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Dr. Condoleezza Rice Keynotes George W. Bush Institute Conference

September 14, 2012

The George W. Bush Institute today brought together leading voices in the conversation around freedom movements for a conference entitled, “The Wave of Freedom: Early Lessons from the Middle East,” which examined how recent lessons learned in Egypt and Tunisia can help inform freedom movements in authoritarian regimes in countries like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Burma.

“It is clear that it takes time for freedom to take root,” said President George W. Bush in his opening remarks. “One of the dangers for the freedom movement around the world is that the United States grows weary and grows isolated from the march of freedom. The spread of free societies makes our country more secure and make the world more peaceful. It’s important to recognize the spread of free societies upholds the idea that all human beings have worth and dignity.”

Following opening remarks from President Bush, Dr. Condoleezza Rice delivered a keynote address in which she provided her perspective on the status of the freedom movement in individual countries throughout the Middle East and what the United States can continue to do to foster freedom and democracy.

“We need to strengthen the seedlings of democracy that are in the Middle East already in Iraq, Lebanon and the West Bank of Palestine, help support healthy forces in Egypt and Tunisia, and press friends to reform faster than they might in places like Jordan and Morocco with reformist young kings," said Dr. Rice. She predicted “it’s going to be a rocky time” ahead in the Middle East, but “it’s better than the silence of tyranny” and “it’s no time for the United States to lose its voice in advocating for freedom. Our message to the people of the Middle East should be that freedom is worth it. It’s hard. You’ve begun your journey and we will be with you.”

The George W. Bush Institute is the innovation policy arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The Bush Institute’s mission in human freedom is to foster democracy and support freedom advocates around the world. The conference brought together leading activists, technology experts, government leaders and scholars with the hope of emboldening and equipping dissidents and freedom advocates that have come forward during these current times of turbulence.

“In today’s 24-hour news cycle we see ourselves moving all too quickly from one sensational event to the next,” said James K. Glassman, the executive director of the Bush Institute. “The Bush Institute conference on human freedom gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into the impact and implications these uprisings will have on the future of democracy.”

Conference attendees also heard a firsthand account and analysis of recent events in Egypt from Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Professor of Political Sociology at The American University in Cairo, via videoconference.

He said, “I appeal to democrats around the world to prevail on those in power to postpone the election for at least six months or a year until the new forces of young people can organize themselves.“ He warned, “The only organized groups that are ready for such an early and premature election are two: the remnants of the outgoing national democratic party and the Muslim brothers.” Ibrahim ended with a hopeful note, saying “Revolution does not happen by itself. Democracy does not happen by itself. It needs continuous nourishing and feeding. The dawn of freedom will always break through.”

The conference also included three robust panels. The first panel, “What Really Happened?,” discussed the role of social media and the uprisings in the Middle East and included Minnie Ingersoll, Principal, Business Operations, Google, Inc.; Philip N. Howard, Associate Professor, University of Washington; Oscar Morales,
Visiting Fellow, Human Freedom, George W. Bush Institute; Maajid Nawaz, Co-Founder and Director, Quilliam Foundation, Founder, Khudi; Ian Schuler, Senior Program Manager, Internet Freedom Programs, U.S. Department of State; and via Skype, Yassine Ayari, Activist and Blogger.

The second panel, “The Future of Freedom on the Middle East,” moderated by Bush Institute executive director Jim Glassman, featured stories from the frontlines told by Ammar Abdulhamid, Founder and Director, Tharwa Foundation; Khadija Arfaoui, Retired Professor, American Studies, Women's Studies, English and Human Rights
Activist, Environmental, Human Rights and Women's Rights Issues; Esraa Abdel Fattah, Projects Manager, Egyptian Democratic Academy; Ahmed Salah, Veteran Egyptian Activist, Director, New Future House Center
Coordinator, The Coalition of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Bassem Samir,
Executive Director, Egyptian Democratic Academy; and Mouheb Ayari, President, I Watch Organization.

The final panel, “Beyond the Arab World,” moderated by Lorne Craner, President, International Republican Institute, was a discussion on the impact on other undemocratic regimes. The panel featured Elliott Abrams
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Frank Calzon, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba; Victor Cha, Professor and Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University; Roya Hakakian, Writer and Journalist; and Joshua Muravchik, Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, SAIS Johns Hopkins University.

About the George W. Bush Institute:
The George W. Bush Institute seeks to improve the human condition through human freedom, education reform, global health, and economic growth. In all its programming, the Institute integrates initiatives that empower women and military servicemen and women. The Bush Institute is the innovation policy arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which includes the Presidential library, located on the campus of SMU in Dallas. For more information, please visit www.bushcenter.com or follow us Facebook and Twitter.