Remarks by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Ivan Franko Opera and Ballet
November 18, 1997
Thank you, very much, Mr. Kuchma, Ambassador Miller, Ministers, Mayor, distinguished members of the community, representatives of the governments of both my country and of Ukraine. It is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here today.
I want particularly to thank Mrs. Kuchma for being with me yesterday and today, and for the warm hospitality she has extended to me now on two occasions in Ukraineduring the visit with my husband and during this visit. I would also like to thank my Chief of Staff, Melanne Starinshak Verveer, for her introduction of me today. But more than that, I want to thank her for her wisdom, compassion, and good humorall of these I attribute in large measure to her Ukrainian heritage. Melanne and her husband attended Georgetown University with my husband and have been dear friends of ours ever since. Like the more than one million Ukrainian-Americans, she has made immeasurable contributions to the life of my country, and I want to thank her on behalf of all of us who value her many, many attributes.
The writer, Ivan Franko, after whom this beautiful opera house is named, wrote that, "There will come a time when you will sit in the circle of free nations." That time for Ukraine is nowand I am honored to be sharing that time with you. I don't believe that there is a more beautiful opera house anywhere in the world. I must confess that being here on the stage, looking at the galleries and glorious decorations, I am tempted to join the many famous performers who have appeared here to sing. However, in the interest of preserving the strong and warm ties between our countries, I will not do so. I would like, however, to talk with you about voicesthe voices of women, the voices of young people, all those throughout Ukraine and the New Independent States [NIS] who are speaking a new language of freedom and democracyand then turning their words and ideas into concrete actions.
I can think of no better place to do this than Ukraine. It was in L'viv in 1879 that the Union of Ukrainian Women was established. This organization, one of the largest women's organizations in Europe between the two world wars, went into villages to teach women and their families how to start small businesses, how to start child care centers, how to pool their resources to purchase first aid materials that would save lives in rural areas.
Like so much that is good, the Union was crushed by communism. And like so much that is good, it was reborn in 1990, along with your sovereignty. With each year of freedom, the Union has grown stronger. This fall, thousands of people gathered when the remains of the Union's last pre-communist president, Milena Rudnyska, were brought back here to L'viv for eternal rest.
Today I return home to the United States after a week-long journey to Central Asia, Russia, and now here in Ukraine. When I first came to Ukraine, it was with my husband in 1995. The sun of freedom was rising in the sky. In the time that I have been here, I have seen how much farther the sun has traveled.
In only six years, you have done much to sweep away the oppressive structures of communism. You have developed a constitution and held free and fair elections which have resulted in the peaceful transfer of power, the first ever in the NIS.
Now the challenge is to build upon this architecture of freedom with a structure supported by the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and an expanded free press that is able to tell the truth in print and over the airwaves. In only six years, you have done much to tear down a rigid state-controlled economy that stifled human ingenuity and enterprise. You have reduced inflation and privatized small businesses.
Now, the challenge is to create a vibrant marketplace based fundamentally on private property; a marketplace where business can be conducted in an atmosphere of openness and fairness; where private activity can thrive without government interference; and where hard-working people can lift themselves up without the fear of crime and corruption. Neither the rule of law nor the free market alone can be sustained in isolation. If we do not have true democracy in my country or yours, we cannot or should not rest. If we do not have a free market, we cannot and should not rest. But if we also do not have the space between what the market should do and what the government should do, what we call the civil society, we also cannot and should not rest. Eachthe free markets, democracy, and the civil societyis indispensable to the blessings of liberty and prosperity.
In this space between the free market economy on the one hand, and a democratic government on the other hand, in this space we call civil society, resides family and community life, religious traditions, and participation in voluntary associations. For democracy ultimately depends on individual citizens believing that they have a role to play in the life of their country. It depends on people choosing, not being compelled to, but choosing to participate in society. It depends on seeing to it that what Alexis de Tocqueville called "the habits of the heart" are passed on from one generation to the next.
If you think of a modern, independent, well-functioning society as a three-legged stool, then you and this audience have been working to strengthen each of the three legs. You have worked in government to make the government democratic and transparent. You have worked to build a free market economy that gives more opportunity to individuals. You have worked to create the third leg of this stool, that we call civil society. You have chosen to help build civil society by fighting for women's health, by running for political office, by cleaning up the environment, by starting child care centers and beginning summer camps for the children at Chernobyl, and in many other ways.
Whether you are gathering in civic associations, voluntary efforts to help others, places of worship, or even in your neighbor's home, you are strengthening civil society and making it clear that the most important person in any democracy is, not my husband or Mrs. Kuchma's husband, but the citizen. Governments cannot be serious about democracy unless they recognize and work with non-governmental organizations. Yesterday I saw citizens of this city building a civil society. I stood with thousands of people at the new Memorial Honoring Victims of Communist Repression. This memorial was erected not by the government. It was a gift of the victims of communism, their families, and private organizations. They didn't have to do this but they did.
