Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) was one of the recepients of the State Department’s Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights Work this year. The award was presented on December 13 by the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. Armitage cited Congressman Wolf’s support for Tibet as part of his “distinguished record as a leader on human rights in Congress.” Given below is the full text of the Armitage remarks.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Good afternoon, and welcome to your Department of State and your Treaty Room. This is a beautiful room to recognize the efforts of three distinguished Americans today who have been warriors for us on another battlefield.
We have been talking a lot lately about warriors and the great battle against terrorism we have going on. But what we have today are three people who have distinguished themselves on another battlefield, and it is the battlefield for human rights.
It is a great pleasure to be able to welcome you all to this year’s Eleanor Roosevelt Awards Ceremony. These awards recognize Americans with a distinguished record of accomplishment in the promotion of human rights in this country or internationally. I am very privileged to present the awards this year on behalf of our President.
Fifty-three years ago this week, Eleanor Roosevelt’s work as the U.S. Delegate to the young United Nations was recognized when the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which of course as we know she had a major role in drafting and negotiating. The Universal Declaration has become the keystone document of the international human rights movement for governments, for individuals, for NGOs. Mrs. Roosevelt called it the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere. The document itself has been translated into hundreds of languages. The rights it enunciates are the basis of many of the various treaties and conventions that form the international human rights law.
The United States is deeply committed to protect and promote human rights at home and abroad, and it is a central element of our foreign policy. It is not a Democrat thing, it’s not a Republican thing; it’s a United States thing. Our concern for international human rights is based both on our American values and on firm, pragmatic self-interest.
We know that a world composed of democracies, committed to the respect of human rights of their citizens will be a more stable, more peaceful, more benign and a more prosperous world. The tragic events of September 11th do not change this fact.
Quite the contrary, the fight against terrorism is, at its core, a fight to preserve the human rights of all. Without ensuring economic opportunity and civic participation for all, the false messages of terrorists will continue to be attractive to some. As President Bush told the United Nations General Assembly, in our struggle against hateful groups that exploit poverty and despair, we must offer an alternative of opportunity and of hope.
The US continues to work with all countries to assist and encourage them to provide greater respect for human rights, for democracy, for worker rights and for religious freedom around the world. This issue was a major part of our diplomatic discussions, our development assistance and our trade negotiations. We continue to promote human rights with those countries which have joined with us in the coalition against terrorism.
As Eleanor Roosevelt understood right from the beginning, though, human rights cannot simply be implemented by governments. Rather, securing human rights is the work of people of good will everywhere. As Mrs. Roosevelt said on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration, the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all of our citizens in all of our communities.
Work by human rights NGOs has been invaluable over many years. NGOs have been able to point to institutional and structural problems and assist governments to resolve them. They have been highly successful, as well, in highlighting individual cases of human rights abuse and encouraging governments to end the abuse. And, of course, from our point of view, NGOs are essential in calling the attention of your Department of State and other parts of our federal government to the work we need to do.
Outside the Executive Branch, members of Congress have over the years made extraordinary accomplishments in human rights. They have often asked us to meet demanding but important targets, and they have in their own ways sought to improve human rights, whether by mobilizing the American people or by using their leverage with governments. I am delighted that we will honor a distinguished member of Congress today, Congressman Frank Wolf.
Individual action, dedicated personal attention to human rights problems without the benefit of a large network of members or staff is the work of exceptional, deeply committed people, and I am pleased today that we are going to honor two such distinguished and committed people. So I would like now to present on behalf of the President the Eleanor Roosevelt Awards for the year 2001. I would like to read the citations individually and, after we have read all three, I would like to ask our awardees if they would approach the podium and give us the benefit of a few comments.
First of all, an award citation for Frank R. Wolf. First elected to Congress in 1980, Congressman Wolf has a distinguished record as a leader on human rights in Congress. Congressman Wolf has worked tirelessly for the passage of landmark human rights legislation, including the International Religious Freedom Act and legislation on trafficking in persons. As co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Congressman Wolf has worked to call attention and raise public awareness on issues like HIV/AIDS, conflict diamonds, Tibet, East Timor, Sudan.
Congressman Wolf has traveled extensively during his 20 years of public service to raise human rights issues with national governments. He has visited prisons and refugee camps to witness first hand the suffering brought on by human rights abuses. And he was, for example, one of the first members to visit a Soviet gulag.
So I am exceptionally honored today on behalf of our President to present the Eleanor Roosevelt Award to Congressman Frank R. Wolf. (Applause.)
Award citation for John Kamm. First as a business leader and then as the executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, John Kamm has worked hard to engage the Chinese Government in a results-oriented dialogue on human rights. In scores of visits to China over many years, he has intervened on behalf of many prisoners.
Mr. Kamm is also the director of the Project of Human Rights Diplomacy of the Institute of International Studies of Stanford University. Mr. Kamm has shown that business people can not only open markets to American products, they can touch hearts with their pursuit of American values.
As an outgrowth of his trips to Chinese prisons to expand the international community’s knowledge of prison conditions, Mr. Kamm maintains a comprehensive database of prisoners held for political crimes. Mr. Kamm was also an early advocate of corporate responsibility. Speaking at the Commerce Department seven years ago, Mr. Kamm highlighted the positive influence corporations can have on human rights.
I am honored on behalf of our President to present the Eleanor Roosevelt Award to John Kamm. (Applause.)