Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony of the Honorable Melanne Verveer as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
June 12, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, this is an especially happy occasion. And we actually reached the limit on the number of people that would be permitted into the Benjamin Franklin Room. But it is such a personal pleasure for me to welcome all of you and the entire Verveer clan who are with us today. It is, I think, fair to say that if every person who Melanne has touched in her work over so many years could be here, we would have had to rent out a stadium – (laughter) – because she has been an extraordinary ambassador already. And who better to fulfill the position, a new position, of Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues than, the one and only, Melanne Verveer. (Applause.)

Now, you might think that this was a really easy choice for me. (Laughter.) Now, Melanne is famous for her rolodex, which at last count had more than 6,000 names. (Laughter.) She has traveled to 80-plus countries and has conducted personal conversations with every woman leader, entrepreneur, activist, and advocate in every one of those countries, thereby adding more names to her rolodex. (Laughter.)

She speaks several difficult languages. During our White House days together, Melanne single-handedly elevated U.S. foreign policy by delivering a speech in its entirety in Ukraine in Ukrainian. (Applause.)

So why hesitate about this appointment at all? Well, I had to figure out how I was going to keep up with her. (Laughter.) Melanne has been, like all the rest of you, telling me what to do for years.

And those of us who know and love her, I think, would agree that she is famous for several things: Not just the mischievous and amused chuckle with which she greets the latest item of gossip; not just the maternal pride and protection she lavishes on those who work with and for her; not just the fierce negotiating skills – always applied with disarming charm and humor – that can make even grown men wither in the face of her reasonable demands; and not just her work habits, which, so far as I can tell, are 24/7, having traveled with her many, many miles and finally just giving up and having to find sleep, and watching Melanne plow through the bags of paper that she would carry with her everywhere; and not just her brilliant, beautiful, talented, delightful and all together perfect children and grandchildren – (laughter) – not just her devoted, good-natured, ever-patient husband Phil – (applause) – and by the way, he figured the only opportunity he would have to get to actually see Melanne was by taking a job here as well. (Laughter.)

But Melanne is most famous for the unwavering passion she brings to her causes. And for the last 15 years, that cause has been women and girls; their rights, their opportunities, their central important to the future of our world’s progress and prosperity.

The absolute commitment she has always shown to giving voice to the voiceless, and making sure that the stories of everyday heroes and heroines would be known to a broader audience. She helped to launch the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative more than a decade ago, and she nurtured it and helped it to grow into what it is today. In the past eight years, she turned a government program into a global NGO, and the results of that work are ones that I encounter everywhere I travel on behalf of the United States. And she particularly helped to lead our commitment to end the intolerable scourge, the global crime of human trafficking.

So I was pretty lucky that Melanne was willing to accept this nomination to be our first ever ambassador on behalf on the issues and the causes and the women and girls that she has worked for so many years. (Applause.) She’s exactly the kind of diplomat that we need in the 21st century to exercise what we call smart power. And I am so pleased that the President agreed with me that there wasn’t any other choice for this job. She’s already put in countless hours and will be working with and calling on every single one of you, I know that. But she will, once again, be the vital voice to make sure that the concerns of women and girls remain central to the American foreign policy agenda.

I could not be personally happier or more honored to swear her in today, and so let me ask you, Melanne, to raise your right hand, your left hand on the Bible, and repeat after me. And as you can tell, Melanne is getting a lot of good help from her two granddaughters that are with her.

(The Oath of Office was administered.)


MODERATOR: The ambassador will now sign her appointment papers. (Applause.)

PRN: 2009/591