Feb 27, 2023

First Lady Jill Biden Gives Remarks at Women’s Reception in Nairobi, Kenya Transcript

First Lady Jill Biden Gives Remarks at Women's Reception in Nairobi, Kenya Transcript
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First Lady Jill Biden Gives Remarks at Women’s Reception in Nairobi, Kenya. Read the transcript here.

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Meg Whitman (00:02):

Well, good evening. Have you all had a lovely time meeting some of the most important women in Kenya? Thank you very much for coming and I really am honored to welcome all the distinguished women joining us tonight and I’m especially delighted to welcome the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill, Biden.

Jill Biden (00:22):

Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Meg Whitman (00:23):

Dr. Biden, thank you for being with us. It is a true honor and we have invited an array of exceptional women from many fields of expertise to meet you. The women in this room are courageous, powerful leaders who are working to advance important issues for the betterment of Kenya every single day.

With us this evening, we have women leaders who work in government and public health. It’s so nice to see the Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome and the National Security Advisor Monica Juma there, and to see female governors, senators, and parliamentarians here. We have exceptional entrepreneurs and business women, many CEOs of very successful businesses. We have women who work on issues affecting youth, refugees, human rights, and women’s rights. Many of them have participated in US government sponsored programs like the Young African Leaders Initiative, Protect Women, Fulbright, and the International Visitor Leadership Program.

We also have women who are key exporters of Kenyan products to the United States, women working for US companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, and women from partner organizations such as Refugee Consortium of Kenya and the Kenyan Red Cross Society.

Speaker 3 (01:33):

Let me know when you get [inaudible 00:01:34].

Meg Whitman (01:34):

The linkages show the incredibly strong partnership between the United States and Kenya that grows every single day. I’m also glad everyone had a chance to listen to Ghetto Classics tonight and that Dr. Biden had the opportunity to hear [inaudible 00:01:48]. Ghetto Classics is so tall because it began in one of Nairobi’s most underprivileged areas. The group is part of a community program that involves over 1,500 children from Nairobi, Kiambu, and Mombasa, for the Orchestra for Schools Initiative.

The program has changed the lives of young children living in these areas. It gives them hope for a better future and a skill to provide them with income-generating opportunities as a way to overcome poverty and create better lives for themselves and their families. The program fosters the discipline and joy that comes from studying music and dance. It provides children with a better future, empowers them and inspires those around them to better themselves as well.

There’s a recent book that was published about Ghetto Classic, showcasing their amazing stories. They really are an inspiring group.

Jill Biden (02:40):

They are.

Meg Whitman (02:41):

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce the First Lady of the United States of America, Dr. Jill Biden.

Jill Biden (02:52):

Thank you, Ambassador Whitman. Well, first of all, we’re all sisters so you can’t be standing way back there. Come on. [inaudible 00:03:00]. Yes. Women, we like to get close. Yes. There we go. Okay, so as we work together to build prosperity and opportunities around our world, our partnership with Kenya is really so important. And that’s why President Biden, my husband, chose Meg to be our ambassador.

Speaker 4 (03:36):

[inaudible 00:03:37].

Jill Biden (03:36):

Wow. I’ll have to tell Joe that. She’s popular. So, she’s a seasoned executive and she understands the power and the potential that we can unlock when we work together and we invest together. So, Meg, thank you for all of your work and thank you and Griff. I mean, come on. He’s half of the equation for hosting us tonight.

And it was so wonderful to be greeted by the talented musicians who were here earlier. I guess they scooted off or maybe they’re having dinner. I don’t know. Anyway, this is my third visit to Kenya and I have many incredible memories here. In fact, I told my granddaughter Naomi that coming here changed my life and that’s why she wanted to join me. So it’s wonderful to be back and I couldn’t ask for a warmer welcome.

From soft lullabies to battle cries for justice, women nurse and nurture, teach and build, lead and dream our way forward, each and every day. And while we have never been silent, women have been silenced. For many women around the world, simply raising their voice is a struggle. And we’ve had to fight for a seat at the table, and, Meg, I’m sure no one knows that better than you. So, maybe it’s true for all of us, really, that we’ve all had to fight for that seat.

And your stories are an inspiration, and that’s why I’m here today because I want to listen to you, to hear about all that you have achieved and then take your stories back to the United States with me. We don’t need studies to tell us that women are the engines behind the communities. We know that. But research says that it’s true. And when women earn money, nothing better, we invest it in our families. And I know know that because I am a working woman and we become mentors and help others find success as well. We create jobs. And when women have the ability to participate fully in society, we create more peaceful, stable places to be. And when women get the opportunities we deserve, there’s no limit to what we can do. Empowered women, like all of you, power our communities. And one of those women was Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Pretty amazing.

And you know her story, but it’s so important and I’d like to share it now for anybody who doesn’t know, which, probably not any of you. So she was a professor, a woman after my own heart, at the University of Nairobi when she realized that trees were dying in Kenya. I love this story. It’s beautiful. That the streams were drying up and the food was becoming scarce. And she remembered how her community in rural Kenya had survived off the land, and so she was inspired to act right. We find solutions. We’re women.

So she started planting trees. She taught other women to plant trees one seed at a time. They began to heal the earth around them. Soon they could earn incomes from the fruit that they grew, from the honey of the new bees, from the firewood that they gathered. And with that first tree, sprouted a movement that changed the world. And it was only possible because women came together to support each other. And we push progress and we save our communities.

So in her Nobel lecture, she said, and I quote, “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to reach a higher moral ground, a time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to one another.” And like Maathai, you’ve changed the world in big ways, but you’ve also done it in small ways as well. One seed planted. One smile, right? One smile when someone needs it most, right? We intuit that. One hand taking another without saying any words at all. “I’m here. You’re not alone.”

When we come together as partners, when we come together to work against injustice, we can repair what’s broken and we can build something new. We can be the arms of welcome, the hands of kindness. We stand, look at you now, shoulder to shoulder, and lift each other up when we fall. So thank you for giving one another and me hope. Thank you for the courage that it takes to run for office, to push science to new places, to create a business, to climb to new heights. Thank you for mentoring the next generation of women leaders because I know that you do. And continuing to show us how high women can rise. And thank you for making your communities and your country stronger every single day. Thank you. Thank you.

Meg Whitman (10:49):

Thank you so much for those great remarks and thank you for coming to Kenya. Karibu Kenya. And I think we’ll go down that way.

Jill Biden (10:54):

Thank you. Okay …

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