Acceptance of the Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award to the Honorable Nikki R. Haley
as delivered by
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations
The Honorable Nikki R. Haley
Independent Women’s Forum 2018 Annual Awards Dinner
November 14, 2018
The Honorable Nikki R. Haley:
Thank you, Heather. Thank you so much for everyone that is here. It is truly a pleasure and an honor to be here to accept this award. I do a lot of public speaking in my current job and I spend a lot of time working with a lot of fellows, so there’s nothing I love more than to be in a room with a group of girlfriends, and the men who love them, of course.
Women like Barbara Olson understood that some contemporary women’s groups who claim to speak for all women don’t. The truth is, the majority of women’s groups don’t speak for women who aren’t Liberals. That’s just a fact. IWF was created to be a voice for millions of women who are like me. I am the mom of two amazing children. I’m the proud wife of a military man and combat veteran. I am a daughter who takes care of my elderly parents, who are amazing inspirations to me. I was also a governor who worked to bring jobs to South Carolina and yes, Mike, you are so right. I tried to focus so much on the fact that it’s not about college. Those technical schools – that was really true work, so God bless you for what you’re doing and let me help you. I want to help you do that.
So, in South Carolina we fought hard to cut taxes and regulations, and we focused on education and preserving the rights for workers to join, and to not join, a labor union. And I’m an ambassador who has gone toe-to-toe with more than my share of autocrats and strong men to defend America’s interests and values.
I have always said I wear heels. It’s not a fashion statement, it’s for ammunition. Some people think when I say that that it’s undiplomatic, but what I love is that it is connected with a lot of young women, because it shows we can be feminine and we can be tough. We actually saw that quote on some T-shirts for sale on the internet, but the part I love best about that is it the shirt came in women’s sizes and men’s sizes.
The great thing about IWF is that it doesn’t pretend that women being moms, and wives, and caretakers, and professionals all at once is easy. It’s not easy. We all know that, but the IWF is a great advocate for empowering women to live full lives on their own terms. Please help me thank the IWF for all of the work they do for women.
I want to say a few words tonight about my experiences for the past two years as the US Ambassador to the United Nations. Being at the United Nations has reminded me in many ways of my early days in state government in South Carolina. The UN Security Council, just like the South Carolina legislature, is something that I’m sure is familiar to a lot of people in this room. It’s a club. It has its own set of rules, its own way of doing things, its own culture.
There’s a constant pressure to comply with this culture, and before you know it the members of the club lose touch with why they’re there and the people who put them there in the first place.
Just like in South Carolina government, I came to the UN as an outsider. On top of that, I came to the United Nations at a time when the United States was being taken for granted and treated as a punching bag. There was a sit back and take it approach when other countries called us imperialists, or oppressors.
In the previous administration, these were self-inflicted wounds. When the Security Council attacked our ally Israel, we didn’t stand up for our friend. We abstained. We even abstained on a Cuba resolution criticizing America. Can you imagine that? The Cuban dictatorship put forth an anti-American resolution, and America abstained.
When it comes to the country I love so deeply, we just weren’t going to take that anymore.
In this role I have enjoyed learning more and more about one of my predecessors, Jeane Kirkpatrick. She also came to the United Nations at a time when the United States hadn’t been leading, and hadn’t been standing up for itself. She and I had very similar first impressions.
Remember that the United States is by far the UN’s largest financial contributor, and yet when both Ambassador Kirkpatrick and I arrived, there was no rhyme or reason on why we helped countries, or how we helped countries. And there was no consequence when a country was openly anti-American.
The United States was taken for granted and expected to do more. We looked the other way as countries disrespected us or used us for our money. Jean Kirkpatrick wouldn’t stand for that. She used to warn ambassadors from countries that received a lot of US aid but consistently voted against us at the UN. She let them know she did things differently than her predecessors. She said, “We take the UN very seriously. We notice, we care, and we remember.”
I put it a little differently. When I first came to the UN, I told my colleagues that the United States was taking names. Taking names of the countries that didn’t have our back. The message was the same. We’re not asking countries to always agree with us, but we are saying that we’re worthy of respect, and we are being smarter about how we treat our friends and our opponents.
I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that this message came from two Conservative women at two very different times.
Diplomats occasionally need to understand the consequences of their behavior. The United States makes such a generous contribution to the United Nations because we truly believe in the principles it is supposed to fight for.
We believe in peacekeeping. We fund 25% of the UN peacekeeping budget.
We believe in helping those most in need. We fund 35% of the World Food Program.
We believe in helping those who have been displaced. We fund 42% of the UN Refugee Agency, but the United States is also a democracy.
Unlike many of my colleagues at the UN who are not accountable to their own people, I am accountable to the American people and when the UN falls short of its principles, we have a hard time making the case to American people that they’re getting a good return on their investment.
We have a legitimate expectation that our contributions not be used to finance a bloated international bureaucracy, not to give legitimacy to dictators or to fund an anti-American debating society. We’ve made it our mission to show the American people value for their investment in the United Nations, and by value I don’t mean something transactional, I mean value in the broadest sense, value in the advancement of principles of freedom, justice, the rule of law, and human rights. These are the values that have the potential to lift up all of humanity.
So many of the places where these values are missing are places where people suffer, particularly women suffer. My work at the UN has taken me to refugee camps in conflict zones throughout the world. Whenever I travel to difficult settings, I always meet with a group of women. We purposely don’t have men in the room. I find that women are more comfortable opening up in that way. These women are very aware of the situations in their countries. They know the problems, they know how best to solve them.
I’ve been to refugee camps where women were watching their children grow up without education, without direction, and without hope. They are giving birth on dirt floors with nothing but a tarp over their heads. I’ve listened to their stories of torture and sexual violence, stories that are beyond imaginable. Women have talked about being gang-raped, of having their babies ripped from their arms and thrown into fires. I found myself hugging sobbing women who’ have experienced the kind of pain that no human being should ever experience, but here’s the thing.
The feminist Left is very focused on sexism. Of course, there is sexism and we must never tolerate it.
But there’s also something else that tremendously disadvantages women that gets less attention, and that’s the actions of governments and the effects of lawlessness. In place after place that I’ve worked on over the past two years, this phenomenon has struck me. In South Sudan, where rape is used as a weapon of war, it is obviously women who suffer the most, but it’s not just there. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons against his own people, it is women and children who are the most victimized. In Venezuela, where a once well-off people have become impoverished by the disasters of socialism, it is women who are disproportionately left to care for children without medicine and feed their families without food.
Time after time, government corruption, trampling of human rights, and the absence of freedom hurts women the most.
Despite many problem spots in the world, there are also bright spots. Women are making progress, from India to South Korea, and even very slowly in parts of the Arab world. It is not as fast as it should be in some places, but it is happening. And then you think about our situation here in America. We’re not perfect, but we have so much to be grateful for.
And why have women achieved so much in America? It’s because of the incredible freedoms that we have in this country. Freedom is what gives women such amazing opportunities. If we start to lose our freedoms, women will be the ones that suffer the most.
I have always believed in the importance of encouraging people to find the power of their voices, to be leaders and to advocate for themselves and the things that they believe in. I am proud to have been a part of helping the United States find her voice at the United Nations again. I’m even prouder that there are young women and young men out there who are being inspired to use the power of their voices, to stand up, to demand a better future for themselves and their families.
The Independent Women’s Forum has been an inspiration for so many American women and girls. I’m proud to be with you tonight. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you, and thank you so very much for this award. God bless. Thank you.