we all can continue to further it, to protect it, and to spread it.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now, I think we will maybe take a few questions, Jessica. Okay. Well, in no particular order, this lady right there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And here comes a microphone.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much, Madam Secretary, for what you do in the world and for our United States. My name is Samia Harris, and I’m Egyptian American, and thank you very much for caring about Egypt. I’m the founder of Democracy for Egypt, and so my question to you, Madam, is: It’s not only the Christians that are worried in Eygpt; the liberals are, too. And I don’t know if you have read the last report from Al-Jama’iyya al-Wataniyya lit-Taghyir, that – the change for Egypt, it really is asking President Morsi right now that he is not delivering what he promised in forming the new government. And you have mentioned that you will be observing closely, and there will be steps to be taken, if you can enlighten us on what’s next. Thank you so much for your effort.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. And let me start by saying that I do recognize that a democratic transition is a complicated one for any country. And in all humility, it took us quite some time to get it right, to include all of our citizens, starting with African Americans and women, and to really fulfill not only the letter of our Constitution but the aspirations of our people. So as I monitor what is happening in Egypt, I am conscious of how challenging it is to get off on the right footing, to be absolutely clear what your principles and values are.
And as you’re aware, there was certainly a very concerted effort by the President and the Freedom and Justice Party and others associated with it, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to make commitments about the kind of inclusivity that the government would represent, the respect that all Egyptians would be held in, and the protection of the rights of all Egyptians. Now we are waiting to see how that gets translated into action.
And we are certainly aware of the forming of the new government, with the announcement of a new Prime Minister. We’re waiting to see who’s in that government. That will be an important step along the way. We are looking for ways to try to support the government, particularly in fulfilling the economic aspirations of all Egyptians. But we are going to judge by actions, not words. And the actions are really just at the very beginning stages.
I think it’s important to make absolutely clear to everyone that we are not supporting any individual party or any individual. There seems to be a view on the part of some that we are. But that is not the case, never has been the case. We have supported a transition that we hope does lead to a democracy, which, as we have made clear, is not just about elections. I think there were mistakes in the past in some of the ways that we shorthanded our support for democracy in our country, that people thought, okay, let’s have an election, then we’re a democracy and maybe we never have to have another one. One election, one time, and that’s it; we don’t have to be held to any standard about how we actually continue to reach out and include people and respect people. And I’ve tried to make it very clear that that is not the case, that an election is not a democracy make.
So we’re emphasizing the independence of the press, the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, respect for minorities. The kinds of things that we have learned over many years of practice now are what sustains a democracy. And we’re hoping that as Egypt adopts a new constitution, as it votes again for a parliament, as its government takes office, we will see a recognition, a commitment to what we view as essential for democracy to be sustainable.
Now, I am concerned that respect for religious freedom is quite tenuous. And I don’t know that that’s going to quickly be resolved, but since 2011 and the fall of the Mubarak regime, sectarian violence has increased. Attacks on Christians and Muslims, sectarian violence from – in both communities has cost lives, and we don’t think that there’s been a consistent commitment to investigate and to apply the laws equally to the perpetrators of such violence. That then sends a message to the minority community in particular but to the larger community that there’s not going to be any consequences for acting out one’s own religious prejudices or social insecurities. And that’s the kind of recipe that can quickly get out of control in terms of conflict and also undermine the new democracy.
So I am urging the Egyptian Government at all levels to respect the rights of all Egyptians. And I’m urging those who are concerned, not only Christians but also moderates, liberals, secularists, to organize themselves. I mean, this is something that I started talking to the Tahrir Square veterans about shortly after the fall of Mubarak, that it’s been my experience that when democratic space opens up, when freedom opens up in authoritarian regimes falling, those who are unorganized will not be successful. How’s that for a profound statement? (Laughter.) But all too often, people who are in the moderate, liberal world don’t have the same commitment to organization and follow-through that those whose beliefs are so certain that they know exactly what they’re going to try to achieve.
