Remarks as Guest of Honor, National Women's Day Dinner

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Pretoria, South Africa
August 7, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Mr. Program Director. And to the minister, whom I already feel as though I've known all my life -- we've had such a wonderful conversation before my arrival, and certainly today's -- and to all of the distinguished representatives of the South African government, of the private sector, of civil society, to my own delegation, I think it's appropriate to say, "All protocol observed."


SECRETARY CLINTON: It is a special pleasure for me to be back in South Africa at this time of such excitement, anticipation, and commitment. I appreciate greatly all of the good wishes and very encouraging words that many of you during the day, and certainly before, have said about our new President and his administration.

And, of course, I bring you his greetings, his absolute commitment to elevating our relationship between our two countries to a new level of breadth and depth and strength, and his belief, which I certainly share, that South Africa's leadership, not only in this region, and not only on this continent, but globally, is so necessary for the 21st century.

It is exciting also to hear about the plans that this new government has. I have had just a brief time today to learn more, both from the minister and from the business community, from my wonderful visit with (inaudible), and of course, talking about our joint efforts against HIV/AIDS.

I am delighted that the minister and I have agreed that she and I will chair a new bilateral strategic dialogue that will involve our government holistically, looking for very clear direction as to how we can solve problems together. And it's especially appropriate in this month dedicated to recognizing and honoring women, that two women ministers would, on behalf of each of our countries, make this commitment.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I listened very carefully and with great appreciation to that wonderful poem. And what kind of woman is it who would take the risk in 1956 to march against oppression, against discrimination, against apartheid? Well, all you have to do is look at this table to see what kind of woman it is.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am often awed by the history of the women's struggle in my own country. The very first time women and a few brave men, including Frederick Douglass, gathered together to announce the absolutely revolutionary thought that women had rights was in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York. I have been often to that small town in upstate New York, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others who decided that they had to speak out for themselves, for their daughters, for granddaughters-to-be. And they joined forces with what was then a moving effort on the part of leaders against the slavery that still existed in our country. The women's movement and the abolitionist movement were joined, hand in hand. It took a long time, from 1848 until 1920, to win women in America the right to vote.

And of course, now, when I look at South Africa and I see the role that women played in the struggle for freedom and liberation, and the roles that women are playing now in every aspect of South African life, it is gratifying, but it is not satisfying. Too many women in this country and across Africa and across the world, including in my country, are marginalized, are left behind, are denied the rights that every human being is entitled to. Women make up the vast majority of the poor in the world. They are the unhealthiest, they are the least among their fellow citizens. They are often ignored and left out of important decisions in their families and their societies.

So, for those of us fortunate enough to be in this beautiful room, having this wonderful dinner together, we must remain committed to the full empowerment of women everywhere. And when we think about the poverty that grinds the spirit and the life out of so many women, we have to resolve to do our part, to make it easier for women to have the chance to live up to their God-given potential.

I said earlier today that talent is universally available, but opportunity is not. And it is the responsibility of those of us in public life to do all that we can in the brief moment we are given this trust to open the doors of opportunity to as many people as possible.

And so, we will work together, South Africa and the United States, two countries that serve as inspiration, two countries that not only have overcome the legacy of their own past, but who are not satisfied. That is what I love about my country, and what I so admire about our new president. Yes, we are a very fortunate place, but we know that we have work to do. And it is what I admire about your new president and your new government.

So, we will join hands. We may not physically march, but we will take those steps together, and we will keep moving toward a destination of full and equal human rights for all that we may not even see completely in our own time. But we will persevere. And I thank you for the example you set, and the willingness to make this march together with us. Thank you very much.


PRN: 2009/T11-23