Remarks by the First Lady at the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony

March 08, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you.

And thank you, Secretary Blinken. Tony, when Joe selected you to be Secretary of State, he knew that we had so much to do abroad, from putting diplomacy at the center of foreign policy to rebuilding our global partnerships. And with every challenge we've faced, you have ensured that we're better able to deliver for the American people, because we have allies by our side.

Your integrity and statesmanship have helped us rally countries to stand with Ukraine against Russia's war of aggression, strengthen our ability to respond to future health emergencies, and confront the climate crisis. Thank you for all that you do.

As the Secretary said, we are joined by leaders from around our country and across the globe. To all of the members of the diplomatic corps here, thank you for joining us today.

The family of the incomparable Secretary Albright is with us, helping to carry on her legacy.

And we have our Gender Policy Council—the first of its kind—and other leaders from across our Administration.

This audience is a testament to our national commitment to gender equality around the globe and the powerful influence of the people we honor today: Women of Courage.

Here in the East Room, we will tell their stories of fearlessness, resilience, and hope. We will hear from them in their own words.

And there are people outside of this room who need to hear their stories, too: the girls who will inherit this world.

The future engineer who loves exploring, who sees magic in the mechanics and technologies that connect us to each other, but is told that there's no place for her in a classroom.

The future president or prime minister, who is told that her voice is too loud, too bossy, or too feminine to lead.

The child who lives in fear, the star who is told to hide her light, the girl who feels the smallness of her world closing in, afraid that her dreams are just too big to carry alone.

Again and again and again, they wake up to find a world made for someone else—watch their brothers and fathers and uncles and neighbors rise and grow, while they are told to shrink—told that they are not good enough, not strong enough, not worthy of the lives they dream about.

But today, we're here to tell girls everywhere the truth that they need to hear: Yes, you matter. Yes, you can make a difference.

That's why we wanted to bring the leaders we're honoring today, and the stories that they share, to the biggest stage we could: The White House. And Tony, thank you for helping us do that.

Girls everywhere need to know that there are women fighting for them and winning. Opening doors, transforming schools and communities and governments, building a better world for all of us.

And, we're also here to say to their brothers and fathers and husbands and friends:

As much as we need women who are willing to speak up, we need more men who are willing to listen and act.

We need more men to hold each other accountable when their sisters are being hurt or left behind. We need more men who nurture families, who feed and teach and mentor, who build safer communities. We need more men who know that caring, collaboration, and kindness are signs of strength, not weakness.

Men: We need you to support women who are fighting for their rights and to lift up those who have been silenced.

Be partners with women. Become the Men of Courage we all need.

Only then will we be able to build a world where men and women are equal and all people are free.

To the women whom we are honoring today: Know that the enormous good you've done has no end. It touches every person who hears your story. It transforms us with new hope.

As you seek justice, speak out, and pursue peace, you inspire others to find the courage within us, and rise to the same call.

And to every girl who has ever wondered: Can I—one person, one voice, one girl—fix what's broken?

Let the women that we celebrate today be an answer to that question: An unequivocal yes.

When you learn and explore, when you raise your voice, when you move through the world with your shoulders back and your head held high, step by step, you shift the ground beneath you.

Draw strength from the Women of Courage who came before, share that strength with the sisterhood that surrounds you, and the ripples of that power will transform our world.

And as you take those steps, as you grow into the women you will be, remember: You are never alone.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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