I’m at the Women at the World Summit at Lincoln Center in New York today, and Hillary Clinton just wowed the packed concert hall with her keynote remarks.
From the moment she took the stage to a huge Standing O to her final hug from Tina Brown, the conference founder, she rocked the room.
Tina Brown introduced Hillary by saying, “Seventeen years ago, Hillary Clinton announced at the World Conference on Women in Beijing that women’s rights are human rights.
“When Hilary spoke those words nearly two decades ago, few were ready to hear them,” said Tina.
Today, Hillary made the case for women’s rights as human rights in the most persuasive way imaginable.
Following are quotes from Hillary’s remarks:
Too many women around the world are treated as, at best, second-class citizens and, at worst, as subhuman species.
Women are not victims. We are agents of changes. We are drivers of progress. We are makers of peace. All we need is a fighting chance.
We have to make the case to the whole world that supporting women advances security and prosperity for everyone. When women participate in peace keeping and peace making, we are more secure. When women participate in the political process, we all benefit.
Too many people continue to see empowering women and girls as somehow separate from what’s really going on. I have been kidded, challenged, ribbed in board rooms and official offices around the world.
Fighting to give women and girls a chance isn’t a “nice” thing to do.
It isn’t something we do when we have time on our hands.
It is something that is core to what we do.
It is not a coincidence that the countries doing the worst are the ones where girls and women have it hardest.
It is not a coincidence that in countries where the rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root, women don’t have a seat at the table.
It is not a coincidence that countries trying to make the leap from poverty to prosperity are grappling with what to do for women and girls.
We are meeting at a time of remarkable confluence.
There is a powerful new current – a grassroots activism stirring, galvanized by new technologies that give women and girls voices like never before. We need to seize this moment and we need to be savvy to decide what this moment really means to us.
Let’s recognize that much of our advocacy is rooted in 20th Century top-down approach. It is time to bring a 21st Century approach to advancing girls and women. We have satellite TV, cell phones, Twitter, Tumbler and are bringing the abuses front ant center. Think of six-year-old girl about to be sold into marriage to cover a debt.
As Malala says, “We live in the 21st Century, how can I not have the right to be educated? I have the right to sing, to dance, to go to the market.”
The Taliban recognized that this girl, that Malala, was a serious threat. And you know what, they were right.
Malala says if this new generation is not given pens they will be given guns.
Millions of Pakistanis are inspired to say, “Enough is enough.” They marched in streets to say that boys and girls have a right to go to school.
It is impossible to imagine making real progress, especially against violent extremism, without giving girls and women a role and place.
The grassroots response to Malala’s shooting gives us hope.
The next time someone tells you that the fate of women and girls isn’t one of the “real issues” that really smart people deal with, remember that the extremists know the threat. Extremists know that when women are liberated, so are entire societies.
In the years ahead, a number of rapidly developing nations are poised to lift their people into the middle class, to join the global economy. No country can achieve its full economic potential when women are left out or left behind.
Challenges I’ve outlines aren’t just for the developing world. We need to face them here too if we want to continue to lead the world.
Our peace and prosperity is not a birthright, it needs to be earned with each generation.
The Economist published a “Glass Ceiling Index” based on opportunities for women in the work place and equal pay. The U.S. wasn’t even in the top 10. American women live shorter lives than women in other developed nations. This is a historic reversal. For many women, the American dream remains elusive. That’s just 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. I’m proud of my own daughter, and all the women I know. It is hard to imagine turning the clock back on them. But in places across American large and small, the clock is turning back.
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 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.
We need to empower women here at home to fully participate economically and give equal pay for equal work.
We need to invest in our people, women and men, 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 teach their daughters that there is no limit on how big she can dream and how much she can achieve.
The unfinished business of the world is the rights of women and girls.
Let’s keep telling the world over and over again that yes, women’s are human rights and human rights are women’s rights once and for all!