Nikki Haley

Opening Statement in Confirmation Hearing for the UN Ambassador - Jan. 18, 2017

Nikki Haley
January 18, 2017— Washington, D.C.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you Senator Cardin for your comments.

I look forward to discussing all of those things with you and the rest of the committee. I do have my family behind me because I’ve never been able to do anything without the support of my family. And so to my left I have my favorite younger brother, Gogi, who owns his own business and is an entrepreneur. I have my parents, Dr. And Mrs. Rendawa who reminded my brothers, my sisters and me how blessed we were to live in this country. I have my amazing husband but also the coolest first man ever, but he is also a combat veteran, Michael is behind me. And next to him is one of my pride and joys kids, Nalen who is wearing a suit today which he would prefer not wearing but has his basketball shoes on. I pick and choose my battles as a mom. I have my in-laws Bill and Carol Haley who have been an amazing support to me and a second set of parents to us as we have gone through struggles. And then I have my favorite older brother, Manny who is also a combat veteran and his wife Sonya and lots of friends behind them as well. So I told them if I started to mess up one of them, they needed to act like a protester so we will see if that -- if that happens.

So with that, I would like to say, Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, distinguished members of the committee, I come before you today both humbled and honored to be considered to represent the united states of America at the United Nations. Just as other nominees for this position have done, I am here to outline my vision and discuss my qualifications.

My story is an American story. I was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, the daughter of immigrant parents from Punjab, India. My parents had comfortable lives in India, but chose to give up those comforts and move to America with just $8 in their pockets because of the freedoms and the opportunities this country offers. Our family's experience is unique. But it is also familiar. Because it is one that has been repeated many times by many people in American history. Growing up in a small rural community in the south, our family was different. We were not white enough to be white, we were not black enough to be black. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. Our new neighbors didn't quite know what to make of us. So we did face challenges. But those challenges paled next to the abundance of opportunities in front of us.

My dad was a professor at a small historically black college. My mom was a social studies teacher and started a clothing store from scratch. I started doing the books for the family business when I was 13. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized that wasn't normal. But it was normal to me. In my family we worked. I was also privileged to take advantage of the educational opportunities that America affords and I am painfully aware that the chance for a 13-year-old girls to read and learn and grow is something that does not exist in far too many places around the world today.

I went on to serve in South Carolina general assembly and to be elected and re-elected governor of the palmetto state. Serving the people of South Carolina has been the greatest honor of my life. During the six years of my governorship, our state has faced many challenges. But South Carolina today is stronger economically and more united culturally than it has ever been before. And I couldn't be more proud. While South Carolina will always be my home, I am eager to begin this new chapter. International diplomacy is a new area for me.

There is much I am learning about the intricacies of the U.N. And its associated agencies. I don't claim that I know everything. Or that leadership at the U.N. Is the same as leading South Carolina. But diplomacy itself is not new to me. And in fact, I would suggest there is nothing more important to a governor's success than her ability to unite those with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and objectives behind a common purpose. For six years, that has been my work. Day after day, in times of celebration and in times of great tragedy.

I have negotiated deals with some of the largest corporations in the world, and convinced them to make South Carolina their home. I have been the chief executive of a government with more than 67,000 employees and an annual budget of more than 26 billion.

And we have achieved real results. South Carolina is a different, stronger, better place than it was six years ago. Like most government agencies, the United Nations could benefit from a fresh set of eyes. I will take an outsider's look at the institution as I have in every challenge in my life, I will come to the U.N. To work and to work smart. I will bring a firm message to the U.N. That U.S. Leadership is essential to the world. It is essential for the advancement of humanitarian goals and for the advancement of America’s interest.

When America fails to lead, the world becomes a dangerous place. And when the world becomes more dangerous, the American people become more vulnerable. At the U.N., as elsewhere, the United States is the indispensable voice of freedom. It is time that we once again find that voice. The job of U.N. Ambassador is different from being governor. But there is one essential element of leadership that is the same. And that is accountability. A leader must be accountable to the people she serves. Should you confirm me as ambassador, I will be accountable.

