The quest for human dignity cannot be denied.
Case in point: The millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa who have courageously sought to break down the barriers that obstruct democracy in their region.
The world has watched and been inspired by both this moment and movement. So, it's fitting that at the recent fourth annual Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), the theme was "Enhancing Democratic Participation in a Changing World: Responding to Democratic Voices."
It's estimated that 15 Head of States attended the event, with more than 50 participating countries from the Asia Pacific region, and more than 60 countries and international organizations attending as observers -- all with the goal of helping each other strengthen democracies around the world.
I had the privilege of leading the United States delegation to the forum. It was an honor and, on behalf of President Obama, I thanked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for inviting the United States to participate as an observer in this important dialogue.
My presence at BDF was a slight break from tradition. Historically, the U.S Department of State has led the delegations to these gatherings. On the other hand, I serve as Under Secretary of International Trade at the Department of Commerce, which is focused on promoting economic growth and job creation.
Some may wonder how commerce fits in with the goals of the forum; but, time and again, it's been proven that democratic values and economic progress are closely linked. The conditions that help create a healthy and free economy also make political freedom possible -- the rule of law, respect for private property, and ensuring that individuals are free to make their own decisions.
Any plan for economic growth requires an environment where citizens and entrepreneurs can exchange ideas and compete for customers freely, and where all people have a chance to contribute to progress.
To give people that chance, there must be:
A level playing field so that a person's success is determined by what they can do -- not who they know;
A robust civil society that gives voice to all segments of society, and partners with leaders to advance shared values; and
And, an open and transparent government, so that people can have faith in their representatives.
As the Under Secretary of International Trade, my primary goal at BDF was to work with all of our global partners to identify ways we can strengthen the democratic values that also promote economic growth.
Democracies are unfinished products. They are imperfect. There is always work to be done.
And, as the world's oldest democracy, the United States had a vital stake in the goals of the forum.
Accordingly, we pledged to work tirelessly to shape a future that reflects the ideals and values we all share -- individual liberty, human dignity, religious pluralism, cultural diversity and opportunity for all.
I look forward to continuing the conversations we started last week in the years to come as we all seek to improve not just our country's own economic strength, but the strength of our democracies.