December 13, 2000
As I write this, my husband, my daughter and I are in Northern Ireland. This is my fifth trip here -- an especially meaningful one, as it is probably the last overseas trip we will take together as a family while my husband is President.
We are very pleased to be returning at this historic time. Despite the obvious obstacles that remain, the Good Friday agreement is working. For the first time in 30 years, politicians across the divide are coming together to address the issues that most affect the lives of people here.
As we touched down and drove through the streets of Belfast, my husband and I reminisced about our earlier trips. One memory that will stay with us both is lighting the Christmas tree at Belfast City Hall five years ago, with thousands of people who were finally able to celebrate the holidays with hope -- after so many seasons of darkness.
I will never forget two students who stood with us that day: Mark and Cathy, one Catholic and one Protestant who shared the same dream. When she was 12, Cathy wrote to my husband: "My dreams for the future, well, I have a lot of them: Hopefully the peace will be permanent, and one day Catholics and Protestants will be able to walk hand-in-hand ... Catholics, Protestants, black or white, it is the person inside that counts. What I hope is that when I have my own children there will still be peace, and Belfast will be a peaceful place from now on."
Today, we have moved so much closer to that day. Building peace is never easy -- and there are always people who would rather throw up their hands than roll up their sleeves. But not the wives and mothers, daughters and grandmothers of Northern Ireland. They have lived for, died for, and now voted for peace.
This is one of those special moments -- a moment in which you have the chance to defy generations of hatred -- the kind of moment that comes around only once or twice in a generation.
The women of Northern Ireland, whose whispers of "enough" joined to become a torrent of voices that brought us to this day, have taken that chance. Although they may worship in different churches on Sunday, they pray the same prayers -- for their children to return home from school safely; and that the violence and despair that tear at families will stop.
In the last few years, I have met women of many nations who are raising their voices in political systems and a new economic system once reserved only for men. Just over three years ago, anxious to harness the growing chorus of these voices, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and I launched the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative. Vital Voices embodies our commitment to the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy objective. Vital Voices programs, which now reach thousands of women around the world, strive to ensure that democracies succeed, economies prosper, and peace agreements take hold -- understanding that no democracy, economy or peace agreement can ever fully succeed when one-half of a nation's population remains unrepresented.
I was pleased to be able to announce three new initiatives here that continue the important work of Vital Voices in Northern Ireland. First, there will be a conference for women Parliamentarians next year so that the recently elected women of the new Assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will have an opportunity to learn from their counterparts in Westminster and the Dail. Next, political and media experts from the United States will come to Northern Ireland next spring to host small-group training sessions for hundreds of community activists.
And finally, in an effort to ensure that women are not left on the wrong side of the digital divide, Vital Voices Northern Ireland will host a Women and New Technology conference next March. This conference will help make women part of the revolution in information technology that are transforming economies all over the world.
Working with the women of Northern Ireland, as well as those in other countries I've visited over the past eight years, has been one of the greatest privileges of my lifetime. As I close this chapter to begin another, I know that their voices and their prayers will be with me every day, as we continue to work to fulfill our children's dreams of peace.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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Talking It Over: 2000
December 6, 2000: Column on Passing Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill
November 29, 2000: Column on "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History"
November 22, 2000: Column on Trip to Vietnam
November 15, 2000: Column on the 200th Anniversary of the White House
November 8, 2000: Column on New York Senate Race
November 1, 2000: Column on the Importance of Voting
October 25, 2000: Column Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Important to the American People
October 18, 2000: Column on Trafficking of Women and Children
October 11, 2000: Column on Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act
October 4, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of AmeriCorps National Service Program
September 27, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of VAWA
September 20, 2000: Column on Ritalin
September 13, 2000: Column on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry
September 6, 2000: Column on Expanding Healthcare Benefits
August 30, 2000: Column on Making Education Our #1 Priority
August 23, 2000: Column on Pine Ridge, New Markets Tour
August 16, 2000: Column on Decision 2000
August 9, 2000: Column on the Congressional and Presidential Tax Plans
August 2, 2000: Column on Newborn Hearing Screening
July 26, 2000: Column on the 10th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act
July 19, 2000 : Column on Treasures Visit to Ellis Island
July 12, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors
July 5, 2000: Column on the Ninth Millennium Evening,
June 27, 2000: Column on Quality Education for Hispanic Youth
June 21, 2000: Column on Save America's Treasures: Val Kil Cottage, New York
June 14, 2000: Column on the Violence Against Women Act
May 31, 2000: Column on National Trails Day
May 24, 2000: Column on National Moment of Remembrance
May 17, 2000: Column on Howard Theater
May 10, 2000: Column on Million Mom March
May 3, 2000: Column on the White House Conference on Teenagers
April 26, 2000: Column on Arbor Day
April 19, 2000: Column on Earth Day
April 12, 2000: Column on International Family Planning
April 5, 2000: Column on Women Entrepreneurs and Microcredit
March 29, 2000: Column on Teen Smoking
March 22, 2000: Column on Pediatric Drugs
March 15, 2000: Column on Child Support
March 8, 2000: Column on Children and Guns
March 1, 2000: Column on Teacher Training, Recruitment and Retention
February 23, 2000: Column on D.C. Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy Launch
February 16, 2000: Column on Vital Voices Event at the White House
February 9, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage
February 2, 2000: Column on Child Care
January 26, 2000: Column on College Opportunity
January 19, 2000: Column on Human Trafficking
January 12, 2000: Column on Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing
January 5, 2000: Column on the New Millennium
December 20, 2000: Column on Presidential Interagency Council on Women
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