So there is the religious dimension, the constitutional inclusivity dimension, but there’s also the political dimension, that in a democracy you have to get out there and work to elect people who represent your views. And otherwise, you are going to be sidelined. So it is my hope that as we judge Egypt’s leaders by their actions, that Egyptian activists really get more focused on how to influence the government themselves. And I know this is a long haul, but that’s the way democracy works. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Oh my goodness. (Laughter.) I don’t know. Jessica, you should be calling on these people. I think – you know. This young man right there in the middle. Yes, sir. In the striped shirt.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). It’s very lucky to see you here.
QUESTION: Religion is sometimes mixed with some other issues like terrorism and separatism. And the terrorists and the separatists usually takes religion as a tool to mobilize supporters. So how to balance the dilemma of protecting religion, religious freedom, and counterterrorism as well as counter-separatism? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an important question, because oftentimes when we talk about religious freedom, there is a tendency for people to worry about the free exercise of religion is somehow supporting terrorists and separatists.
I have almost the opposite view. I think the more respect there is for the freedom of religion, the more people will useful ways to participate in their societies. If they feel suppressed, if there is not that safety valve that they can exercise their own religion, they then oftentimes feel such anger, despair that they turn to violence. They become extremists.
Now, there will always be people in nearly every society who are going to believe that God is talking right to them and saying, what you really need to do is overthrow the government. What you really need to do is to kill the unbelievers. What you really – there will be people like that. But we’re talking about organizing society for the vast majority of people, having people who exercise their religious beliefs lawfully protected by the law, and people who engage in violence, harassment, intimidation, or other antisocial, criminal behavior punished by the law.
But one should not be punished or harassed merely because of who one is or what one believes unless there are actions associated with that. And that often is the difficult rub in many areas when we talk about religious freedom. And it’s not just religions against one another, it’s even within religions – within Christianity, within Judaism, within Islam, within Hinduism – there are people who believe their version of that religion is the only right way to believe.
And so, in some of the countries we are most concerned about that are majority Muslim countries, it’s the intimidation and violence against Muslims who are in minority sects that we most worry about. We watched for many years the conflict in Northern Ireland against Catholics on the one side, Protestants on the other. So I think you’re right that there always are issues about terrorism, about separatism, but those should be dealt with under the law without infringing on the rights of people whose religious believes are different from the majority. So I hope that governments can begin to make those distinctions.
And it’s not only important to do because you don’t want to breed extremism, which you can do by cracking down on religion, especially if it’s associated with a different ethnic group or a tribal group, other identifying characteristics. But it’s also because if you’re not careful, people will feel that they are in a life or death struggle to protect their religion in the majority against the minority.
I remember going to Bosnia after the end of the war in Bosnia, and a woman telling me that she couldn’t believe the hostility she started to feel from her neighbors. And she said to a neighbor, “Why are you behaving like this? We’ve known each other for many years; we went to school together. We went to weddings, we buried our dead together. Why are you treating me like this?” And the answer was: “Because we were told, if we didn’t do that to you first, you would do it to us.”
So if the government doesn’t step in and say no, we’re not going to let people be acting this way, we’re not going to let them be discriminating, we’re not going to let them be harming others on the basis of religion or any other characteristic, but focusing on religion, it can get out of control of any government. And then, unfortunately, as we know, governments can sometimes stoke religious discrimination for their own political reasons. You got problems at home, the economy’s not doing so well, let’s find an enemy, and let’s go find those people over there. They’re a different religion, and that gets everybody excited. And then you can light a match and you can’t put the fire out.
So I think that we need to be very thoughtful in separating out the problems posed by extremism – no matter where they’re coming from – and terrorism, from legitimate religious differences that should be tolerated, respected, and protected.
MS. MATTHEWS: We have time for just one more. And may I ask you, when Secretary Clinton (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jessica, why don’t you call on the last person? (Laughter.)
