During my first six months in Armenia, there are many things that I have come to admire about this nation and its people. Among them is how safe and supportive Armenia is for children. In every place that I travel, I see children lovingly doted on by parents, grandparents, family, and friends. At the zoo and in Victory Park, I am struck by the fact children play together unattended. And when a mother loses track of her child, she need not look far to find her child guarded by five or six adults, each one taking responsibility for that child’s safety. Each day, it becomes apparent to me that children are cherished and revered in Armenia.
I am, however, sorry to report that this view of children is not universally shared around the world. For some people, children simply are cheap labor. For others, they are a means to obtain additional government benefits. And in the worst cases, some people view children as sexual objects.
You in this room are the bulwark against such dangers to children in Armenia, and I salute the vitally important work that you do. You investigate and prosecute the cases. You represent the victims. You preside over the trials of the perpetrators. You advocate for the children. You enforce and strengthen the laws to protect them and guarantee their rights. You work to support national child welfare reform to stop the flow of children into residential educational and care institutions. And when those children’s interests also involve the United States, you work closely with your partners at the U.S. Embassy.
We are here today to share our experiences protecting children. We are here to learn from each other’s success and mistakes. And we are here to find ways to cooperate when we confront difficult situations involving children. We do this not simply because children represent our future, but because protecting them is morally right.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” We need to look no further than the dedicated people in this room to show the world why Armenia is a great nation.