Patricia Solis Doyle An American political Operative and was in 2008 a Senior Adviser to the Presidential Campaign of Barack Obama
Before I begin, looking out at you I just have to say all of you are a force to be reckoned with. My name is Patti Solis Doyle and I have had the privilege of working for Hillary Clinton for 16 years, from the start of her husband’s first presidential campaign to the end of her own presidential campaign in 2008.
During those years I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of the world’s leading women economists, journalists, members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and CEOs. As a result I’ve dedicated my career in government and politics to helping women advance. For me advocates like Soona Samsami head of the Women’s Freedom Forum, who I had the chance to work with last year, and Shadi Sadr who led the campaign to stop the stoning of women in Iran, and of course Madame Maryam Rajavi, whose ten point plan for the future of Iran are a true inspiration, a fuel that keeps us all going. They’ve each focused on the atrocities going on in Iran but their goals and their courage are universal.
I’d like to contribute to today’s program in a very modest way by explaining why I think they and all of you in this room will succeed. You see there is always someone out there saying no. They will argue that the principles of women’s rights are unrealistic or unreliable, that the diplomatic situation is more complicated than you understand or that larger interests like cheap oil matter more than women’s empowerment. That’s how it was back in 1995 when Hillary wanted to attend the International Women’s Conference in Beijing. Her message was simple enough: women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. Hillary planned to call for the end of female circumcision. She planned to condemn mass rape, child sex trade, forced sterilizations and coerced abortions. She wanted to abolish the dousing of women with gasoline and setting them on fire. She supported a global effort to create laws allowing women to own their own businesses. It’s hard to argue with any of that, even 20 years ago. But President Clinton’s National Security Council tried to block the trip anyway, listing a dozen ways Hillary might disrupt relationships with the Chinese. Meanwhile critics in Congress derided her agenda as radical. Hillary gave the NSC an ultimatum: help her go as First Lady or watch her go as a U.S. citizen.
As the conference neared the Chinese government grew wary. Women from organizations that had been critical of Beijing couldn’t get a hotel reservation. Without a hotel reservation they couldn’t get a travel visa. Without a travel visa they couldn’t board the plane. The day of Hillary’s speech they moved the venue to a location miles outside of town. They failed to announce the change, neglected to organize busses to get here, and cut the power when she arrived. But women came anyway, thousands and thousands of them. They commandeered taxies, organized car pools and stared down the security guards at the gate. In the end 189 countries came together and agreed on a platform of action for the full participation of women and girls in political, economic, civic, cultural and social lives.
And the example from nearly 20 years ago is why I am optimistic today. First, while we haven’t eliminated the abuses Hillary condemned, we have made progress across the globe. A few years ago men dismissed soft power diplomacy, then Hillary championed it as secretary of state. Today those men are scrambling to follow her lead. Second there is a momentum behind what you are doing here today. Gains in economic power lead to gains in political power, which in turn lead to even bigger economic and social gains. Too many of the practices Hillary condemned in her speech still thrive in Iran. But we have learned that progress on one issue in one country can help shine a light on other issues in other countries. Third women leaders are succeeding because they understand how to fight at every level. Great women leaders don’t just endorse policies that help women, they put women in key positions and create a work environment that allows them to have careers and raise a family. They also seem to be approaching problems in a much more holistic way.
Like Hillary’s argument in Beijing, Madame Rajavi’s argument is simple enough—the fight for women’s equality is indistinguishable from the fight for global peace. In this way Maryam and Hillary are very similar, they both have devoted their careers to the same cause, fighting for women to have access to information, fighting for gender equality and political and social economic arenas, and fighting for the universal declaration of human rights. In supporting Madame Rajavi I hope we all follow the example of those living in Beijing—if the opponents call your agenda radical, be one of the tens of thousands of women committed enough to prove them wrong. If your opponent shuts down the buses, find your way there anyway. And if someone blocks the gate you stare them down until they let you pass. Thank you.
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