On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. Today’s award honors three extraordinary individuals, and sends a powerful message that the struggle for universal rights and human dignity can only be fulfilled with the full participation of women around the globe.
President Sirleaf has inspired the world through her journey from a prisoner to the first female President of her country. She has helped Liberia emerge from years of civil war and make great strides toward reconstruction and a democracy that values the contributions of all Liberians, including its women. As a warrior for peace, Leymah Gbowee led her fellow Liberian women as they bravely stood their ground against a brutal dictator in a non-violent struggle to bring peace to their country and realize a full voice for Liberian women. In Yemen, Tawakkul Karman and her fellow women activists were among the first to take to the streets this year to demand their universal rights, and despite the threats and violence waged against peaceful protestors, she has remained a powerful voice for non-violence in a country where guns outnumber people.
Each of this year’s Nobel recipients have their own story, but their lives reveal a fundamental truth. Nations are ultimately more successful when all of their citizens can reach their full potential, including women. When women and girls have access to proper health care, families are healthier and communities are less subject to the ravages of disease and hunger. When women and girls have the opportunity to pursue their education and careers of their own choosing, economies are more likely to prosper. And when women assume their rightful place as equals– in the halls of government, at the negotiating table and across civil society– governments are more effective, peaceful resolution of disputes are more lasting, and societies are more likely to meet the aspirations of all their citizens.
I commend President Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman for showing the world that the rights and voices of half of humanity cannot and will not be denied. And I reaffirm the commitment of the United States to advance the rights and role of women everywhere, in our own country and around the world.
I am delighted to send heartfelt congratulations to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman and Liberian peace activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee for the prestigious honor of sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. They are shining examples of the difference that women can make and the progress they can help achieve when given the opportunity to make decisions about the future of their societies and countries.
The unflinching courage, strength and leadership of these women to build peace, advance reconciliation, and defend the rights of fellow citizens in their own countries provide inspiration for women’s rights and human progress everywhere. This recognition of their extraordinary accomplishments reflects the efforts of many other women who are promoting peace and security in their countries and communities. I want to commend the Nobel Committee for recognizing the powerful role women are playing in building peace and ending conflict around the world.
On December 10, 2009, International Human Rights Day, President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, President Obama acknowledged existing threats to global peace and the work that must be done to strengthen diplomacy and advance the human condition. The President directly addressed United States involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintained that engaging in war does not indicate a lack of dedication to peace. However, the President noted, the use of force is not an invitation to lawlessness. President Obama emphasized the importance of the laws that govern the use of force and insisted that those who violate these international standards be held accountable. Finally, the President argued that while sometimes necessary, war alone is never enough to bring peace. He urged the international community to strengthen diplomacy, nation building, and development, and to respect the fundamental dignity of every person. Read the full remarks here.