First lady Melania Trump made public remarks at the State Department’s International Women of Courage award ceremony Friday, defining courage as “what sets apart the heroes from the rest” and highlighting the women honorees she called “heroes who walk among us.”
“Courage is the quality most needed in this world, yet it is often the hardest to find,” Trump said at the annual event. “Courage sets apart those who believe in higher calling and those who act on it. It takes courage not only to see wrong, but strive to right it. Courage is what sets apart the heroes from the rest; it is equal part bravery and nobility. The women of courage we honor here today are heroes.”
She continued, “In recognizing them, we stand for what is right. In telling their stories, we can teach young women and girls all over the world what it means to have courage and to be a hero. Their examples define courage.”
Trump said the 10 honorees have “shown incredible courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, quality and women’s empowerment,” often at “great personal risk to themselves and their families.”
Among the honorees is Dr. Julissa Villanueva, a forensic pathologist from Honduras who now oversees the Honduran Attorney General’s Forensic Medicine Department. Villanueva “fundamentally changed the nature of criminal accountability in Honduras, especially regarding violent crimes perpetrated against women and children,” according to the State Department.
Godelieve Mukasarasi, from Rwanda, fought for a culture of peace and non-violence in her country following the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as well as combating sexual violence against women and girls in conflict zones.
Sister Maria Elena Berini, from Italy, works at a Catholic mission in Bocaranga, Central African Republic, where she has provided shelter and refuge to thousands of internally displaced people.
Aliyah Khalaf Saleh, known as Umm Qusay, from Iraq, risked her life to save Iraqi military cadets ambushed by ISIS, ultimately rescuing 58 recruits over five months, hiding them in small groups and preparing their escape routes. During a photo opportunity at the conclusion of the award presentation, Umm Qusay crossed the group of awardees to get closer to the first lady, prompting laughter from the other awardees and audience.
Trump expressed deep appreciation to the honorees but also thanked State Department employees, who as diplomats, she said, are “showing courage on behalf of our country every day.”
The remarks capped off a busy week for Trump, who on Monday traveled to New Hampshire, where she introduced the President at an event on combating the opioid crisis, and on Tuesday hosted a roundtable with tech leaders aimed at children’s online safety. She is scheduled to spend the weekend with the President in Mar-a-Lago.