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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons > Releases and Remarks > Remarks > 2003

Swearing-in of John R. Miller as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

John R. Miller, Senior Advisor and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
The Capitol
Washington, DC
March 4, 2003

Vice President Cheney, I feel honored and appreciative that someone who I respect as much as you has taken the time to swear me in. Thank you.

It is so good to see many of my former colleagues in Congress. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Frank Wolf and Chris Smith who have been such leaders on the slave trading issue, my class mates Howard Coble, Jim Saxton, Joe Barton, and from the neighboring district to mine in Seattle, Jim McDermott? thank you all for joining my family and me on this occasion.

Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky, thank you for your kind words and thank you for your work on human rights over the years and for your support, your counsel and your guidance.

And my thanks to all of you today who come as friends, or relatives, or advocates in this cause.

Most of all, I want to thank my wife, June, and our son, Rip, for supporting me in this effort.

When one takes on a challenge of modern day slavery, one benefits from the work of others, past and present. Some came long before, such as the English opponent of the slave trade, William Wilberforce; the American abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison; the Quakers with their Underground Railroad, or the men and women of the Salvation Army who started the fight against sex slavery in the 19th century.

Others whose shoulders I stand upon are less well known and more recent. But they are here in attendance today. I see Laura Lederer, who outside and now inside government, has labored to raise the public consciousness of trafficking around the world through her research, writing and speeches.

I see Amy O'Neill-Richard, who, with her seminal study on trafficking of women, influenced many inside government to understand that modern day slavery is a great emerging womens' issue.

I see Michael Horowitz, my friend and also welcome critic, who has been present and active at the creation of just about every important piece of human rights legislation this past decade.

I also see here many committed people from my office. Would you all please raise your hands. These are the people who travel thousands of miles and labor thousands of hours in their efforts to fight the slave trade.

The dimensions of the modern day slavery challenge that we face are vast. There are not thousands or hundreds of thousands but over a million people who are trafficked and enslaved every single year. That's right-over a million every single year.

Many of our fellow Americans believe slavery ended here after the Civil War. And, indeed, slavery based on color did end then in our country. But we know that today slavery based on color still exists in countries such as Mauritania.

We know that today slavery based on bonded labor still exists on the farms of India, in the brick kilns of Pakistan and in the charcoal camps of Brazil.

We know that today slavery based on military impressment of children goes on from Sri Lanka to Uganda.

And most of all, we know that today the fastest growing and most hideous form of modern day slavery, sex slavery, reaches into most countries of the world, including these United States. We know that sex slavery makes billions for organized crime every year. We know at the same it time physically, mentally, and spiritually ruins millions of children and women.

Mr. Vice President, the struggle we wage to abolish modern day slavery will decide the fate of millions of human beings. But this struggle is also tied to the United States' role in the world. We live in a time when many people abroad do not know or have forgotten the idealism that led Americans to sacrifice over and over so that others might enjoy the God-given, inalienable right to liberty enunciated in our Declaration of Independence. They do not know what moves America; what makes us tick.

Now with many grave challenges facing us at home and abroad, the President and Congress have asked that we take on the ultimate issue of liberty: freeing people from slavery. It is an issue that cries out for national and international leadership. And as is so often the case, while many nations will cooperate in this fight, one nation must lead the way. Which country will put its power and resources into this fight to help the world's weakest achieve freedom? Which country will risk alienating others by reporting openly what's going on and holding out the possibility of aid sanctions to encourage action? There is only one answer to the question of which country must lead: it is the United States of America.

We lead not because we are perfect we have our imperfections including on this issue. We lead because we alone have the idealism, the power, the history and the commitment to freedom to lead the world in this new abolitionist struggle.

Yes, some abroad and even at home will view this effort with alarm and cynicism. They do not understand that on this as on many issues, our interests are reflected in our values. They will also ignore the fact that the fight against slavery is premised not only on our own values but universal values and UN covenants. Such people will still ask why are you trying to impose American values on the world? Two hundred years ago similar people asked the English evangelist and member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, as he fought to end the slave trade based on color, why are you trying to impose British values on the world? But Wilberforce persisted and persevered and millions who emerged for slavery to live in freedom thanked him and Great Britain. And just as today the people of Eastern Europe thank us for freeing them from Soviet tyranny, in the future, if we are successful, millions of men in forced peonage and millions of women and children forced into prostitution and sex slavery will thank the United States for their freedom.

Just last week President Bush issued an executive order that showed anew his determination that the U.S. lead the fight to abolish modern day slavery. President Bush became the first American President to challenge government agencies to make the fight against modern day slavery a priority in planning and deeds.

I am proud to serve an administration and a President who will make this issue of human rights and freedom an integral part of United States foreign policy.

I accept this position humbly, Mr. Vice President, and I ask for the prayers and help of those in this room and elsewhere. I have learned enough in my few weeks here to know that I truly need such prayers and help.

This struggle will not be short or easy. Wilberforce only succeeded in abolishing the 19th century slave trade after over 25 years. We will need his spirit and the spirit of our own nineteenth century abolitionists if we are to defeat this modern scourge.

But we all should know this: As we pursue this struggle, we will serve God, we will serve mankind, and we will serve our country well. And that is all we can and should ask of ourselves.

Thank you.

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