I visited a health clinic filled with children balanced between life and death, infants born prematurely, some critically ill. But for their cries, these children have no voice. They cannot compel someone to come to their aid. Yet doctors, nurses, parents, and communities, from both Ukraine and the United States, chose to do so. As one mother told me, doctors and nurses she didn't even know saved her child's life. They didn't have to do this. Ukrainian and American nurses and doctors didn't have to work togetherbut they did. I stood in the beautifully restored Gilad Synagogue, where citizens can once again worship freely. There the rabbi told me what it meant to open a Jewish school after so many years of unspeakable hardship. It had given him faith that the community would survive. The community didn't have to do this for its childrenbut it did.
I stood in the magnificent renovated St. George's Cathedral. For too many years, the faith of the people whom I met had been driven underground. The congregation prayed in hidden places; the beautiful symbols of their faith were hidden away in cellars and attics. Today, the members of St. George's practice their religion in the clear light of day. They are using their faith not only to worship as they please, but also to reach out to others whom society pushed away, such as children with disabilities. The people of St. George's didn't have to do thisbut they did.
What an irony that on the property of St. George's Cathedral, the Soviets installed radio-jamming antennas. Yet as powerful as they were, they could not silence the voices of faith and freedom.
It is especially important that the voices of women be heard, for the legacy of communism placed special strains on womenespecially in the old state structures. Too many women are the first to lose their jobs and the last to get new ones. Too many women often live in fear of violence at the hand of family members. For them, home provides no refuge, the law no protection, and public opinion no sympathy. Too many women are prevented from getting proper health care, either because quality care is not available, or because they are simply unable to find the time, between family and work obligations, to care for themselves. Through all of this in too many countries, not enough women are sitting at the table when decisions are made.
It is clear that democracy without the full participation of women is a contradiction in terms. Human rights are women's rights and they must be respected. It is, for example, a violation of human rights when women are trafficked, bought, and sold as prostitutes. As my husband has said, this is nothing less than modern-day slavery. And I know that many of you here today are working hard to end this practice once and for all.
Today I am pleased to announce that the United States government, in cooperation with the United Nations, will be working with NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] in Ukraine to launch a new information campaign to reach women who may be in danger. The program will also inform law enforcement and consular offices, and international organizations so that they can be on the look out for, and ultimately put a stop to, this crime against humanity.
I will return home with many impressions and wonderful memories. I will also return home to speak to my own people, the citizens of the United States. I will tell my fellow citizens what I have seen and why the United States must stay constantly engaged to support forward-looking reform and leaders who are working on reform. In recent days, I have seen first-hand what America, working hand in hand with the people of Ukraine, has accomplishedfostering innovative health clinics, providing loans to start small businesses, and sending Peace Corps volunteers to work with the people here.
I want all of the American citizens to know what I now know, and I wish that I had brought all of them with me, to see what I have seen. The work that has been done between our governments and organizations, such as the United States Agency for International Development and through the private sector, business to business, and through the voluntary, non-governmental sector, has made it very clear that we are strengthening our bonds and building stronger societies together.
Later this week Vice President Gore and President Kuchma will join together to reach out to members of the international community to secure more support for safely encasing the Chernobyl Reactor Number 4. What could be more important than the United States and Ukraine working together to contain one of the greatest environmental threats facing Europe and the world today?
Just as I hope to be able to explain to Americans what I have seen, I hope also that the people of Ukraine see what I, and my party, have seen here. In the last few days, I saw citizens and spoke with leaders determined to make further progress. In six short years, you have done so much to erase seven long decades of Communist waste and misrule. There is no doubt that your path has not been an easy one and that many challenges remain especially as you expand private activity so that Ukraine can become competitive in today's fast-paced global economy.
As Americans have learned through the years, democracy is a never-ending struggle. We became a "new independent state" in 1776. For the past 221 years our democracy has been a work in progress. It took us more than ten years to draft a constitution; 89 years to rid our nation of slavery; 144 years to give women the vote; and 188 years to make all our citizens equal under the law. A critical difference, of course, is that the modern world is much less forgiving. With global communications and with a global economy, everything moves at a much faster pace, and countries and societies must reform more quickly in order to take their rightful place in such a new world.
Just six years after your independence, you have much to be proud of. The sun of freedom is higher in the sky. And yes, it has a way to travel. I know that the people of Ukraine will stay the course. As you do, please know that the American people will stand with you. I hope that you take great pride in where Ukraine stands today and that I hope you take great confidence in the fact that the United States will be your partner and your friend, as we travel together into the twenty-first century and the new millennium.
Thank you very much. God bless the United States and God bless Ukraine.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Trip to Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine
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