As prepared for delivery
Before I do, I want to salute Elisabeth and Ellen for creating this model, a dynamic network that connects and inspires women everywhere as they strike out for success in both their professional and personal lives. It also has become an extraordinary forum for addressing some of the pressing issues facing women around the world. I also want to recognize Discover for all they have done to support this wonderful event.
As I read the essays of the finalists, I was reminded once again of all there is to be hopeful about. Each of the students who participated in this competition is already a leader. The contest called on students to not just study a problem, but to propose a solution. Their proposals showed much thoughtfulness and care about the world which they are inheriting. I'm confident our world will be in good hands with them leading the way.
Students from more than 200 universities in almost 40 states entered the contest. I was struck by the fact that from nine possible topics, four of the five finalists chose to focus on the topic of economic empowerment. This is no coincidence. All of the challenges facing women are important, but full economic participation is truly at the heart of the fight for gender equality.
Our winner understands this, describing gender equality as “an economics issue, rather than purely a human right issue.” Of all the excellent entries, hers stood out in particular, with a focus on the connection between gender equity and gender equality. I was so impressed with this young woman’s essay because of the way in which she movingly and accurately captured the struggle that too many women still endure merely in gaining access to quality education and healthcare. As she wrote, “investment in women is smart economics. It is gender equity – women’s full inclusion in government, healthcare and education – that permits investment in human capital and without it, potential is lost to the global economy and society as a whole.”
I could not have said it any better myself. I am so impressed by the compassion and passion of this year’s winner, who I am happy to announce is: Thuy-Kue Tran!
Appropriately, Thuy-Kue is majoring in economics at the University of Chicago. Her essay focused specifically on initiatives to advance women’s role in society in Rwanda and Nigeria. This is fitting because what I have seen time and again in my travels it that some of the strongest, most persevering and hardest working women in the world are the ones in Africa.
Thuy-Kue will receive $5,000 in prize money as well as a trip to Washington, DC, to attend the 11th Annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards at the Kennedy Center on June 6, 2012.
All of you should be proud of yourselves for stepping up and leading on the key issues of our times. I hope that you will continue to advocate and to find ways to serve and make a difference -- to be the agents of change that our world so sorely needs.
I’d like to close with a passage from Thuy-Kue’s essay: “The problems that encumber women, encumber the world. Let us hear the voice of that world, let us learn from that voice and let us ignore it no more.”
I know that she is speaking for all of us. Congratulations, Thuy-Kue , and thank you to all of you for what you do every day and for all you will do to make our world a better place.