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As the George W. Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Team wishes everyone a Happy World Freedom Day, we encourage you to learn more about the struggle of non-violent, freedom advocates around the globe. On November 9, 2001, President George W. Bush declared this special day of observance to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Central and Eastern Europe. However, this day belongs to all those who seek to end tyranny and oppression in our world.
As President Bush said in 2001: "The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, stands as the turning point of the Cold War and a significant landmark in freedom’s victory over tyranny. The wall stood as a grim symbol of the separation of free people and those living under dictatorships. We honor the spirit and perseverance of those who strived for freedom in East Germany and under other repressive regimes. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many countries have achieved freedom via the ballot box, through political pressure rising from their citizens, or as a result of the settlement of internal or regional conflicts. We celebrate the new freedom in which much of the world lives today. On World Freedom Day, we also recognize that more than two billion people still live under authoritarian regimes. From Burma to Cuba, Belarus to Zimbabwe, citizens of many countries suffer under repressive governments. Our thoughts today especially turn to the people of Afghanistan. These men, women, and children suffer at the hands of the repressive Taliban regime, which, as we know, aids and abets terrorists. In every oppressive nation, prodemocracy activists are working to stoke the fires of freedom, often at great personal risk. As we mark November 9, World Freedom Day, I encourage Americans to support those who seek to lead their people out of oppression."
Earlier this year, the Bush Institute launched the Freedom Collection, a groundbreaking initiative that shares the stories of brave men and women working to make their countries free. Visit the Freedom Collection to meet the courageous individuals who “stoke the fires of freedom, often at great personal risk” and be sure to come back as we’re frequently adding new interviews. Get a behind the scenes look at the Making of the Freedom Collection here:This post was written by Christopher Walsh, Program Coordinator of the Freedom Collection.
Christopher Walsh serves as Senior Program Manager for the Human Freedom and Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe