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Rice To The American Society of International Law

Remarks at Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Lowes L'Enfant Plaza Hotel
Washington, DC
April 1, 2005

(4:30 p.m. EST)

Thank you. Thank you very much, President Carter, for that gracious introduction. I'd like to thank the Executive Director. Let's see, I believe she's here. Ku? Let's see, you were here a little while ago. There you are. Madame Justice, ACIL members and guests from across the globe, now I have to take a moment of personal privilege because, while I would very much like to follow in the footsteps of some of my predecessors and be your president or something like that -- (laughter) -- I am hardly qualified, and that is despite the efforts of someone who is in the audience today, Professor Ved Nanda, who taught me the only two international law courses that I took at the University of Denver. It is good to see you, Ved. (Applause.)

I am delighted to be here before the American Society of International Law and I am especially honored to have a chance to introduce my great and good friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I feel at home here with you because, as President Carter pointed out, three Secretaries of State have been here, but I myself have participated in many conferences of this kind as an academic during my career at Stanford University. But I have to tell you that at my conferences we never, ever received free mugs. (Laughter.) Instead, we got only gratuitous criticisms of our latest papers. (Laughter.) This is a much better organization than I've ever been associated with. (Laughter.)

I want you to know just how much we at the Department of State and especially our team in the Legal Advisor's Office value your essential work on behalf of law and justice at home and abroad. For 99 years, ACIL has served as a leading forum for fostering debate and discussion and creative thinking on the compelling international legal issues of the day. You have helped build and maintain many important international legal institutions and today I especially want to applaud your outreach programs and other innovative activities which are helping to uphold and strengthen and develop international legal rules in what is certainly a fast-changing environment.

These are very challenging times. Those of us lucky enough to live on the right side of freedom's divide have an obligation to help those who find themselves on the wrong side of that divide. One of history's clearest lessons is that America is safer and the world is more secure whenever and wherever freedom prevails. I've said that the time for diplomacy is now. One of the pillars of that diplomacy is our strong belief that international law is vital and a powerful force in the search for freedom. The United States has been and will continue to be the world's strongest voice for the development and defense of international legal norms. We know from history that nations governed by the rule of law are nations that are just. We know that they share the blessings of liberty and opportunity and security with their people. In stark contrast, we know that nations that are lawless or where laws serve might, not right, tend to be places cursed by chaos and corruption and conflict and poor living conditions for their people.

From our democracy's earliest days, Americans have embraced the concept of liberty in law. Today, people on every continent are embracing that same fundamental concept, and as more and more states establish the rule of law we are witnessing important strides for personal freedoms, for political freedoms, for free enterprise and for freedom from fear. America has historically been the key player in negotiating treaties and setting up international mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of disputes, and a major thrust of our diplomatic efforts today is to work with governments and representatives of civil society all around the world to expand the rule of law both in domestic affairs of states and in their relations with each other. This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for America to work in partnership with other democracies around the world to advance the cause of liberty and justice for all. And as Secretary of State, I, and if the Senate so consents, John Bellinger, who is the Legal Advisor-designate, look forward to continuing America's tradition of leadership in the worldwide promotion of the rule of law.

America is a country of laws. When we observe our treaty and other international commitments, our country -- other countries are more willing too to cooperate with us and we have a better chance of persuading them to live up to their own commitments. And so when we respect our international legal obligations and support an international system based on the rule of law, we do the work of making the world a better place, but also a safer and more secure place for America.

It is now my great honor to introduce a great servant of this democracy. She also happens to be a dear personal friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Only a few months ago, Justice Ginsberg made a memorable day all the more special for me when she administered the Oath of Office at my swearing-in as Secretary of State. Now I welcome this opportunity to honor her.

Justice Ginsberg and I are neighbors. She has been warm and welcoming to me and I've always felt a strong kinship with her. We both come from families who highly value academic excellence. Both of us were raised to believe in the power of American democracy to lift lives, to correct injustices and to open opportunities for all. Our parents gave us a sense of limitless possibility that this nation offers its citizens. They also gave us a deep sense of responsibility to help mend its every flaw, to confirm its soul in self-control and its liberty in law. And throughout her entire distinguished career, Justice Ginsberg has done just that. She has worked hard and brilliantly to perfect our still imperfect democracy through law.

As a professional woman, I have so greatly admired Justice Ginsberg's pioneering achievements. She was the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School and the second woman to join the Rutgers Law faculty. She is the second woman and the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court. I and so many other women of my generation owe her a great debt for her breakthrough contributions to securing equal rights for women in this country.

What you may not know about Justice Ginsberg is her longstanding interest in international legal issues. Early in her career, Justice Ginsberg recognized the benefits of international dialogue about the rule of law. She spent the summers of 1962 and 1963 in Sweden, where she actually learned Swedish in preparation for co-writing a book about Swedish civil procedure. She holds an honorary degree from Lund University in Sweden and she has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, at the University of Strasbourg and at the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies.

As a Supreme Court Justice, she meets with visiting foreign colleagues frequently. I know she met with Russians just yesterday. And she travels overseas to gain a better understanding of other nations' approaches to legal problems. What a powerful message it sends to the world when people of other lands see serving on our highest Court a person of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's impressive caliber and commitment to the rule of law, to justice and to human liberty.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to welcome one of our democracy's most esteemed jurists, my wonderful friend and neighbor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

(Applause.) 2005/374

Released on April 4, 2005


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