Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 22, 2021
Thank you so much, Thanos, Sissel, Momoe, and the entire Association for this great honor. I am truly humbled.
I have found throughout my career that public service takes many forms. It can mean government service, which is the route I took – I was in the Foreign Service for more than 35 years. It can mean working in civil society, at an NGO or nonprofit, providing humanitarian aid or working to strengthen our institutions. Or it can mean being a journalist who expose truths and ensure the public is well-informed. It does not matter how you serve – what matters is whether you are making your country – and the world – better. In this moment, I am thankful for all who work to serve the public – especially journalists.
Earlier this year, two journalists were awarded one of the world’s greatest honors – the Nobel Peace Prize. Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were given the award for, in the Nobel committee’s words, “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
That precondition for democracy is so important right now, because around the world, democracy is under attack. Authoritarians are tightening their grips, spreading misinformation and disinformation, and challenging our democratic norms and ideals at every turn. As part of these efforts, they have intimidated, censored, silenced, detained, jailed, and even killed journalists. That is horrific.
I am committed – through the United Nations, the Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists, and my own platform – to calling out governments that suppress the media or the right to free expression in any way. We know the reason why authoritarians do these terrible things: they know that truth is one of the most powerful weapons we have in our arsenal.
The truth can advance an important idea. It can hold an official – elected or not – to account. It can expose corruption or shine a spotlight on injustice. Perhaps most important, the truth helps us improve. Because no country is perfect, including my own. The truth sets us free.
But democracies deliver for their people because we are committed to being transparent, to holding ourselves accountable, to constantly striving to better serve our people. That is the power the truth holds. And that is the power you wield each and every day.
So, thank you for your courage in the face of intimidation, violence, and adversity. Thank you for your relentless, dogged pursuit of the truth. Thank you for representing the free and independent press that is both a precondition and a central pillar of every democracy. And I thank you for this prestigious award. I promise to do everything in my power to protect the universal right to free expression and to live up to this tremendous honor.