This was from a State Department town hall meeting on February 4, see: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/02/116022.htm)
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madame Secretary. It’s an honor to be working under your leadership, and I look forward to the challenges that you present. My name is Stephanie Ortoleva. I work in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
I basically wanted to ask you a question about what do you think can be the role that we can play, which you’ve illuminated – you’ve given us a little bit of illumination on that – but also what role can our colleagues who work in women’s rights organizations and disability rights organizations, what role can those colleagues play in supporting you in your efforts to advance the rights of women and the rights of people with disabilities as part of an integral part of United States foreign policy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a wonderful question. I thank you for it. You know, I think it was 1997, I came to this auditorium, the Dean Acheson Auditorium, with Madeleine Albright, who was Secretary of State, and addressed a large crowd like this about the commitment that the Clinton Administration had to including women as an integral part of foreign policy, not as an afterthought, not as an adjunct, but in recognition of the fact that we know from a myriad of studies and research that the role of women is directly related to democracy and human rights. And I feel similarly about people with disabilities.
It’s important to recognize that expanding the circle of opportunity and increasing the democratic potential of our own society, as well as those across the world, is a continuing process of inclusion. And I look forward to working on behalf of the rights of women and people with disabilities, and others as well, as we pursue our foreign policy. Because I think it sends a clear message about who we are as a people, the evolution that we have undergone.
I remember as First Lady traveling to many countries that had no recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. They were literally warehoused, often in the most horrific conditions. There were no laws. There were no requirements for education or access. And it struck me then and – we’ve made some progress, but insufficient. It certainly is part of my feeling now that we have to always be hoping and working toward greater inclusion as a key part of what our values are and what we believe democracy represents. So I’m going to look to working with those of you in the Department and at USAID and with our allies and friends outside who have carried on this work over the years. And you can count on my commitment to you on that.
I first received this quote via Joan Durocher.
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