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January 22, 2009

Senator Clinton Now Officially Secretary of State

It's official now. Meet our new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton:

"Always and especially in the crucible of these global challenges, our overriding duty is to protect and advance America's security, interests and values, to keep our people, our nation and our allies secure, to promote economic growth and shared prosperity at home and abroad, and to strengthen America's position of global leadership so we remain a positive force in the world, whether in working to preserve the health of our planet or expanding opportunity for people on the margins whose progress and prosperity will add to our own."

"I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural -- picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The Ancient Roman poet Terence declared that "In every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first." The same truth binds wise women as well."

"Right after I was nominated, a friend told me, "The world has so many problems. You've got your work cut out for you." Well, I agree, but I don't get up every morning thinking only about the threats and dangers we face. In spite of all the adversity and complexity, there are so many opportunities for America out there, calling forth the optimism and can-do spirit that has marked our progress for more than two centuries.Too often, we see the ills that plague us more clearly than the possibilities in front of us, but it is the real possibility of progress, of that better life free from fear and want and discord, that offers our most compelling message to the rest of the world."

"I want to emphasize the importance to us of this bottoms-up approach. The president-elect and I believe in this so strongly: Investing in our common humanity through social development is not marginal to our foreign policy but essential to the realization of our goals.

More than two billion people worldwide live on less than $2 a day. They're facing rising food prices and widespread hunger. We have to expand civil and political rights in countries that are plagued by poverty, hunger, and disease. But our pleas will fall on deaf ears unless democracy actually improves people's lives while weeding out the corruption that too often stands in the way of progress.

Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to help millions of oppressed people around the world. And of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent.

As a personal aside, I want to mention that President-elect Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was a pioneer in microfinance in Indonesia. In my own work on microfinance around the world, from Bangladesh to Chile to Viet Nam to South Africa and many other countries, I've seen firsthand how small loans given to poor women to start businesses can raise standards of living and transform local economies.

The president-elect's mother had planned to attend a microfinance forum at the Beijing Women's Conference in 1995 that I participated in. Unfortunately, she was very ill and couldn't travel and, sadly, passed away a few months later. But I think it's fair to say that her work in international development, the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son, our president-elect. And I believe that it has certainly informed his views and his vision. We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham's work in the years ahead."

"Well, [Senator Boxer], you have been such a leader. And I have been honored to be your colleague and your partner in a number of these efforts that have been undertaken on behalf of women around the world.

And I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view these issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront.

I, too, have followed the stories that are exemplified by the pictures that you held up. I mean, it is heartbreaking beyond works that, you know, young girls are attacked on their way to school by Taliban sympathizers and members who do not want young women to be educated. It's not complicated: They want to maintain an attitude that keeps women, as I said in my testimony, unhealthy, unfed, uneducated.

And this is something that results all too often in violence against these young women, both within their families and from the outside. This is not culture. This is not custom. This is criminal. And it will be my hope to persuade more governments, as I have attempted to do since I spoke at Beijing on these issues, you know, 13 and some years ago, that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way.

I have also read closely Nick Kristof's articles over the last many months, but in particular the last weeks, on the young women that he has both rescued from prostitution and met who have been enslaved and abused, tortured in every way: physically, emotionally, morally.

And I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead our government through the Office on Human Trafficking to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery, we have wage slavery, and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women.

So I look also forward, senator, to reviewing your legislation and working with you as a continuing partnership on behalf of these issues we care so much about.

And finally, the work that the women of the Senate did in connection with First Lady Laura Bush on behalf of the women of Afghanistan has been extremely important. That program was started in the State Department. It was midwifed by a group that I helped to start back in the Clinton administration called Vital Voices. Mrs. Bush has been outspoken on behalf of the plight of Afghan women, on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, and other women facing oppression around the world. And I'm very pleased that that project will be spun off to Georgetown where it will continue under Mrs. Bush's sponsorship.

So we're going to have a very active women's office, a very active office on trafficking. We're going to be speaking out consistently and strongly against discrimination and oppression of women and slavery in particular, because I think that is in keeping not only with American values, as we all recognize, but American national security interests as well."

The New York Times has the full transcript of the confirmation hearing, and Jezebel has video of Secretary Clinton's remarks about Ann Dunham and her work on the issue of microfinance. (Hillary Clinton talks about her own experiences with microfinance programs around the world during her time as First Lady in her book Living History.)

And just as a side note: the Senate vote to confirm Hillary Clinton today was 94-2. The two senators who voted against confirming Clinton were David Vitter (R-LA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC). Vitter wanted more restrictions on donations to Bill Clinton's foundation, and DeMint shared those concerns but voted against confirming Clinton because of her pro-choice views. (Although just a few days ago, after Clinton's nomination was sent from the Foreign Relations Committee to the full Senate, DeMint had said, "I think Senator Clinton could be one of our best secretaries of state".)

DeMint said he opposes Clinton's positions on such matters as providing aid to foreign groups that perform abortions. "I do not plan to slow up this nomination, but I do find it difficult to support a nominee who I know will pursue policies so contrary to American sovereignty and the dignity of the human person," he said. DeMint's full statement explaining his vote is on his website. So is his contact information.

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