MS. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) one in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I’m Randa Fahmy Hudome. I am serving as general counsel of the American-Egyptian Strategic Alliance. We’re a new lobbying organization working to bring together Egypt and the United States in a stronger alliance.
One of the issues we’ve been talking to the new Egyptian Government about is this issue of religious freedom. And we’ve told them, “Look to your left,” meaning to places like Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, where Muslims and Christians – particularly in Palestine – have lived in peace for centuries. And so I’m wondering if your conversations touched upon that; look to your fellow Arab countries where this is not a problem, frankly.
And then just a quick follow-up question: I appreciate your emphasis on America, but we also have our problems here with respect to, of course, Islamophobia, which I’m sure you’re very aware of. And I’m wondering whether you have any comments about this recent activity in Congress targeting one of your own aides.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first question, I think it is important to look at the historical precedents. But there’s also been a lot of disturbing recent developments with Christians being attacked and driven out of Iraq, Christians in Syria feeling like they are really going to be at risk almost regardless of what develops in the terrible conflict that is now raging, Christians feeling that they’re under pressure in lots of places in the Middle East, where, as you rightly say, they have lived for centuries side by side. And I think it’s quite important for us to unpack that. Why is it happening now? What is it? And of course, it’s a new political identity. It’s an effort by Islamists, primarily but not exclusively, to claim democracy but trying to figure out how it fits with their preexisting frameworks of belief.
So there is a lot of tension and concern going on right now across the Arab world, particularly in places where Christians have lived and would love to continue living. And as several Christians in Egypt told me, “Our people have been here. I can trace my family back 2,000 years. I love this country. I want to be a part of this country. I want to help build this country. I just hope I’m going to be able to.”
So it’s at this point that leadership is incredibly important. Leaders have to be active in stepping in and sending messages about protecting the diversity within their countries. And frankly, I don’t see enough of that, and I want to see more of it. I want to see more of it, and we did see some of that in our own country. We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics.
So we have to set an example. There’s no doubt about that. And we have to continue doing so. But we also have to expect other leaders to do the same. And when I think about how scared so many minorities – religious minorities – are all over the world, and governments are not – I mean, I believe that governments have a bigger role to play and more leverage than they exercise. I think too many governments – particularly in these fast-transitioning societies where there’s so much going on at the same time – too many governments believe that religious freedom is something you get to after you deal with everything else; it’s just not a priority for them.
And we want to raise it up on the visibility list of what they need to be dealing with, and to try to send a clear message: You need to stand up for the rights of all your people. You are now a leader of a diverse society. If you’re in Iraq, you need to be protecting every community, not just one or maybe two at the most. If you’re in Lebanon, you need to be standing up for the rights of everyone in the community, every confession. And similarly in Egypt or Pakistan or Indonesia or China or India or anywhere, leaders need to be out front saying that, and then acting on it.
So I’m hoping that we will see more actions that move in that direction. And the United States will continue to try to push and prod and persuade and then, if necessary, look at ways to use consequences that can send a very clear message that we believe that you will not be successful, you will not be stable, you will not be secure, and you will certainly not have a sustainable democracy.
Let me add one other thought about this, though. I think in some societies where we’re seeing – to go back to the young man’s question – terrorism, extremism and religion, there can also be fertile ground out of which that grows if a government is not paying attention to the needs of all of its people. So it’s not just we respect your right to exercise your religion, but we also are going to have policies that if you’re living in Northern Nigeria, you’re going to see more development, so that you can not only take on Boko Haram on the security front, but you take it on on the economic development front. There are lots of ways to try to knit this together. And it is probably the most exciting time but the most daunting time to be a leader in the world right now, especially in these new transitioning democracies, because there is just so many high expectations that will be so difficult to meet.
So stand for principles, stand for values, gain people’s trust that you’re trying to help their lives improve, and you’re going to leave to them the space they should have to exercise the most precious freedoms that any human being should have regardless of who their leaders are, and begin to make that case. And the United States will stand ready to assist in any way possible.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)