First and foremost to the people of the United States. Mr. Chairman, accountability means being honest, with ourselves, as I appear before you today, when we look at the United Nations, we see a checkered history. The U.N. And specialized agencies have had numerous successes. Its health and food programs have saved millions of lives, its weapons monitoring efforts have provided us with vital security information, its peacekeeping missions have at times performed valuable services.

However, any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with the American national interest and American taxpayers. Nowhere has the U.N.'s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than it is -- than its bias against our close ally Israel. And the general assembly session just completed, the U.N. Adopted 20 resolutions against Israel. And only six targeting the rest of the world's countries combined. In the past ten years, the human rights council has passed 62 resolutions condemning the reasonable actions Israel takes to defend its security. Meanwhile, the world's worst human rights abusers in Syria, Iran, and North Korea, received far fewer condemnations. This cannot continue.

It is in this context that the events of December 23rd were so damaging. Last month's passage of U.N. Resolution 2334 was a terrible mistake. Making a peace agreement with Israelis and the Palestinians even harder to achieve. The mistake was compounded by the location in which it took place, in light of the U.N.'s long history of anti-Israel bias. I was the first governor in America to sign legislation combating the anti-Israel boycott divest and sanctions or the BDS movement. I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. Seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel.

In fact, I pledge to do this. I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States. In the matter of human rights, Mr. Chairman, whether it is the love of my families and America’s immigrant heritage, or the removal of a painful symbol of an oppressive past in South Carolina, I have a clear understanding that it is not acceptable to stay silent when our values are challenged. I will be a strong voice for American principles and American interests. Even if that is not what other U.N. Representatives want to hear.

The time has come for American strength once again. There are other elements of accountability as well. As governor, the South Carolina constitution required me to report annually to the people of my state on how their security and prosperity were being advanced by their government. In fact, I gave that state of the state address just one week ago. I was able to tell the citizens of South Carolina that we now invest more dollars in public education than ever before that our reserves have doubled, while our debt service has been cut in half. And more south Carolinians are working today than ever in the history of our state.

Without fundamental changes at the U.N., I cannot envision making the same kind of report to the American people as their ambassador. We contribute 22% of the U.N.'s budget, far more than any other country. We are a generous nation. But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution. Are we getting what we pay for? To your credit, the congress has already begun to explore ways the united states can use its leverage to make the united nations a better investment for the American people. I applaud your efforts, and I look forward to working with you to bring seriously needed change to the U.N. If I am confirmed, I will need you, and I hope to have your support.

In short, Mr. Chairman, my goal for the United Nations will be to create an international body that better serves the interests of the American people. After the passage of the infamous U.N. Resolution equate equating Zionism with racism in 1975, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan came to the unsettling realization that as he put it, quote, if there were no general assembly, this could never have happened.

Today, over 40 years later, more and more Americans are becoming convinced by actions like the passage of resolution 2334 that the United Nations does more harm than good. The American people see the U.N.'s mistreatment of Israel, its failure to prevent the North Korean nuclear threat, its waste and corruption and they are fed up. My job, our job, is to reform the U.N.

In ways that will rebuild the confidence of the American people. We must build an international institution that honors America’s commitment to freedom, democracy, and human rights. I hope this can be done. I believe it is possible. And I know that if you confirm me, I will do all I can to see that that happens. Some say we live in cynical and distrustful times. But I believe we all carry in our hearts a bit of idealism that animated the creation of the United Nations. I know I do.

With your blessing, I will represent our great country in this international forum. I will do it in ways that I hope bring honor to our country, our values, and our national interests.

Thank you very much for your time.

"U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Confirmation Hearing." C-SPAN video, 3:34:12. Jan. 18, 2017.