Secretary Hillary Clinton's Remarks at the Annual State Department Iftar Dinner

September 15, 2009 at 9:20pm
Secretary Hillary Clinton Speaks at State Department's Annual Iftar Dinner.
Secretary Hillary Clinton Speaks at State Department's Annual Iftar Dinner.
September 15, 2009

See the video http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/09/129232.htm

Good evening and Ramadan Kareem. I am delighted to welcome all of you here for this evening’s Iftar . Actually, we started in 1996 and held the first Ramadan Eid celebration at the White House. Some of you were at that celebration, and it is wonderful to have you here tonight and to have so many others joining us. I want to thank Farah. I had the great privilege of swearing her in this morning and putting her to work on behalf of our outreach to Muslim communities. (Applause.)

This is an exciting evening for me. I think that American embassies have been holding Iftars for decades. Our diplomatic posts have held hundreds of events to celebrate Ramadan this year alone. And I am proud that we have so many Muslims serving in our Foreign Service and our Civil Service who are playing an important role in advancing our nation’s foreign policy interests and strengthening the bonds of cooperation and understanding with Muslims at home and abroad.

It is not just that this Department has benefited. The nearly 7 million Muslims in our country have enriched our culture, have made it stronger because of the contributions that many of you and others across America have given to us. Tonight’s celebration is just one way to underscore those ideals. It is, as Farah so eloquently said, an important demonstration of the ability of those of us here in our country to practice our religion without fear of persecution. It is enshrined in our Constitution. And we believe and will defend the freedom of religion.

Now, this time of self-reflection and clarity reminds us that the principles that are the hallmark of Ramadan – charity, sacrifice, and compassion – are also values we cherish as Americans. They guide us towards good stewardship of our families, our communities, our country, and our world. It is, as one of my wonderful young aides who Farah has already referenced – Huma Abedin – summed up in the words of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, that we need to be inspired by our leaders to fight poverty, injustice and hate with, “the weapon of the Prophet—patience and righteousness.” Well, that, to me, sums up much of what we celebrate tonight as we break fast.

Now, we recognize that the relationship between the United States and Muslim communities has at times suffered from misunderstanding and misperception. But we are committed to learning and listening; to creating bridges of understanding and respect; and building stronger bonds of cooperation. We believe that there is more that unites people of all faiths than divides us.

The Obama Administration will work to ensure that our communication, our partnerships, and our policies reflect that core belief. Because whatever God you pray to—or even whether you believe at all—we all need to work for the same goals: a world where our children can live together in peace and prosperity, and fulfill their own God-given potentials.

So tonight, let us recommit ourselves to achieving our common goals inspired by common values. And now, please enjoy your food. Thank you all. (Applause.)