Democracy Talks

A series of discussions exploring the challenges — and opportunities — facing democracies around the world.


We at the Bush Center are concerned about the challenges to the health of democracies around the world. Populism is on the rise. Media and other independent institutions are under pressure. Human rights violations are ignored. Isolationism and authoritarianism are growing. And now democracies are faced with containing a pandemic while at the same time cherishing their longstanding freedoms.

The Democracy Talks series presented here represents the latest in our Human Freedom Initiative’s volume of work on meeting the challenges to democracy. The list includes Choose Freedom, a call-to-action paper on revitalizing American support for democracy and human rights; The Democracy Project, a survey of Americans’ commitment to democracy’s ideals; and The Spirit of Liberty, a forum and proposal to celebrate, protect, and extend freedom here and abroad.

We will update this set of conversations and essays from respected leaders and Bush Institute experts throughout the year. As with all of our work, our goal is to advance solutions that are guided by a belief that free societies provide each of us the greatest opportunity to live a life of prosperity and purpose.

The Conversations

  • America’s Role in Promoting Democracy Abroad

    As the world grapples with COVID-19, Senator Mitt Romney, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explains why America should play a leading role in global affairs.

    Read the interview

  • COVID-19, Authoritarianism, and Democracy

    Freedom House's Michael Abramowitz, Laura Rosenberger of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Cato Institute's Mustafa Akyol, and Andrew Wilson of CIPE discuss COVID-19's impact.

    Read the interview

  • Fighting the Persecution of the Rohingya in Burma

    Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya activist and 2015 Bush Institute Liberty and Leadership Scholar, describes the challenges to democracy and human rights in Burma (Myanmar), her home country.

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  • Democracy and American Business Overseas

    Andrew Wilson, executive director of the Center for International Private Enterprise, explains why American businesses succeed in nations that embrace democracy, the rule of law, and a competitive environment.

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  • The Impact of Turkey's Move Away from Democracy

    Mustafa Akyol, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor for the New York Times, discusses his home country's struggles with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

    Read the interview

  • Vladimir Putin, Elections, and Seeds of Doubt

    Laura Rosenberger, executive director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, discusses how Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine America’s democracy and how America’s support for democracy and human rights abroad differs from the actions of Russia and China.

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  • The Strongman Has Returned. How Do We Fight Back?

    Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Kagan believes the era of the strongman is back. Part of the antidote, he believes, is that people in democratic societies should remember its benefits.

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  • Closing the Democracy Generational Divide

    Bush Institute Human Freedom Fellow Nicole Bibbins Sedaca reports on why grappling with the generational divide over supporting democracy will be essential for the health of our democracy.

    Read the essay

  • The Tensions Surrounding Democracy

    Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, discusses the impact of populist movements on democracies, the challenges democracies with struggling economies face, and the tension between freedom and security.

    Watch the video interview

  • Supporting Democracy vs. Influencing Politics

    Lindsay Lloyd, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of the Bush Institute's Human Freedom Initiative, explains why it is a false parallel to equate our support for freedom with efforts to interfere in elections by Russia and China.

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  • Our Own Shortcomings Shouldn't Keep America from Supporting Democracy

    Chris Walsh, Senior Program Manager at the Bush Institute Human Freedom Initiative, details why America must accept itself as a flawed champion of liberal democratic values.

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  • The North Korean Experience

    Bush Institute Expert-in-Residence Joseph Kim, a North Korean refugee, talks about his experience living under an authoritarian regime, the widespread denial of human rights in his native country, and why he believes human rights matter in every nation.

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  • North Koreans Living in the South are Developing a Political Voice

    Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of Escape From North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad, explains the significance of North Korean refugees developing a political voice in South Korea.

    Read the essay