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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise to speak on behalf of Samantha Power's nomination to be the Ambassador to the United Nations.

As I said in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which I chaired, on Ms. Power, her appointment as Ambassador to the United Nations has come with much fanfare and with some criticism--which, at the end of the day, means she must be doing something right. In that regard, as I listen to my colleague member of the committee express his reservations and his opposition to Ms. Power, I think we have to have some context.

When she responded: The United States is the greatest country in the world and I will not apologize for it, it was her way of rejecting any characterization of statements that she made in the past. It was very clear to me. I want a U.N. ambassador sitting in front of the world who considers the United States the greatest country in the world and who will not apologize for the United States before that world body. She made it very clear that is exactly what she intends to do.

On accountability, we cannot achieve accountability at the United Nations if we do not have a U.N. Ambassador there to lead the effort on accountability. On those questions where she was asked by several members: Are you committed to making the United Nations a more accountable organization, not only did she say yes several times, in the affirmative, but she gave examples of how that accountability can be achieved. We need an Ambassador to pursue accountability at the United Nations.

Finally, I agree with my colleague that when America fails to lead in some critical times, we leave a void in the world. But we cannot lead if we do not have a U.N. Ambassador raising their voice and their vote on our behalf on some of the critical issues of the day.

So this nomination is critical to pursuing the national interests and security of the United States. Whatever my colleagues might think about her nomination, I don't believe anyone can question her considerable credentials or her years of service. Certainly, no one can question her willingness to speak her mind, especially her willingness to speak out on human rights issues around the world.

As a war correspondent in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sudan, she has, as she said in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, seen ``evil at its worst.''

Ms. Power has built a career and a reputation as one of the Nation's most principled voices against all human rights violations and crimes against humanity. I know that voice will be heard around the world should we confirm her.

While some of us may not agree with everything she has written and said during her extensive career as a journalist and foreign policy professional, she has been a tireless defender of human rights, and she has seen the tragedy of human suffering from the frontlines firsthand, and it has given her a unique perspective.

In her role at the National Security Council, she was clearly involved with U.S. policy toward the United Nations. She knows the United Nation's strengths, its weaknesses, and how it operates. At the end of the day the United States needs a representative at the United Nations who will uphold American values, promote human rights, secure our interests and the interests of our national security. I have every confidence in Samantha Power's ability to do exactly that, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting her nomination.

Personally, I am incredibly appreciative of the principled positions she has taken on the Armenian genocide, her belief that we should use the lessons of what clearly was an atrocity of historic proportions to prevent future crimes against humanity is a view consistent with my own and which is supported by her role in the President's Atrocities Prevention Board. I agree we must acknowledge the past, study how and why atrocities happen, if we are ever to give true meaning to the phrase ``Never again.''

As the son of immigrants from Cuba, I personally appreciate her commitment to exposing Cuba's total disregard for human and civil rights, and I respect her for not idealizing the harsh realities of communism in Cuba. I know from the conversation we had in my office, she appreciates the suffering of the Cuban people--the torture, abuse, detention, and abridgement of the civil and human rights of those who voice their dissent under the Castro regime. I welcome her commitment to reach out to Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the longtime dissident and Cuban activist, Oswaldo Paya who died under mysterious circumstances last year in Cuba as his car was bumped off the road, and I look forward to her fulfillment of that commitment.

At the end of day, it is fitting that someone with Ms. Power's background represent American interests and American values at the United Nations. In the words of the U.N. Preamble, it was created ``to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. ..... ''

Who better than Samantha Power, a recognized advocate for the fundamental rights of every human being, to be our ambassador to the United Nations? If confirmed, her focus will, of course, be on the crisis du jour: the Middle East, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and others, and the nature of nations that emerge from the Arab spring. But I know while she is meeting those challenges, she will also be engaged on human rights around the world: on freedom of expression in Latin America; on fighting HIV-AIDS, malaria, and polio in Africa; on the status of talks to resolve the 66-year-old question of Cyprus; on women's rights in Pakistan and labor rights in Bangladesh and human rights in Sri Lanka.

Ms. Power, during her nomination process, has repeatedly expressed steadfast support for the State of Israel during her hearing, in her testimony, and individually to several members of the committee, including myself as chair. She has promised to stand up for Israel at the United Nations, and I know she will.

I ask unanimous consent that a letter to the committee in support of Ms. Power from six bipartisan former Ambassadors to the United Nations be printed in the Record, calling on the Senate to confirm her as soon as possible in this time of opportunity, to have a U.S. representative in New York advocating for American interests. I urge my colleagues to support this qualified, experienced nominee. I know she will serve the Nation well.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:


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