Today marks the commemoration of the International Day of Democracy, an opportunity to reflect on aspirations for freedom and dignity around the world. This year we have seen people on the streets of Tripoli, Cairo, and Tunis demand the freedom to choose their own leaders, speak their mind, assemble without fear, and worship as they please. They want a stake in their own society's political future. This is the essence of democracy.
For over thirty years I have worked to turn the principles of democracy into practice. I am inspired every day by the determination of human rights activists, civil society leaders, journalists, and average citizens who peacefully work to advance the causes of democracy and human rights. Courageous people the world over can and often do take a stand against oppression and it is our duty to help them.
The principles of democracy do not belong to any one country or group of people, but rather constitute timeless and universal truths. While we do not know where democratic movements will flourish and where they will fail, it is in the national interest of the United States to support popular movements such as those that have led to dramatic political changes in Abidjan and Juba and that pave the way for sustainable democracies. Bullets may temporarily silence those challenging oppressive regimes but we will continue to support the people's aspirations for respect, economic opportunity, and meaningful political participation.