After a reception in which they could calculate their global footprint, create a miniature mudslide, step in front of a green screen and try their hand at weather forecasting, and walk through the iconic giant heart, participants in the “Heritage and Hope” Conference settled into the Franklin Institute’s main hall to hear from Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
Video clips from the speech are posted below.
The evening’s remarks were led by Philadelphia’s First Lady Lisa Nutter.
Nutter talked about her own experience as President of Philadelphia Academies and the importance of holding events like “Heritage and Hope.”
“The Philadelphia Academies started as a conversation. Please don’t ever stop talking about education and these issues that are so critical,” she implored the audience, before ceding the podium to Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe.
“Her’s is a powerful voice in American diplomacy, raised against the violence and brutality that crushes women in so many parts of the globe. She puts the rights of women center stage in the conversation of key U.S. foreign policy,” said McAuliffe in introducing Verveer.
McAuliffe went on to talk about Verveer’s many accomplishments—Chief of Staff for First Lady Hillary Clinton, co-founder of the non profit organization Vital Voices, and more.
But when it came time to relinquish the podium to Verveer, McAuliffe told a personal story about how the two of them met in Washington D.C. when McAuliffe was at Georgetown. A mutual friend urged McAuliffe to meet Verveer, saying, “she’s friends with everyone in D.C. and she really knows how to make things happen. Plus, she’s one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.”
“When we got together for lunch, I quickly discovered that all of these descriptions were true. So please welcome to the podium one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, Ambassador Melanne Verveer,” said McAuliffe to a warm round of laughter and applause.
In the shadow of Philadelphia’s most famous founding father, Verveer continued the celebratory mood, telling the crowd, “If any institution has nurtured and engaged women’s talents, their tenacity, their intelligence, their creativity and encouraged them to make profound contributions to society, it is Bryn Mawr.”
Verveer’s address became more somber as she spoke of the continuing oppression of women worldwide and seeing firsthand the “unimaginable crimes” being committed against women in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.
“But I also saw the most extraordinary humanity,” Verveer said of her trips to those war-torn nations. “I saw survivors, who despite their anguish were determined to go on.
“Here is where hope comes in,” she added, echoing one of the major themes of the conference. “Hope, that indispensible element of the human condition. That catalyst for justice, that catalyst for corrective action. The catalyst for change.”
For much of the first half of her far-ranging speech, Verveer talked about successful women’s empowerment programs and initiatives across the globe, the lives the programs have touched, and the burgeoning awareness of the political, economic, social and even military necessity to address gender inequality.
The latter half of Verveer’s speech focused on the many major initiatives the Obama administration has undertaken in support of women worldwide: The Global Health Initiative, The Feed the Future Initiative, The Clean Cook Stove Initiative, and other global economic and security efforts.
“In addressing you tonight, I have the feeling that I am not just speaking to the choir,” said Verveer in closing. “I am speaking to the composers of the music that the world’s choirs will sing in the decades ahead. That has been Bryn Mawr’s role for 125 years and I’m sure that it will continue to be the role of Bryn Mawr for the next 125 years.”