|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Remarks at National First Ladies Library-First Ladies Salute to First Women
Washington, D.C., March 16, l999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Mrs. Clinton. And thank you Nancy Pelosi for your kind introduction, and Mary Regula for all you and the First Ladies' Library have done to make this event possible.
Many years ago, when I was a newly-minted professor at Georgetown, I became active in some organizations around town and began to be invited to present awards. I thought that this was a great thing. And I thought that the teaching "it is more blessed to give than to receive" had it exactly right.
Some years later, I began receiving awards myself, which led me to conclude that being blessed is all well and good, but receiving is a lot more fun.
Tonight, I have it both ways -- giving and receiving awards in the company of some incredible heroines and friends -- and it feels just perfect.
I am humbled, for although I try to do what diplomats do, I cannot parse the law like Sandra Day O'Connor, or fire up a crowd like Shirley Chisholm, or write like Gwendolyn Brooks; or bring a whole community together as Elizabeth Campbell has done here in Washington.
I am inspired by the incredible range and richness of their accomplishments, and honored to be in their company.
And I am reminded of the many women and men who came before us -- some whose names we know, and some we do not -- who helped make all these "firsts" possible. People who challenged us, encouraged us, and supported us along the way.
We look back across the years for inspiration and instruction. But we also look ahead, for there are more "firsts" to come. We will take responsibility in our time, as others did in theirs, for helping tomorrow's "First Women" along the way. And we are determined to see that every woman and girl has her chance, that abuse and exploitation are opposed, and that doors of opportunity are opened and ceilings that limit advancement are smashed.
We could, and too often do, allow differences of race, age, politics and profession to separate us. Tonight, however, we are brought together by the common strand that unites us in our work as writers and thinkers, organizers and advocates, wives, mothers -- and leaders.
That common strand is faith. Not a naïve certainty that everything will turn out for the best, but a quiet confidence that every child taught; every step taken toward equality; every barrier to justice brought down; and every person helped to emerge from darkness into the light of freedom will enrich our own lives, inspire others, and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.
In that spirit, and with that faith, we dedicate ourselves to a future of many, many "First Women;" and even more important, to a future where no women are left behind.
Thank you again for extending this honor to me tonight.
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