Opening Remarks at a Roundtable With Azerbaijani Civil Society and Youth Leaders

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Mugham Club
Baku, Azerbaijan
July 4, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you so much, Chargé. I am very, very pleased. And thank you for your service here. I know you will be leaving shortly for your next assignment. So, thank you. And thanks to all of you for being here. This is a special occasion, because it is the Fourth of July, our Independence Day, and I am delighted to be spending it here in your country and with all of you. And I especially appreciate this lovely setting.

As the chargé said, one of the parts of my job that I relish is getting a chance not just to talk, but to listen, and having the opportunity, particularly with young people, because I am well aware of the fact that most of the work that I and others in governments around the world will affect, for better or worse, the lives that you lead in the future. And it is exciting to have heard some of what you are doing in moving Azerbaijan forward. And I want to hear more about that.

I have a lot of optimism about the potential of Azerbaijan. I think it is strategically located. It is a country that has an extraordinary story to tell the rest of the world, the resources to be able to develop in a short period of time -- 18 years -- that you have been independent from the former Soviet Union. And the United States is committed to helping you and your fellow citizens build a prosperous, independent, democratic, sovereign Azerbaijan.

And I happen to think that a lot of the success of countries in the 21st century over the long term will be because they are open societies, they have an opportunity for dialogue, and they learn and adjust. And it is certainly my priority, as Secretary of State, to support democracy, to support freedom, to support young people. And that includes social activism, Internet freedom, and the new ways that your generation communicates that are really changing the map of human interactions.

And I think that technology may change, but the United States's commitment to freedom of expression does not. We have had a long journey -- 234 years -- since our declaration of independence. And we have had to overcome a lot of obstacles. We have had to change a lot. When our country came into being, only white property-owning men could vote. And there were many injustices, and many areas that were not living up to our ideals. And so, every country has to be on a journey. And I think it's important for citizens, not just governments, to be part of leading that journey. And I think, too, that making your democracy stronger gives even more people the chance to live up to their own God-given potential, which, to me, is part of what we are supposed to do in life together.

I think that, while considerable progress has been made here, you know better than I there is work to be done. There are still lots of challenges. And, for example, President Obama and I have both received many letters about the two young bloggers who are in prison. Those are the kinds of issues that every society has to deal with, and has to try to come to grips with. And I certainly have raised those in my meetings today.

Democracy is not only about elections. It is about a free press. It's about independent judiciary. It's about transparent and accountable institutions and leaders. And, in today's world, it's about the way new technologies and social media can help the democratic dialogue flourish.

So, with that, let me turn it over to you and hear about your interests, what you are doing, ways that you think the United States can be more helpful.

PRN: 2010/T31-16