Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 20, 2022
Thank you so much, Mayor Bowser, that introduction was extraordinary. It is such an honor to be passed this baton from you. You were all of our mayor. You were the mayor of the United States sitting in Washington, DC. You took charge of Washington when COVID-19 was descending on this city, and at the same time you were dealing with racial unrest and political turmoil taking place every single day. So we are so thankful, I am so thankful for your leadership and I am really looking forward to our discussion later today.
I also want to thank the staff of the Truman Center for this great privilege. I wish I could have been there in person with you today, but as you heard I am President of the Security Council this month and it has kept me pretty busy in New York, including this morning chairing a meeting on Syria. So I couldn’t get a flight fast enough to get me there, but I’m really grateful to you for this opportunity and for the chance to speak to you virtually.
In my 35-year career in the Foreign Service, I’ve found that some of the most profound acts of moral courage are quiet ones. And I have tried to be a quiet person in terms of what I’m doing.
The decision to take a chance on a refugee, even if it will put a strain on resources. Decisions to forgive another country’s mistakes rather than escalate. The decision to send humanitarian aid to the starving, the sick, and the stranded. Something we all do every single day.
So moral courage to me means deciding to stand up for what is right – even when it’s not easy or is unpopular.
This week the United States has been hosting numerous events as part of a series of Days of Action on global food insecurity. We have been rallying countries, multilateral groups, the UN, NGOs, and private sector to step up and tackle the dire consequences of food insecurity from every angle.
Stopping hunger really means addressing conflict and climate change, and that’s really hard. Its hard for all of us. It means sending food aid to people in countries halfway around the world. Sometimes its people we don’t know. It’s hard too. But it takes moral courage. And as sobering as the challenges we’re seeing are, I have been inspired by how many of us have put aside our differences to come together for this common cause. This is often true – the greatest challenges inspire the greatest courage.
I would just ask us to consider – consider what we’ve seen in Ukraine over the past two months. Putin thought once he invaded Ukraine, that the country would fall in a few days. But the people of Ukraine have really shown what it means to fight for their country, to fight for their sovereignty, and to fight for their dignity – and to fight for democracy. And as they fight for their democracy, they’re also fighting for us as well. They’ve shown the courage that they can come out with when everything – when everything – is on the line.
We should look to that example. We should ask ourselves what we will do next in our own democracy when it’s under threat – when our own foundational freedoms are undermined. Because today, both within our borders and across the globe, authoritarians and their sympathizers are making a push. They are violating human rights, they are threatening democracies, they are testing the limits of a global order. And they are probing to see if we mean what we say – if we will stick up for our own values.
Now is the time for us come together – as a country – to face those threats with courage. And it will take all of us – citizens, and public servants, and academia, advocacy groups, civil society, the private sector, everyone – all of you in this room – to make that stand.
That’s why I am so proud to be accepting this award from the Truman Center for National Security – at the end of a fantastic TruCon 2022. As evidenced by today’s convention, you all have the unique ability to convene some of the world’s foremost thinkers and leaders on national security. You are leading the way, advancing ideas and initiatives that make us all better, safer, and more secure. I know that you are working hard to bring each of these groups together – to inspire moral courage in all of us.
And so this award really means so much to me coming from all of you. It really is a true honor. And I will do everything in my power to live up the award’s name. And also to live up to the example that Mayor Bowser has shown all of us about what leadership and courage is about
So thank you very much.