On Wednesday, HRC, American University, and Human Rights First hosted Ambassador Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, for remarks on protecting and promoting LGBTQ human rights around the world. Rice discussed the Obama Administration’s leadership on equality, the vital role it plays in America’s national security and the need for continued efforts to secure LGBTQ human rights abroad. HRC President Chad Griffin introduced Rice. Rice's remarks are available here. Read Griffin's remarks below:
Thank you, Elisa for the important work you and your team at Human Rights First do each and every day. I would also like to thank American University and Dean Goldgeier for hosting this important event. And thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon for this critically important discussion.
Last April, we woke up to chilling news. Xulhaz Mannan, a leading LGBTQ activist in Bangladesh, had been brutally murdered by religious extremists. He had been an employee at USAID in Bangladesh and was the founder and publisher of the only LGBTQ magazine in his country.
To say that Xulhaz and his friends and colleagues were brave, would be a vast understatement. They stood up to death threats and attacks, all while receiving no assistance from the Bangladesh government who time and time again looked the other way.
Many of Xulhaz’s friends and colleagues had to flee Bangladesh after his murder, including one of them who is here in the audience today. He is currently working with us here in Washington at HRC Global to continue the crucial work to advance equality in his homeland.
With his safety and security in jeopardy, he cannot be identified here today, but I want him to know that all of us in this room applaud his bravery and his courage.
What happened in Bangladesh last April is just one reason why the United States must play a crucial role in protecting LGBTQ human rights around the world. And for the past eight years under President Obama, we have seen our government do just that.
From the 2011 White House memorandum that made LGBTQ human rights part of our nation’s foreign policy objectives, to the appointment of Randy Berry as the State Department’s first ever Special Envoy for LGBTI Human Rights, this Administration has made history in its efforts to protect the human rights of LGBTQ people. And in doing so, equality has become a pillar of American foreign policy.
This would not have been possible without the leadership of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretaries Clinton and Kerry. Nor would it have been possible without the leader I have the honor of introducing today.
She has been there every step of the way. When she was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, she played a crucial role in pushing through a historic LGBT-rights resolution at the UN Human Rights Council.
And as National Security Advisor, she oversaw the Obama Administration’s strong response to Uganda's notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014. Thanks to her leadership, the U.S. banned Ugandan officials from entering our country, cancelled joint military exercises and shifted aid away from the Ugandan government.
And when Gambia’s president said that he would personally “slit the throats” of any gay men in his country, she forcefully and publicly condemned his threats.
And I was personally gratified that she took time out of her busy schedule earlier this year to welcome to the West Wing of the White House a group of courageous LGBTQ leaders from around the globe for HRC’s first ever Global Summit. We have been so lucky to have an Administration that is eager to work with us and groups like Human Rights First to protect each and every person’s human rights and dignity, no matter who they are or who they love.
The fact is, LGBTQ people around the world are looking to us to be that beacon of hope. And at a time when extremists are throwing gay men off buildings, when transgender women are being relentlessly attacked in Central America, when laws are being passed to silence and marginalize LGBTQ people, they need American leadership now more than ever before. We must continue to open our doors to those who are escaping violence and persecution, not build a wall around the promise of liberty and justice for all.
Our speaker this afternoon has placed LGBTQ human rights front and center in our nation’s foreign policy and national security. And we’re so grateful for her leadership and for the life-saving work of this administration.
So now please join me in welcoming our friend, ally, and champion, U.S. National Security Advisor, Ambassador Susan Rice.
Photo Courtesy American University, by Jeff Watts