Michelle Bachelet acceptance speech at the Gabarron International Award for Lifetime Achievement 2012. New York, 27 November 2012.
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Good evening and thank you very much. I thank the Gabarron Foundation and the jury for bestowing upon me this lifetime achievement award.
I am truly grateful for this honour. But I am not quite sure how I feel about receiving an award for lifetime achievement because it makes me feel like an antique or like a piece in a museum.
I have had a long time to achieve things and I hope I have a long time ahead of me.
In accepting this award, I am fully cognizant of all the work that remains to be done and all the individuals who have paid the ultimate price and lost their lives in pursuit of freedom and democracy.
I can tell you from my own experience that when we lack fundamental freedoms, we fully appreciate their value because we took them for granted. When human rights are systematically violated, we understand we must stand up for human rights as the very foundation of civilized life.
We know that democracy must be taken care of today and tomorrow, every day, and that governance depends on each and all of us. Inclusive economic policies and social protection are essential to democracy.
Today we see that politics is regarded with suspicion by many people. We must replace distrust and cynicism with a renewed belief in politics as a service to the community, the collective interest, commitment with the effort to have a more just and equitable society. It is time to put people at the centre.
We need leadership that is ethical and advances peace, justice and equality. We need leadership that is inclusive. We need to cultivate the values of decency, honesty and transparency in political life, and encourage people’s—men’s, women’s and young people’s—full participation. We need women and men leading together.
We need to give values and virtue to politics, because this gives us hope for the future, for resolving the many issues that are unique to an open society in which citizens rightly demand their right to be heard and influence decisions.
As I accept this award, I cannot forget the men and women around the world whose rights are violated, whose dignity is denied and whose voices cannot be heard. I believe that political action is necessary to achieve a better life for all, particularly for those who have been historically disadvantaged. I am convinced that it is possible to move in that direction.
As I accept this award, I do so with humility, and an equal measure of determination. I pledge to keep fighting for peace, human rights, equality and democracy. The struggle for freedom beats with every beat of the human heart. It is a universal struggle and commitment has no expiration date. As we say in my home country of Chile, No hay marcha atrás, there is no going backwards. We will keep on moving forward!
Thank you very much.