“I believe courage is one of the qualities we need most in society,” she said in a short speech after being introduced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “It is what propels us forward. Courage is what divides those who only talk about change from those who actually act to change. Courage takes sacrifice, bravery and humility — it is the ability to put others first.”
Trump has spoken at the past two International Women of Courage Awards ceremony, which are sponsored by the State Department.
This year, the first lady honored 10 female recipients, who were selected for demonstrating “exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” according to a State Department description of the awards.
The 10 awardees were from countries including Jordan, Montenegro, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, and included Naw K’nyaw Paw, a human rights activist from Burma who fights for gender equality; Moumina Houssein Darar, an anti-terrorism investigator in the Djiboutian National Police Force whose efforts have led to the conviction of Al-Shabaab terrorists; and Mama Maggie, who gave up her possessions and moved to Egypt to establish Stephen’s Children, an organization that works in downtrodden regions of that country, providing food, clothes, mentoring and education, with a specific emphasis on empowering young women.
“The women we are honoring today are symbols of courage,” said Trump. “They are human rights advocates in some of the most dangerous of parts of our world, and they have pushed through gender-based stereotypes to serve the greater good. These courageous women nurture and serve the lives of the vulnerable and forgotten within their communities. They are role models to the next generation.”
The audience for the awards ceremony included several members of President Donald Trump’s West Wing staff, including Kellyanne Conway and Mercedes Schlapp, as well as press secretary Sarah Sanders. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was also in the front row, supported by a cane after suffering a bike accident late last year.