There She Goes Again! Hillary Clinton Reportedly Headed to Africa

As you know, I prefer to post travel plans when these trips are announced officially, but there are many reports from disparate foreign sources, all unconfirmed as yet by the State Department, that Mme. Secretary will be heading to Africa imminently on a trip that is expected to last about a week.  Countries mentioned so far include Uganda, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa - in no particular order that we can be sure of until DOS confirms the trip. 

Some of us joked that she may have been taking notes, as some of us were, during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, naming countries she has yet to visit as SOS.  Clearly, on the past few trips, she has made what appear to be farewell visits as Secretary of State (India, Israel for example), but also added in a country or two she had not been to, e.g. Laos.   In my database of her State Department travels I find no record of visits to Senegal, Malawi, Ghana, or Uganda.  While the countries differ, this trip will be reminiscent of her first State visit to Africa in August 2009.  Nostalgic.

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for July 30, 2012

Public Schedule for July 30, 2012

Public Schedule
Washington, DC
July 30, 2012


9:15 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the assistant secretaries, at the Department of State.

10:45 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the winners of the Summer 2012 Corridor Contest, at the Department of State.

10:50 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the Jefferson Science Fellows, at the Department of State.

11:15 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Ambassador-designate to Afghanistan Jim Cunningham, at the Department of State.

2:00 p.m. Secretary Clinton delivers remarks on the release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Access to the livestream at state.gov. Please click here for more information.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tomorrow: On Hillary Clinton's Agenda

Secretary Clinton to Deliver Remarks on the State of International Religious Freedom

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 27, 2012

On the occasion of the release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks on the state of religious freedom around the world, Monday, July 30th, at 2:00 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Friday, July 27, 2012

President Clinton at the AIDS Conference Closing Session

While, Mme. Secretary was working behind closed doors today, her Country Squire was ending the week on the same stage where she began hers. Here is President Clinton speaking at the closing session of the International Aids Conference in Washington, D.C. this afternoon.


SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for July 27, 2012

Public Schedule for July 27, 2012

Public Schedule
Washington, DC
July 27, 2012

FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012


10:00 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Counselor Mills and Senior Advisor for Development Daniella Ballou-Aares, at the Department of State.

11:30 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with President Obama, at the White House.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hillary Clinton at the Cabinet Meeting

When I saw that schedule this morning I was pretty sure we would not get a glimpse of our girl today, but fortunately White House media was obliging and shared these pics from the cabinet meeting.  Always so pretty,  she has that sweet, sort of worn-out look on her face.  Hope she gets a nice restful weekend for once.

SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for July 26, 2012

Public Schedule for July 26, 2012

Public Schedule
Washington, DC


9:15 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the regional bureau secretaries, at the Department of State.

10:00 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Ambassadorial Seminar participants, at the Department of State.

10:15 a.m. Secretary Clinton meets with Senator Lindsey Graham and leaders of faith based organizations, at the Department of State.

12:30 p.m. Secretary Clinton meets with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, at the Department of State.

1:15 p.m. Secretary Clinton meets with the American Foreign Service Association’s 2012 National High School essay contest winner Natasha Madorsky, at the Department of State.

2:00 p.m. Secretary Clinton attends a meeting at the White House.

5:45 p.m. Secretary Clinton meets with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, at the Department of State.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hillary Clinton With Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak

Remarks With Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak Before Their Meeting


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
July 25, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s wonderful to welcome the Foreign Minister of Slovakia here. He’s someone that I’ve worked with before and I’m happy to be working with again on a full range of issues that are of mutual concern to us both. I’m looking forward to a very broad discussion of a number of issues, both bilateral, as well as within Europe, and then of course global. But it’s very good to see you here again.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER LAJCAK: Thank you very much. Thank you, Secretary Clinton. Good afternoon. I’m very happy to be back in Washington, DC and to have the opportunity to meet with you and present the priorities and the challenges of the new Government of Slovakia, to speak about our bilateral relations, which are excellent, and to speak about many things we doing together to promote peace and democracy in the world, particularly in Afghanistan, in Tunisia, in the Balkans, in Eastern Europe. I’m looking forward to our visit.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. It’s wonderful to see you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, all, very much.

