REMARKS BY DAWN McCALL
Coordinator, State Department Bureau of International Information Programs
Celebration of Democracy Video Challenge Winners
September 15, 2010
Thank you, Peter. Welcome distinguished guests from the diplomatic corps, our partners, invited guests and the media. I am delighted to be here today at the United Nations on the International Day of Democracy to commemorate the achievements of this year’s winners and to help celebrate the launch of the third Democracy Video Challenge.
President Obama told an audience at Cairo University last year that “America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.”
The global conversation we’ve sought to convene through the Democracy Video Challenge is a concrete manifestation of that commitment. The goal of this initiative is to give others an opportunity to be heard.
In a speech before the Community of Democracies this July, Secretary Clinton said, “democracy requires far more than an election. It has to be a 365-day-a-year commitment by government and citizens alike, to live up to the fundamental values of democracy, and accept the responsibilities of self government.” We at the State Department, along with our partners from the private sector and civil society, have created a space for people to explore these responsibilities, to share their thoughts and experiences, and to commit to the values of democracy by completing the phrase, “Democracy is…”
Knowing that we wanted to have a globally inclusive conversation, the logical forum was the Internet. The growth of interactive social media capabilities over the past decade has opened vast new opportunities for people to connect within and between countries. As Secretary Clinton has said, “The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate. Once you’re on the Internet, you don’t need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.”
In our six Democracy Video Challenge winners from the second Democracy Challenge, as with the thousands of others who competed and the hundreds of thousands more who have lent their voices to the conversation on our social media platforms, we see people with tremendous potential to have a huge impact on society.
I know that I speak for all of our distinguished partners when I say that we think there is no better way to celebrate democracy around the world than to convene a democratic discussion about the meaning of the word itself. It’s a discussion in which we all gain new insights and learn valuable lessons. So without further ado, I’d like to give you all the opportunity to view the fruits of this discussion.