Context matters -- even in this silly season of politics when primaries produce partisan bickering, punditry gone amok and a social media loop that is endlessly without context.
Recent remarks by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a campaign event where she said, "Just remember, there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other," has created one of those artificial firestorms, not even worthy of calling a tempest in a teapot. But now that it has, let's put it in perspective.
First of all, those who are fortunate enough to know Madeleine Albright, of which I am proud to be one, know she has used this line thousands of times in her career to unstoppable applause and standing ovations from women in every corner of the world -- and men -- who need to be reminded every now and then that helping women is a shared global responsibility. It is an economic, political, and social imperative that women be included in every aspect of life. Full stop.
Albright, a tireless crusader for involving more women in politics, served as America's ambassador to the United Nations in the 1990s where she quickly became the indispensable champion of human rights and democracy and an advocate for the empowerment of women around the world.
She travels the planet encouraging women and girls to find their voices in parliaments and halls of power, through the ballot box. As she said in her role as Chair of the National Democratic Institute many times, "Every country deserves to have the best possible leader and that means that women have to be given a chance to compete. If they're never allowed to compete in the electoral process then the countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent."
What is important to know about Secretary Albright is that when she speaks to young women, she is thinking about women she has met in minefields in Angola, women caught up in ethnic tensions in Burundi, girls denied education in Afghanistan, women victims of human trafficking around the world. When she encourages women to stand up for themselves, she is thinking about women in Tunisia and Tripoli, women subjected to rape as a weapon of war, women denied access to microcredit, women locked in and locked out by civil war and terrorism.
A final irony: Most of the tweets and blogs, posts and pings on this subject come from people who have likely never served in hard places in the world to see what it is like to be powerless.
On behalf of women around the world, thank you, Secretary Albright, for all your journeys -- from monitoring elections in Nigeria, to creating entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Thank you for your non-stop activities on behalf of marginalized groups, women and girls. Thank you for your dedication to ensuring that 50% of the population -- half the sky -- is heard. Keep speaking out.
Tara Sonenshine is former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She lectures at George Washington University.