Hillary Clinton Hails Mukherjee's Swearing-In

Secretary Clinton: July 2012 » Swearing-In of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

Swearing-In of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 25, 2012

I want to congratulate President Mukherjee on his swearing-in as the 13th President of India. President Mukherjee has been a strong partner to America and the American people, working throughout his career to deepen our cooperation on a wide range of issues. I look forward to continuing to work with the government and people of India. Together we will build on our shared democratic values, strengthen this relationship even more and create a brighter future for both our people.

Hillary Clinton with Luxembourg's Deputy PM/FM Asselborn


Remarks With Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn Before Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
July 25, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a pleasure to welcome the Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg here. I have the opportunity to work with him on a number of important issues in NATO and in other fora, where we are committed to advancing our shared values and interests. And I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues. So welcome, Jean. We’re so happy you’re here.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ASSELBORN: Thank you, Hillary. First, I am grateful and it’s an honor for me to be here. It’s the sixth time that I have been in this house as Foreign Minister. I saw three different colleagues, three highly appreciated personalities, and I want to thank you, Hillary, in the name of Luxembourg for the very, very, great job you are doing since now.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ASSELBORN: Let me – a little bit on Europe and United States. I think that we are facing unprecedented challenges on the economic future (inaudible) in our region. But I think that we have to put our energies together. We cannot face them, I think, alone. We will not manage it to face and to find solutions. So I think that more than ever, today we have to pray together and to put really our energies in the same basket.
I just want to mention maybe three topics very briefly that I think that we have to work together. The first is Sahara. I was in Africa in the last two weeks, in Addis Ababa and also in Mozambique. And in the Sahara region, there is a humanitarian crisis and a security crisis that is unfolding out of our very eyes. And we have to cooperate, I think, with the Western African organizations and West African Union to avoid (inaudible) of this region.
The second point, of course, is Syria. I think that the only aim of the United States and the European Union is to make – to increase the pressure on the regime that the killings and the violence stop. And therefore we need to cooperate with all the diplomatic means that we have our – at our disposal.
And the last point, I think, on Northern Africa, there is a lot of hope, I think, and in Egypt – you have been there – in Libya, but also in Tunisia. The core challenge is to accept the results of democratic elections and to safeguard, if I can say, the fundamental human rights fixed in the UN Charter and to support – and that’s very important for Europe to support the countries to restart the economy and to give social hope to these countries.
So I think only three points that – for us as Europeans. I am the longest serving foreign minister in the European Union, but now more than ever, I think we can share, and we have to share, our values and cooperate very strongly together. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we certainly agree with that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, all, very much.

Hillary Clinton at the Second Annual Global Diaspora Forum

Remarks at the Second Annual Global Diaspora Forum

Hillary Rodham Clinton
   Secretary of State
Kris Balderston
   Special Representative for Global Partnerships 
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
July 25, 2012

