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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary > 2002

National Endowment for Democracy -- Annual Democracy Award

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Remarks at the 2002 Democracy Award presentation
Washington, DC
July 9, 2002

Thank you for inviting me here today to participate in this very important event. For almost 20 years, the National Endowment for Democracy has significantly advanced the cause of human rights and democracy through its work around the world. There are many people in this room today who have worked toward these goals alongside the National Endowment for Democracy -- from NGOs to religious leaders to journalists, academics, womenís groups, and government officials. An important part of NEDís work is the presentation of the annual Democracy Awards, which give richly deserved recognition to men and women who often labor for freedom without praise or applause. Today we gather to honor four of these crusaders who have made tremendous contributions in the area of democracy promotion.

How very appropriate it is that this yearís awards focus our attention on the democracy and human rights movements in the Islamic World. Since the world-altering events of September 11, the need to bring lasting freedom and peace to that region has never been more painfully clear. And how very fitting it is that we recognize the courage and tenacity of four women today. Their leadership exemplifies the strides being made by women throughout the Islamic World -- strides that are perhaps nowhere more evident than in Afghanistan. In that country, for the first time in a generation, women are slowly resuming their place in society and are gradually being reintegrated into the public life of the nation. It is an encouraging time.

Advocates for democracy worldwide find support in the National Endowment for Democracy and its vital work to build and strengthen the international community of democrats. Their work has ranged from erecting democratic frameworks in Central and Eastern Europe to safeguarding human rights in Tibet to encouraging voices for democracy worldwide, including voices like Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. NEDís assistance has been and will remain crucial to meeting these myriad challenges.

The National Endowment for Democracy recognizes the grave importance of democracy in creating a world of peace and nonviolence, in bringing about a better world with human rights for all. It is our special privilege to have with us this afternoon a woman who shares this vision and who has been a strong voice for those who often have no voice to raise, the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush. Last fall, she became the first and only First Lady to record a full presidential radio address as she spoke out about the plight of Afghan women and children. She has traveled to all corners of the globe spreading an inspiring message of liberty because, in her words, "Every human bring should be treated with dignity."

In the 1800s, President James A. Garfield said, "Next in importance to freedom and justice is education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained." This is a truth that is central to the First Ladyís work. Her efforts to improve the state of education, both in the United States and throughout the world, have been groundbreaking. She has created a national initiative called "Ready to Read, Ready to Learn" that instills in children a love of reading. In her time as First Lady, she has encouraged more Americans to become teachers and has fostered an informative dialogue with parents to give them important information on child rearing and cognitive development.

Whether it is by working to improve education or by calling attention to those who are starved for freedom, she is helping to insure the full promise of democracy for people around the world. We are grateful for her efforts and are honored to have her with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush.  [remarks by First Lady Laura Bush]



Released on July 9, 2002

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