The White House

Thank you, Secretary Blinken. Tony – your steady presence, your vision and character, make you an incredible Secretary of State. Thank you for everything that you do.

Second Gentleman Emhoff – Doug – you show us how important it is to have men join this fight. You’re an advocate for women and girls, helping to lift up voices that need to be heard. And you’re the best Second Gentleman ever.

Thank you, Jen Klein and her team at the White House Gender Policy Council – the first of its kind – for their work advancing the rights of women and girls around the world.

And my gratitude to the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, led by Ambassador Gupta, for their partnership.

A special welcome to the members of the Washington diplomatic corps.

And we have former Secretary Albright’s family with us. Alice, thank you for carrying forward her legacy.

Welcome to you all.

There is a kind of silence that hangs in the air around us, even in a crowded room.

It sits beneath the ordinary: the blurs of our conversations, between the rumble of car engines, and the pounding of rain.

It’s the silence of children lost to war and violence. Of men who no longer speak of their dreams – because they can’t picture a future ahead. Of women whose words are smothered by communities and governments who wish to hold them back. Who have wounds and spirits it will take time to mend. Who speak, but go unheard.

It’s the hush that falls when hope is hard to find – under an authoritarian thumb, when rights slip away. The silence that seems to swallow cries for justice, for freedom, for equality.

The women on this stage have refused to bend to that silence.

You’ve spoken out for yourselves – and for others in the face of fear and risk, and those who have tried to steal your voices away.

As I read your stories, I was struck by that inner strength each of you hold. A strength that you held onto, even as others hoped to censor you – hoped you would stay quiet. That helped you raise your voices, even when you were afraid. That helps you shout, even when you’re tired, and say: we cannot wait. We deserve more, now. Because change never happens on its own.

There is power in a community of women – in this community. Power when our voices come together. To hold each other up, even when we want to crumble, to heal one another, to share that inner strength. To create lasting change.

You’re giving others opportunities greater than what you had – standing behind that next generation of courageous women, so the confidence of girlhood can become the courage of womanhood. So your daughters and nieces and all the girls coming after never have to worry if their voices are too loud, never have to fear that their bodies won’t be their own, never have to shrink, so their brothers can swell.

Because of you, they will fill that silence with their ideas and their dreams. They will reach for the breadth of the world with joy that never extinguishes. Boldness that never wavers. Determination that only grows.

Together, we will keep chipping away at the quiet that haunts our world.

And while there may be those who wish for us to fall silent – we will never fall. Because the steepness of the struggle will not stop our ascent.

That’s why we lift you up today, so your great acts of courage can inspire others to perform their own – big and small. Your voices carry across oceans and continents. Calling to the women and girls who need to hear your stories. And to the men and boys who need to hear them too.
It’s a song of the future reverberating through us, so we too can speak out and be the seekers of justice, the defenders of freedom. Because our chorus can topple tyrants and demagogues, and shatter oppression.

Because your fight is all of our fight.

And we are stronger than any force that hopes to silence us.

Thank you.


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