MR. BALDERSTON: Thank you, everyone. I always take it as a point of personal privilege to be able to say a few words about my boss of 12 years, Secretary Clinton. And I’ve worked with her for over a decade and I’ve learned many lessons from her, too plentiful to list here. But one is very relevant here today. It’s the way she subtly and sometimes directly asks in any decision-making process whether we’ve reached out to the people who’ll be affected by the problem or the issue. Have we reached out and sought their opinion? Have we sparked their creativity? Have we tapped their networks? I pretty quickly learned that I did not want to enter a meeting without having affirmative answers to all of those questions. It always, always made the product or decision better, and quite frankly it made the process more interesting. This is the inspiration behind the State Department’s Global Diaspora Initiative. This is the Department’s way of getting advice and counsel in an effective and in an efficient manner from the diversity that is America. We are honored to have the Secretary today because it’s rare to have her in this building. (Laughter.) She’s just returned from an around-the-globe trip addressing many of the issues that face the world. And in every single case, she is looking to better the lives of the diasporans that you all care about.
Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Kris. Thank you. Well, it truly is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to address you and to thank you. I want to start by thanking Kris. He’s worked very hard along with his extremely able staff to make this Global Diaspora Forum a reality. And as he said, he and I have been working together for a long time to try to maximize the potential impact of everything we do to improve the lives of people and to enable everyone everywhere to at least have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
I also want to thank our colleagues from USAID. They are co-sponsoring this conference with the State Department. And I am particularly delighted to welcome our friends from Canada, because working together on diaspora issues makes perfect sense, since both of our countries have been blessed by having so many people from all over the world add to our diversity and our efforts. And so for me, having Canadian involvement in this just makes good sense.
Thanks also to the Migration Policy Institute, The HAND Foundation, Western Union, the OneVietnam Network, and Boom Financial for being such supportive partners. And let me say a special hello to everyone joining us remotely from the Twin Cities in Minnesota and also watching from Massachusetts to Missouri and around the world.
Now, why is this room packed and we have such interest on Twitter and through other means of connectivity? Well, it’s because we all believe that diaspora communities have enormous potential to help solve problems and create opportunities in their countries of origin, because we believe that, as the title of this conference says, we can move forward by giving back. By tapping into the experiences, the energy, the expertise of diaspora communities, we can reverse the so-called “brain drain” that slows progress in so many countries around the world, and instead off the benefits of the “brain gain.”
Now, in terms of international development and our work to reduce poverty and improve lives, this can be a game-changing effort. But that is not all. It is also a recipe for spurring greater economic growth in the United States as well. And it holds the promise of advancing strategic interests like rebuilding societies after conflicts or disasters and improving relations with key countries.
Now, I saw this myself just two weeks ago when I visited Hanoi with a delegation of American businesses. This is a priority for us, because as I emphasized throughout my trip across Asia, economic growth and political reform are linked and we are supporting both. The business leaders were all buzzing about the opportunities they are discovering in Vietnam’s burgeoning market. But a few savvy entrepreneurs were clearly way ahead of the curve. One was Jonathan Hanh Nguyen. He had left Vietnam as a young man, lived in the Philippines, and then studied in the United States, and when relations between America and Vietnam opened up in the 1990s, he was one of the first to see the economic potential. And he built a thriving business bringing well-known American brands into the Vietnamese marketplace, from designer clothing to fast food pizza, creating in the process thousands of jobs and bringing our countries closer together.
Now, that’s one way the diaspora has and continues to make a difference, but it’s certainly not the only way. One of the founding partners of the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance is the nonprofit OneVietnam Network, which uses the power of social networking to connect thousands of people in Vietnam – thousands of people of Vietnamese origin – in 30 countries, with health and development projects on the ground in Vietnam, like a cleft lip and palette clinic in Hanoi or dental missions in rural villages, that makes it easier for members of the diaspora to contribute directly to projects they care about and to see the impact of their donations.
So whether it’s a profitable business venture or an innovative nonprofit, we can see just from the example of one diaspora, namely the Vietnamese diaspora, how you can help bring progress and prosperity to a once closed country.
Now, this story can be and is being replicated in country after country. For instance, we have Katleen Felix here today. She helped launch a new microfinance organization to connect members of the Haitian diaspora with access to capital to businesses and development projects on the ground in Haiti that would not qualify for traditional bank loans. So far, they’ve raised more than $1 million, created more than 760 jobs, and helped fund everything from clean water filters to halt the spread of cholera, to a new hen house in northeast Haiti that is earning income for 100 women.
We created the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance to support exactly these kinds of efforts. And I am so pleased that in its very first year the Alliance has already expanded into new and exciting endeavors. The Caribbean Idea Marketplace, for example, is a business competition sponsored by the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the Inter-American Development Bank, Scotiabank, Digicel, and other partners. It is offering up to a million dollars in matching funds to finance innovative entrepreneurial proposals from the Caribbean diaspora to create jobs and economic growth back in the region. The African diaspora marketplace is a similar effort that is already starting, supporting startups like EcoPower Liberia, which distributes an affordable electrical generator that runs on plentiful and cheap agricultural waste, and Promo Tunisia, which is promoting tourism and investment in Tunisia.
