In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the promotion of human rights and democracy is central to U.S. foreign policy:
"We stand for democracy, not because we want other countries to be like us, but because we want all people to enjoy the consistent protection of the rights that are naturally theirs, whether they are born in Tallahassee or Tehran. Democracy has proven the best political system for making human rights a human reality over the long term."
Regarding Iran, said Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration has sought to engage the government on the issue of its nuclear program, but at the same time, has "expressed solidarity with those inside Iran struggling for democratic change. As President Obama said in his Nobel speech," noted Mrs. Clinton, "'They have us on their side.'"
In response to a question by a student following her address, Secretary Clinton said that since Iran's disputed presidential election in June, the U.S. has been faced with "a balancing act:"
"To make sure that our very strong opposition to what is going on inside Iran doesn't in any way undermine the legitimacy of the protest movement that has taken hold. ... We wanted to convey clear support, but we didn’t want the attention shifted from the [people's] legitimate concerns to the United States, because we had nothing to do with the spontaneous reaction that grew up in response to the behavior of the Iranian government. It's been a delicate walk, but I think that the activists inside Iran know that we support them."
Secretary of State Clinton also said that nonproliferation is itself a human rights issue:
"What would be worse than nuclear material or even a nuclear weapon being in the hands of either a state or a non-state actor that would be used to intimidate and threaten and even, in the worst-case scenario, destroy?"
"We do not want to be in an either/or position," said Secretary of State Clinton. "'Are we going to pursue nonproliferation with Iran, or are we going to support the demonstrators inside Iran?' We're going to do both to the best of our ability to get a result that will further the cause we are seeing to support."