Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the 2022 Denver Democracy Summit, Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 10, 2022


Thank you, Dean Mayer. It’s an honor to wrap up Day One of the University of Denver’s Democracy Summit. Thank you to the Korbel School for hosting these important conversations. I hope today’s discussions have been informative and inspiring.

This summit, of course, follows our own Summit for Democracy last December, where President Biden laid out how we would defend democracy, which he called the defining challenge of our time. It was the largest leadership-level virtual summit that the U.S. Government has ever hosted, with over 200 participants and 100 world leaders providing interventions with their visions for democracy. We’re looking forward to reconvening for the second part of the Summit in a year, to build on our progress from the first.

In the meantime, we are embarked on a Year of Action, where governments and stakeholders are working to implement the commitments, we made to bolster democracy, counter authoritarianism, combat corruption, and promote respect for human rights. These actions could not come at a more important moment. Because right now, around the world, democracy is under threat. Many of our countries have had authoritarians and nefarious actors try to interfere with elections. In some places, corruption is hollowing out judicial systems, undermining the rule of law. Across the globe, disinformation is sowing seeds of division and distrust, shaking the confidence of ordinary citizens in our democratic institutions. Our democracies are being attacked, our institutions targeted. We cannot and we will not stand idly by.

Just look at the issue dominating recent headlines – Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border. The truth is, it’s not just NATO that concerns Russia. Ukraine is working hard to strengthen the rule of law, fight corruption, and align itself with its democratic neighbors in Europe. This apparently threatens President Putin. So by defending Ukraine’s sovereignty, we are defending democracy. It’s that simple.

We have a lot of tools at our disposal for defending and promoting democracy – but perhaps the most powerful is demonstrating that democracies deliver for their people. As the legendary diplomat and civil rights activist Ralph Bunche said, “The greatest defense for democracy is its practice.” Every country has flaws – and so do our democracies. We are not perfect. But what makes us better is how our system of government is designed for constant improvement. By practicing democracy, both as citizens and as governments, and by protecting our democratic institutions, we make our countries stronger, safer, and better. When we hold free and fair elections and hold ourselves accountable – when we work to make progress openly and transparently – that is our most powerful argument. That is, in fact, our best defense. The more democratic we become, the stronger we get. And we are even stronger when we work at these goals together.

So thank you for convening, for conversing, and for working in tandem to bolster democracies here at home and around the world. The work you are doing could not be more important. We’re counting on you – especially those young people here today – to ensure our democracies only get stronger this year, next year, and many years to come.

Thank you.