And today I’m pleased to announce that we are officially launching a new business competition for Latin America. This is the result of a partnership between the United States Government, Univision, the Inter-American Development Bank, Accion, WellSpace, and Boom Financial. We’re going to find the best ideas and help them grow into successful businesses that create value and jobs throughout the hemisphere.
Now, we have other projects getting off the ground as well – a diaspora volunteer corps that will deploy highly skilled professionals on short-to-medium-term development assignments in the countries of origin; a new mentoring and networking web platform specifically for diaspora members trying to get involved and give back; an online portal created in partnership with the nonprofit Global Giving that will serve as a fundraising clearinghouse for diaspora organizations and initiatives.
We’re working on all these fronts so we can try to help you harness the amazing energy out there to help people around the world lift themselves out of poverty and create new economic opportunities and bring together more partners to take on big, global challenges.
Now, one of those challenges that is front and center right now is the crisis in Syria, where the Assad regime continues to wage war on the Syrian people. We have a number of Syrian Americans here with us today, and I want to recognize the work of Syrian diaspora organizations to shine a light on what is happening in Syria and to carry the concerns of the Syrian people not only onto the pages of American newspapers, but also into the halls of Congress. They’re helping to collect funds and humanitarian assistance for Syrians who are suffering because of this terrible violence, and they’re trying to help those who’ve had to flee their homes and communities – some of them crossing over borders into neighboring countries. They’re serving as a link between the international community and opposition activists on the ground.
We are obviously hoping to work to further a transition that will be bringing the people of Syria together to help form a new government, helping to rebuild the country, helping to avoid sectarian conflict. These are all extremely difficult challenges, but I think our efforts are enhanced by having the members of the Syrian diaspora, the Syrian Americans and others, being able to advise us.
The fact is that the United States has always benefited from the influx of talent and dynamism that diasporas of all kinds bring to our shores. And if you pick up The Washington Post today, you see that Baltimore, among other countries, is actually finally recognizing the importance that immigrants can play in revitalizing cities. And so they are reaching out and inviting – opening the doors of that venerable American city to immigrants from everywhere. Because in fact, we are well aware that our diversity is one of our greatest assets in the 21st century.
I met yesterday with the Prime Minister from – yes, the Prime Minister from Haiti, and he was very clear that they need more support from the Haitian diaspora. We saw that when the earthquake devastated Haiti, communities from New York to Miami and elsewhere in the world sprang into action. And Haiti has the unfortunate standing of losing more of their college graduates per capita than any country in the world. So reversing that, finding ways for people to help and even to move back, is one of the priorities.
Now, when countries across North Africa and the Middle East threw off autocrats and dictators and cried out for skilled professionals to help them build modern economic systems, modern political systems, Americans of Arab descent have been answering that call. And each year, Americans send billions of dollars in remittances throughout the world. In fact, remittances are the largest form of inflows into many, many countries. And what we’re trying to do is figure out how to harness those remittances to do even more than what they are currently doing in supporting individuals and families.
So through the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance, through this forum, we’re asking you for your ideas. We’re asking you to help us. Give us the benefit of your experience and insight. We see so many places around the world being torn apart by ethnic, religious, racial, sectarian divides of all kinds. When I walk down the street, as I love to do in New York, and I see people living together and working together whose relatives back in the countries from where they came hate each other, kill each other, it just – it makes me so grateful for our country, but it also makes me so heartbroken that other countries don’t have that opportunity, don’t see beyond moving beyond the past. And I think Americans, like all of you, have such an opportunity to talk with, to support these kinds of changes in minds and hearts. Because democracy is not just an election; democracy is changing the way people relate to one another, work with one another, listen to one another. And there’s no place that has more experience, since we are now the longest-lasting democracy, than we do. And there are no people with more credibility than all of you.
And that’s why we have focused in on the importance of our own diaspora to our efforts here at the State Department. But we can’t do this without your constructive criticism, your ideas, your support. And I hope that out of this forum we will get many, many more ideas. And all the ones that I’ve mentioned today you will learn about and come up with your own, because we have to send a clear, unmistakable call to action to people everywhere. They really can have a better life; they really can see their children do better than they have done; they really can live in peace, one with the other.
I know we have friends from the American Irish diaspora, and I remember meeting with a group of women in Belfast, Ireland about 15 or so, 16 or so years ago from both communities. Now Northern Ireland, as many of you, has been divided not on racial grounds, not on tribal grounds, not on any grounds other than two different branches of Christianity – Protestants and Catholics. And they have been at each other for a long, long time. And then they made a lot of tough decisions to try to figure out how to live with each other.

