Let me thank the Ambassador and the consul general for bringing all of you here together today. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your work as I visit with each of you and learn what you are doing to promote open and accountable governance, economic opportunity, and social equality.
I like to think of a healthy society as a three-legged stool. One leg must be open, accountable government that delivers results for its people. One must be a dynamic, competitive private sector that creates jobs and economic opportunity for people. And the third leg of the stool is civil society, people like all of you, who are working to improve the lives of your fellow citizens.
So we believe the work you do has a direct bearing on Russia’s future, whether you’re advocating to promote free and fair elections, fight discrimination, protect workers’ rights, or other civil society goals. We also believe that the Russian people are globally competitive, talented, creative, hard-working, and have a desire for a government that meets their aspirations and respects their rights, the same as people everywhere strive for.
We are not naive about the very real challenges you face, but we believe that the work you are doing is absolutely critical and that it takes patience and persistence, and we applaud your courage and the vital roles you are playing. We don’t want a one-way dialogue. We want to learn from you. We want to hear your comments, your suggestions, your criticism, because we want to keep you connected with American counterparts to share ideas, experiences, expertise, in order to help you do what you are trying so hard to accomplish, and that is to make Russia a better place for people today and for future generations.
So now, I’m looking forward to meeting you. And Bruce Turner, our consul general, is going to guide me around to have a conversation. Thank you all. (Applause.)