Remarks at Flag-Raising Ceremony

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Consulate
Alexandria, Egypt
July 15, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. And let me begin by expressing appreciation for your patience. We had excellent meetings in Cairo today, but they all ran long. There was a lot to say, and we wanted everybody to be able to say it. So I apologize for keeping you waiting.

I am delighted to be here in Alexandria. As Anne just said, it is my first trip, although I hope not my last. And it is much too short a trip. Ever since I was a little girl, I have read about the history of this extraordinary city and what it has contributed to not only Egypt but humanity. And I look forward to watching the next chapters be written.

I want to recognize our Ambassador, Anne Patterson, who came with me from Cairo. I want to thank the Governor for being with us today. I’m very grateful to you, Governor, for taking time out to share this occasion with us. I want to also recognize Mrs. Gendi from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as representatives of the diplomatic, governmental, business and religious communities, as well as educational institutions. It’s also good to have a number of those who work in this consulate and who will be part of providing the services that it will offer to Egyptians and Americans alike.

Some of you know that this day has been a long time coming. On September 30th 1993, the American flag at our consulate in Alexandria was lowered. Although we would maintain a presence here, the consulate itself was shut down. Luckily, someone had the foresight to hold on to the flag that they lowered that day because they hoped, as we did, that this day would come and a flag would once again fly in Alexandria. And today we do that. By raising it once more, the American consulate is open for business.

Now, as exciting as this day is, we know that there is a lot of work ahead of us. On my visit to Egypt yesterday and today, I told people I wanted to listen more than talk. I wanted to hear firsthand the concerns, the issues, the aspirations that could be represented to me both by officials as well as citizens. And what I have heard is (inaudible) at what Egyptians have accomplished but also, understandably, questions about the future. People want to know and are vigorously debating this among themselves, as you know so well, what this democratic transition occurring in Egypt will be like. Where will it lead? Will it produce economic opportunity for those who have waited so long, better education and healthcare services for those who need it so much? And will it produce institutions, a constitution, a government that protects the rights of all Egyptians? Now, Egyptians have to answer all these questions for yourselves. We want to be a good partner. We want to stand with you. But the revolution was yours, and so is this transition, and so will be what the transition produces.

I have come to Alexandria to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for your democratic future. Yesterday in Cairo, I spoke about the immediate questions that you are facing. And today, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the kind of democracy you are trying to build. Now, I well understand – and I heard it today from many different voices – that Egyptian media can be quite creative in depicting my country. And I know some Egyptians have doubts about where we stand. In fact, I’ve heard it argued over the last 18 months that America spoke too loudly, and America spoke too softly; that America spoke too early, and America spoke too late. And I’ve heard it that we support one faction in Egypt’s politics and then only weeks later, I hear that we are supporting another faction in Egypt’s politics. And I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business in Egypt of choosing winners and losers – even if we could, which of course we cannot. We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy.

Now, we do have some experience in democracy. We are the oldest democracy in the world. India has the great honor of being the largest democracy in the world. And we have learned a few lessons over that 236 years that we have been practicing democracy. And we want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties but for what democracy means in our understanding and experience.

The Egyptian people have every right in this new democracy to look to their leaders to protect the rights of all citizens, to govern in a fair and inclusive manner, and to respect the results of elections. We often say that the first election is hard, but the second election is more important because one election does not make a democracy. There has to be a peaceful surrender of power. I have won elections, and I have lost elections. And I remember back when I started traveling as Secretary of State, the main question on people’s minds was, “How could you work with President Obama? You ran against him. You tried to beat him, but he beat you.” And so the answer is simple. We both love our country, and we both want to serve our people.

So when we talk about supporting democracy, we mean real democracy, because around the world today there are people who claim to be democrats, who oppress their people, who discriminate against some of their citizens, who use the tools of government not to advance the people’s interests but to enrich themselves.

