Speech by Foreign Minister Baerbock at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin

19.02.2024 - Speech

Let me take you back to the spring of 1969, to Wellesley, a women's college 30 minutes from Boston, where a 21-year-old student with thick glasses and great talent was about to give a speech on her graduation day.

No student at her college had ever done that. But she and her classmates had convinced the college administration that it was the right thing to do.

That 21-year-old student, who would one day become her country's Secretary of State, one of the most respected stateswomen in the world, was you: Hillary Diane Rodham.

Before it was your turn to speak, that spring of 1969, you listened to Senator Edward Brooke, a 50-year-old politician who explained to you and your classmates why they’d better not protest against the Vietnam War, why politicians would get everything right, why you girls didn't need to worry.

– I would say, it’s a good thing for him that the term mansplaining didn't exist back then. –

When you stepped onto the stage, you told the audience why you disagreed with Senator Brooke – respectfully, but in crystal clear words.

A young woman openly challenging an established senator like that was a small scandal back then. But you were not just speaking up for yourself. You were using your voice to speak on behalf of your fellow students: 400 women.

It was this spirit that has marked your whole career. You have shown entire generations of women and girls that they don't have to be silent when men try to explain the world to them.

Hillary Clinton has used her power, her light, to empower millions of other women across the world, showing what true leadership means and shining a light on those who cannot shine on their own – by breaking the glass ceiling for many others who followed.

And Hillary, you did that countless times. As the first woman to represent New York in the U.S. Senate, as Secretary of State, as a presidential candidate – and still today.

It's easy to applaud out now. But shattering all these glass ceilings was hard work – every time.

And I quote you: “If we’re too tough, we’re unlikeable. If we’re too soft, we’re not cut out for the big leagues. If we work too hard, we’re neglecting our families. If we put family first, we’re not serious about the job.”

Add to that the comments on our clothes, our voices, the sexist remarks, the insults.

Some might think these are just small things. Clothes and makeup.

But on TikTok and Facebook nowadays, haters find a space where they feel safe in their anonymity.

It's not small. It's part of a strategy to silence women before silencing others. This strategy is not only directed against women, it's directed against our freedom, our democracies.

All around the world, we see that women's rights are a yardstick for the state of societies, for the strength – or the erosion – of our democratic fundamentals. Nobel laureate Maria Ressa from the Philippines described this as “a thousand cuts in our democracies,” and that is why it's not a coincidence that autocratic regimes go after women first.

That is also why this is not a speech on feminism. This is a speech on human security. As Hillary Clinton put it in Beijing in 1994: “Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights.”

Throughout your political life, Hillary, you therefore made it a priority not to exclude, but to listen.

Particularly to women, to those voices that were not heard. Not as a soft power issue, but as a hard security matter. You once described the approach like this: “I want to turn the interpersonal into the international.”

To see the person, to try to understand their sorrow, their pain; with empathy, particularly in times of war and crisis, because we need to acknowledge each other's suffering if we want to end it. If we want lasting peace. I think that is exactly the kind of humanity we need now.

When looking at the terrible violence that surrounds us, also in the Middle East, to see the suffering of Israelis, the raped woman, the baby who has been killed, people who were brutally attacked by Hamas on October 7th and who have a right to defend themselves; but to also see this terrible suffering of the civilians gathered together, the thousands of children who no longer have a father, no longer have a mother, who are without their parents. People, children who desperately need humanitarian aid.

That is why we are working so hard for a humanitarian pause, to release all hostages and to bring in humanitarian aid – now.

Because we are humans, or as the Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer, who is with us tonight and is sitting directly next to Hillary Clinton, said: “There is no Christian, no Jewish or Muslim blood. There's only human blood.”

Humanity is indivisible.

Humanity is indivisible.

Hillary, that has always been your approach, also in the darkest times. Your approach to people. Your approach to peace.

Today, this approach shows in the films you produce to showcase HiddenLight. They shine light on those who cannot shine on their own.

And that is the power of all of you here in this room, as filmmakers, actors, producers, cutters, and camerawomen. You have the ability to amplify people's voices. Hidden lights, lights and voices like that of Zarifa Ghafari in Hillary Clinton's documentary “In Her Hands.”

Zarifa Ghafari once was the first female mayor of Afghanistan, standing up for thousands of others. When the Taliban took over, she had to flee her country. And I'm also grateful that Zarifa Ghafari is here with us tonight.

The Taliban may have forced you to flee, but your voice will not be silenced.

Secretary Clinton, Hillary,

Every society needs a 21-year-old like you, brave enough to speak up.

And it doesn't matter whether they are Green or Christian Democrats, conservative or progressive, Republicans or Democrats. What matters is to shine for those who cannot shine on their own.

In your greatest victories, but also in your bitter defeat, you were that woman - shining for others.

That is why, as a Foreign Minister, as a female Foreign Minister, I am honored to pay tribute to you.

An extraordinary woman, an extraordinary politician, a world leader.

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.


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