From Ugly American to American Idol

Kelly Castagnaro

Yesterday at the UN, the United States made a strong statement about the importance of comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services.

It was nearly five o’clock yesterday evening when I received the call from the United Nations.  "I’m about to
send you part of the U.S. statement," my boss said.  "We need to
send it out immediately."

It had been a long time since
I was excited about something that the United States said at the UN. 
In fact, I couldn’t recall a recent example of us actually engaging with
the United Nations, much less making a strong statement about the importance
of comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services on
the floor 
of the UN.  And, it couldn’t possibly happen on the same
day that we decided to seek a seat on the UN
Human Rights Council
and in the same month that the United States formally joined the rest
of the Western nations in calling for the worldwide decriminalization
of homosexuality

But it turned out that my skepticism
and disbelief was sooooo 2006.   I opened the email to find that the US
stated its renewed and deep commitment to the goals and aspirations
included in the International Conference on Population Program of Action
and Development (ICPD) and the Key Actions of the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs):

"Ladies and Gentlemen, our
common task this week is vital. Five years remain in both the ICPD and
the MDG mandates. We can, this week, commit to stronger actions to reach
our common goals."

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"We must do much more to provide comprehensive, accurate information
and education on sexuality, sexual and reproductive health for women,
men, girls, and boys as they age and their needs evolve. 
We must,
as well, foster equal partnerships and sharing of responsibilities in
all areas of family life, including in sexual and reproductive life,
and promote frank discourse on sexuality, including in relation to sexual
health and reproduction."

I read it five times.  While
there have been several moments since January 20 when I have found myself
with a previously unfamiliar sense of pride to be from the United States,
it still takes awhile to digest.  Wait, we value science over ideology
and recognize the importance of engaging with the international community? 
We have an Administration committed to equality and that deeply understands
that we will not meet the challenges of the 21st century until
human rights for all are ensured? 

As startling as I initially
found this sensation, the notion that the President not only cares about my health
and rights, but the health and rights of women everywhere, is growing
on me.  I think I’m becoming an optimist.  In fact, I just might leave
my passport cover at home next time.   

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