Secretary Clinton Meets With Winners of the First Annual Democracy Video Challenge

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
September 18, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Jeremy. This is a great pleasure for me personally to be able to participate in this. And I am very grateful to have this start this year. I think it’s going to be an impressive and exciting venture. I thank you, Jeremy, for your leadership. I thank Under Secretary Judith McHale.

These six filmmakers are literally the cream of an impressive crop. More than 900 people answered our call to create videos that capture and celebrate democracy. We had a rigorous, independent jury process and online voting open to the public – kind of like American Idol. (Laughter.) And in the end, six videos stood out for their thoughtful and inspiring depictions of what democracy means to them.

And I want to thank our partners from the NGO community, the film and entertainment industry, academia, everyone who is here today to help make this contest possible this year, as our trial run, and then for years to come.

The video submissions represent an extraordinary diversity of ideas and opinions. Even though they demonstrate there are many ways to define democracy, its core meaning is universal. Here at the State Department, we work with governments, NGOs, civil society leaders, the private sector, all kinds of partners, to ensure that democracy can thrive and flourish in places that have known it, but lost it, or who have never known it before.

Democracy does not begin and end with free and fair elections, although that is obviously a sine qua non of being able to define a democracy. We need to think of democracy as an environment in which people can exercise civil and human rights without fear of persecution or retribution. We need to think of democracy as promoting transparent and effective governments that protect their citizens, provide help to those in need, and deliver results, which is one of the biggest challenges facing democracies everywhere. Democracy creates the conditions that bring people together to negotiate solutions to their own problems, the ones facing their country, and indeed, our world.

We build it across generations. And, frankly, we wanted to engage young people in a candid and open discussion. Then we wanted to stand back and see what we have heard and what we could see really working in the ideas and the thoughts of young people across the world.

For the six of you, democracy is one of the most difficult terms to explain, but the easiest to expound. It is fueled by the voice of the masses. It empowers the individual to make the individual powerful. It’s a smoothie – I like that, a smoothie – (laughter) – blending philosophical ideas, cultural norms, and aesthetic values. It means choosing your own way, finding your path, moving all the parts of society forward as one body. These are wonderful insights. And I think we ought to get the transcripts of the videos and distribute those widely, because they are different perspectives, but they have the same meaning.

This video challenge reminds us that young people will always find new and creative ways to participate in and further democracy. And we are going to continue working with you and others like you across the world. We want to keep the dialogue on democracy going forward. We think that this next generation of young people who are more connected, more able to communicate across oceans and boundaries, will give new meaning and purpose to democracy. That is our hope. That’s the bet I’m making on young people like these that stand before you.

So Jeremy, let’s get into the meat of the program, which is handing out the awards.

(The awards were presented.)

PRN: 2009/938