But in those early days, they really didn’t see each other as fellow human beings. They were different creatures, one to the other. And I remember going to Northern Ireland for the first time and getting together a group of women from the two communities who had never been in the same room with each other. They lived in different neighborhoods; their children went to different schools; they avoided each other every way they possibly could. Each thought the other was illegitimate.
And we started the discussion, and nobody really wanted to say anything. And finally, I just called on a woman. I said, “What are you afraid of?” And she said, “I’m afraid that when my husband goes to work in the morning, he won’t come back alive.” And then I pointed to another woman and I said, “What are you afraid of?” She said, “I’m afraid when my son goes out at night, he won’t come back alive.” I said, “It sounds like you’re afraid of the same things. So there’s got to be a way to reach across the divide of history and begin to talk about what together you can do to ensure that your husbands and your sons, your daughters and your friends, and everyone else has a chance to have a better life.”
When I travel around the world that is what I see as our biggest problem. I see people in one sect of the same religion intimidating, harassing, and even approving of the killing of somebody in the same religion but in a different sect. I see people in different tribal backgrounds convinced that they are going to kill or be killed. What a waste of the great gift God has given us to live our lives in peace, to pursue our own dreams. Are we so insecure about our own beliefs that we have to marginalize and even kill those who don’t share them? I mean, ultimately we’ll all found out who was right, but we’re not going to find out on this earth. (Laughter.) And frankly, I think it’s a pretty big tent up there, where people will be judged individually more than by sect or religion or faith or ethnicity.
So these are big issues. And as part of our diaspora, you have lived in a place, with all of our problems and challenges, that has given more opportunity to more people over a longer period of time than anywhere in human history to live out your own dreams and your own hopes. And one of the great challenges we face in the world today is to convey that to others.
Now, many of the reasons many of you are here is because you did not want to stay where you were from, or your parents didn’t, or your grandparents didn’t, which was my case. They left seeking better economic opportunity, a better future. Some come seeking religious freedom, freedom of conscience, a chance to stretch your own ambition. And it is part of America’s ongoing mission to try to help more people everywhere to have that same chance.
So I thank you for taking time out of what I know are very busy schedules for every one of you to come and trade ideas about how to alleviate poverty and suffering, how to open up doors and minds, and to be part of this ongoing mission of giving every person in the world the chance that you and I have had because of the blessings in this country that I never, ever want us to take for granted.
So I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your work. Thank you all very much.
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