So what we believe is that the principles of democracy have to be enshrined not only in the constitution, not only in the institutions of government, but in the hearts and minds of the people. What does that mean in practice? Well, to us, real democracy means that every citizen has the right to live, work, and worship as they choose, whether they are man or woman, Muslim or Christian, or from any other background. Real democracy means that no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else. Where there is healthy competition, then there is the free exchange of ideas. And we believe that as frustrating as debate and dialogue can sometimes be, that we are (inaudible). None of us has a monopoly on the truth, and we will make better decisions by listening to one another and by learning to compromise.

We look for checks and balances, so no leader or no institution gets too powerful. In my discussions with President Morsi yesterday, I emphasized that we believe the success of his presidency – indeed Egypt’s success – depends upon building consensus across the Egyptian political spectrum and speaking to the needs and concerns of all Egyptians – all faiths, all communities, men and women alike. That will not only take dialogue and compromise; it will also take real leadership and real political activity.

Earlier today, I met with members of Egypt’s Christian community, with a number of women leaders and advocates, and with young entrepreneurs who want to demonstrate that Egyptian young people are just as innovative and successful as young people anywhere. They have legitimate concerns, and I will be honest and say some (inaudible) about their future. And I said to them, and what I will repeat, no Egyptian, no persons anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith or their lack of faith or their choices about working and not working.

Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority; it is also about protecting the rights of the minority. We had to learn that the hard way. When our Constitution was written, it did not include women. It did not include African American slaves. It did not include white men who did not own property. It was really a Constitution for a very small number of people in our country at that time. But we learned over the years how to expand the circle of citizenship and opportunity. And we believe that that is now what will be expected in the 21st century. And we look to Egypt and Egyptians from all areas, all walks of life, to support real democracy.

Now, our engagement will be not only with the Egyptian Government, but it will be, more importantly, the Egyptian people. That’s why this consulate is so important, because we want to make it clear that we’re not just in Cairo talking to officials. We are in the country talking to people, helping in ways that are appropriate, working with different groups, especially with civil society.

So here in Alexandria and across Egypt, we are focused on helping Egyptians create jobs, grow the economy, widen the circle of prosperity. We will deliver on the economic package that President Obama announced to leave up to $1 billion that Egypt gets to create U.S.-Egypt enterprise funds run by distinguished Egyptian and American business leaders, to be looking for ways to provide credit to small and medium-sized businesses that will be at the heart of the Egyptian economic growth. That will be especially important here in Alexandria, which you know so well is the economic engine of Egypt, a town where 30 percent of the country is (inaudible) nearly 80 percent of shipping.

And we are supporting things like the (inaudible) Center here in Alexandria, offering one-stop shopping for businesses in order to cut through all the red tape and get going faster, so that they can be in the marketplace. I will be sending a high-level delegation of American businesses in early September to look at trade and investment opportunities.

Now, our relationship is not new by any means. Millions of Americans have come to this country, and particularly to this city, to admire your heritage. We are proud to have Egyptian Americans as part of our society. And over more than three decades, the United States has helped more than 3 million Egyptian entrepreneurs find access to financing, provided scholarships for nearly 200,000 women and girls, and helped millions of Egyptians get access to clean water and sanitation. In fact, here in Alexandria we’ve invested more than $700 million the last 15 years to improve basic services like water and sanitation.

But this is a new (inaudible), a new beginning for our partnership. And we are looking forward to defining it with you. We understand Egypt’s challenges are real. But from our perspective, we believe the talents of nearly 90 million Egyptians is more than up to the job they have; and we will work with you. We will support you. We will give you whatever equipment we can as you create an Egyptian democracy. And then in 100 years or 200 years from now, someone from Alexandria or Cairo or elsewhere in Egypt will be able to talk about Egyptian democracy and what it has meant to the people of Egypt in terms of new opportunities for themselves and for generations of their children.

For thousands of years, Alexandria has been a place where cultures and faiths live side by side. This city’s lighthouse and library stood as beacons to travelers and scholars who came from around the ancient world to discuss the great questions of their day. It is only right that the United States should have a small diplomatic presence here. And I thank the people of Alexandria for their hospitality and for working with us to once again have a consulate that is going to exemplify our relationship. I’m proud to join you in opening this new chapter in a partnership between Egypt and the United States.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2012/T68-41