Kevin Lamarque / AFP - Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech "Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality" at Dublin City University in the Irish capital Thursday.
In an emotional speech as she nears the end of her term of office, Hillary Clinton warned there would be "many sacrifices and losses" before daughters were "valued as sons" across the world, according to reporters traveling with the secretary of state.
Clinton, speaking Thursday at Dublin City University in Ireland, was given a humanitarian award by the non-governmental organization Concern Worldwide, whose chief executive Tom Arnold hailed her as "one of the greatest" secretaries of state "in the history of the Republic."
Clinton spoke about what human rights meant to her personally, describing what it was like to be a female official visiting male-dominated countries.
"As the mother of a daughter, and as someone who believes strongly in the right of every person, male and female, to have the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential," Clinton said, "it pains me so greatly when I travel to places around the world and am received almost as an exception to the rule, where the male leaders meet with me because I am the secretary of state of the United States, overlooking the fact that I also happen to be a woman."
"We are on the right side of history in this struggle, but there will be many sacrifices and losses until we finally reach a point where daughters are valued as sons, where girls as educated as boys, where women are encouraged and permitted to make their contributions to their families, to their societies just as the men are," she added.
'Moved' by Pakistan schoolgirl's story
Clinton, who opened the school's new conflict resolution institute, picked out the case of Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl shot by a Taliban gunman over her outspoken belief that girls should receive an education. Her activism started in 2008, when she was about 11 years old, and she wrote a blog for BBC News about her experiences.
"All of us were moved by the story of the young Pakistani girl, Malala, who was targeted by the Taliban for the effrontery for going to school — more than that, speaking out for the rights of girls in Pakistan to go to school," Clinton said.
"She was miraculously spared from being literally shot in the face and is making what appears to be an excellent recovery," she added. "For every young woman whose name comes to our attention, there are countless others who suffer in silence, who face cultural and social and religious barriers to their human rights and dignity."
Clinton said she did not mind that she had been called an idealist and also a realist.
"In reality, I think we all need to be more of a hybrid, perhaps idealistic realists," she said. "Because leading effectively cannot be done without our values. And a great deal of what is happening today bears that out."
Clinton, who is standing down as secretary of state, said she had traveled to more "far-flung places than I could have imagined as a young girl growing up in the middle of America in the decades that followed World War II."
"And I must say that among the most striking things that I have learned is how much we have in common," she said. "I've sat down with people everywhere, discussing what was in their hearts and on their minds. And it doesn't take long to find commonality which is often overlooked, ignored, dismissed, and rejected otherwise."
Clinton chokes up
Clinton choked up a little when speaking about "a great friend of mine," Inez McCormack, a labor leader in Northern Ireland who she said had worked to bring peace and reconciliation to an area blighted by sectarian conflict.
"Inez lives in Derry, where she's fighting cancer, and I called her before coming here to check in on her, and asked her how she was doing," she said. "She's very brave and putting up with all the treatments, knowing that it's a hard road for her. And she did not want to talk about herself; she wanted to talk about her daughter, who moved up the date of her wedding, which made her very happy."
"But she wanted to talk about how we had to keep working to bring people together so that they would recognize the common humanity and experience in the other," Clinton added.
Clinton was due to travel to Northern Ireland Friday to lend support to a fragile peace that was one of the greatest successes of her husband's presidency.
She visits a province transformed by the 1998 peace agreement but still riven by sectarian loyalties, with a prison officer shot dead by nationalist militants last month and unionist protesters rioting over the removal of a British flag.
Reuters contributed to this report.
More world stories from NBC News:
- EXCLUSIVE: US behind Afghan 'insecurity,' Karzai says
- ANALYSIS: After 10 years of Karzai rule, has life improved in Afghanistan?
- Sex mobs target Egypt's women
- Researchers: North America least likely region for terrorism
- Africa's lion population plummets, study finds
- North Korea pays tribute to Kim Jong Il's 'threadbare' parka
- ANALYSIS: Egyptians warn Morsi is no friend of US
- Bread and expired milk: School lunch scandal sparks outrage in China
- Experts: Antarctica, Greenland ice melting into sea