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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Office of International Women's Issues > Remarks > 2001-2005 International Women's Issues Remarks

Statement by Ellen Sauerbrey at her Swearing-In Ceremony

Ellen Sauerbrey, U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
Washington, DC
January 31, 2003

Mr. Secretary, Assistant Secretary Holmes, Under Secretary Dobriansky, Ambassador Siv, Governor and Mrs. Ehrlich, Lt. Governor Steele, Maryland Cabinet Secretaries, Distinguished guests, Friends:

With the eyes of the world on New York, this is an awesome time to be sworn in as an Ambassador of the United States to a body of the United Nations. And knowing the major issues that are on your plate and the responsibilities resting on your shoulders, I am particularly honored, Mr. Secretary, that you would take the time to administer the oath of office to me today.

Governor Ehrlich and Lt. Governor Steele, as you work to organize your new administration, I am also humbled that you have found time to be here with me.  I want to thank each of you that have come today that have played a major role in my life as friends, supporters, and colleagues. You have helped me through many campaigns and many years in the Maryland legislature. I am grateful that you wanted to share this day with me.  Thanks also to Sharon Hardy, Lois Gochnauer and Linda Lum who worked to ensure that this event would be memorable.

My Mother, Ethel Olsen, celebrated her 90th birthday on New Years Day in the hospital with pneumonia. I am very happy that my loving Mom who has been there for me at every step of my life is able to be here today.

For those who don’t know my husband, Wil, I credit him with much of my passion for the work that I have done over the past 30 years. He has stood beside me, supported me, but also challenged me with his strong opinions and values.

As Secretary Powell mentioned, Wil and I had the opportunity to spend a summer in the early years of our marriage in a Germany divided by a wall. It was defining moment in our lives and a time of personal awakening to the importance of human freedom. As we saw the difference in how people behaved on the two sides of that wall, I learned that when government deprives people of personal freedom and property rights, it destroys incentive, risk taking, capital investment and economic growth. From freedom comes opportunity; from opportunity comes growth; and from growth comes progress.

This week, President Bush, in the State of the Union, said “Freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation.” America is and must continue to be the beacon of freedom for people all over the world. And America must also be the conscience of the world in speaking out against tyranny and for the oppressed.

It is an awesome responsibility to speak for the United States at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, striving to ensure that women – who in many countries are horrendously oppressed – have full access to economic, social, and political rights. These are rights that we take for granted in free societies. Rights that allow all individuals to go as far and as fast as their energies and talents will take them.

The United States can be proud of the efforts that we are making to address some of the most tragic ills facing women around the world. We liberated Afghan women and girls from the most barbaric regime imaginable. Today, they again have access to education, health care and economic opportunity.

U.S. legislation and foreign policy is pressuring other countries to criminalize and prosecute those who are trafficking in women and children. This form of modern day slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry victimizing several million women and children annually.

Internationally, we are leading the battle to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic which because of cultural practices, lack of legal rights, poverty and violence impacts most heavily on women in underdeveloped countries. Nearly half of the over 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS are women. Over two million of these women give birth each year, infecting over 700,000 innocent newborns. Reducing mother to child transmission is a major U.S. initiative.

These are some of the issues that we will be grappling with during the March session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The solutions all rest in creating societies where fundamental freedoms and human rights are ensured. Securing freedom at home and around the world is the most important endeavor a free people can undertake.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for the confidence that you have placed in me to help carry out this very important mission.

Released on February 12, 2003

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