Clinton on Human Rights…in Georgetown

On Monday, December 14, 2009, in Recent, by Mary Beth Markey

I attended the speech by Secretary of State Clinton this afternoon, in which she delivered a serious address on human rights to an auditorium full of college students, and a smattering of NGOs and State Department officials. It seemed a speech primed for another time and location but, of course, President Obama grabbed the headlines in Oslo on December 10, International Human Rights Day. Clinton’s speech was intended to address definitively the commitment of this administration to human rights as a cornerstone of American foreign policy, and Secretary Clinton took the students on a survey of American human rights concerns and strategies around the globe. The speech broadly and comprehensively described a principled approach to human rights that employs practical strategies in its implementation. Lots of countries and bad actors were recognized for grave trespasses, and China was not overlooked. We were reminded that its particular strategic importance to American security and economic interests warrants a balance of pressure and engagement from the administration, which I believe Secretary Clinton described as “principled pragmatism.” There is a lot to scrutinize in the speech, which should eventually be posted on the State Department website, www.state.gov, and, in the meantime, international human rights activists and the violators that need to be held accountable can watch it on the Georgetown University website www.georgetown.edu. It certainly was a privilege to be in the audience (an opinion I share with the awe-struck coeds), but although “freedom doesn’t come in half measures,” as the Secretary proclaimed, I’m not sure she’ll satisfy critics with this effort.

Photo by Helen Burton

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