2014 March 22

First Lady Michelle Obama, in China, Says Free Speech and Access to Internet Are Human Rights


First Lady Michele Obama gave a speech in China on this day calling for freedom of speech and greater freedom of expression over the Internet. Her comments regarding the Internet were particularly noteworthy because of the heavy censorship of the Internet by the Chinese government.

The speech was part of a small but important tradition of First Ladies speaking out on civil liberties and human rights issues, often in hostile environments. First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a speech, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” in Beijing, China on September 5, 1995. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt pointedly violated local racial segregation law in Birmingham, Alabama, on November 22, 1938, and gave a speech endorsing civil liberties on March 14, 1940, on the eve of World War II.

Michele Obama:And that’s why it’s so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media, because that’s how we discover the truth. That’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities and our country and our world. And that’s how we decide which values and ideas we think are best –- by questioning and debating them vigorously, by listening to all sides of an argument, and by judging for ourselves.”

Watch Michelle Obama’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roWY-_tjgLI

Learn more: Peter Slevin, Michelle Obama: A Life (2015)

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