While speaking at the International Women of Courage Awards on March 10, 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to 10 brave women from around the world. But in summing up the purpose of the awards themselves, it was the tale of one Italian woman during World War II -- and the Italian word for "courage" -- that she evoked during her remarks.
Michelle Obama: "That is the purpose of these Women of Courage awards. We know the
difference this kind of recognition and encouragement can make. It really matters.
I'm thinking of a story that I heard, of Ginetta Sagan, a human rights activist who was first imprisoned during World War II for helping Jews in Italy escape from the Nazis. And during her time in jail, she was brutally beaten, raped and tortured with electric shocks. And then one day, one of the guards threw a loaf of bread into her cell. And inside that loaf was a matchbox. And on that matchbox was written the word -- one word in Italian -- 'corragio' -- and it was courage. Ginetta spent the rest of her life working to free prisoners of conscience. And every time she came across prisoners who had started to lose hope because they feared that no one knew of their plight, she thought of that moment in that cell.
And so today, we say to you women, our sisters, we say 'corragio' -- courage. (Applause.) America stands with you. We are so incredibly proud of you and your contributions. And know that we are praying for you and we are thinking about you every day. And we have young women here who are going to follow in your footsteps. Right, ladies? (Applause.)"