Freedom is something that Olga, a Ukrainian American who recently toured the George W. Bush Presidential Museum, thinks about a lot lately.
“Freedom matters,” she said, echoing the name of the Bush Museum’s special exhibit, which explores the ongoing pursuit of liberty throughout the ages and across the globe. Olga is an American citizen now. But the very existence of her country of origin has come under threat since Russia’s latest unprovoked invasion of Ukraine 18 months ago triggered the greatest security challenge to the global world order since World War II.
“We are fighting for freedom” in Ukraine, she said. “It is very important for the people all over the world and in this country to understand that this is a threat not only to Ukraine. Because some people might think it’s far away and doesn’t concern us. But it concerns everyone. Especially now that nuclear weapons are threatening the world.”
The dream of freedom – where it comes from, what it means, what free societies look like, and the role of the individual in protecting and spreading freedom around the world – is at the heart of the Freedom Matters special exhibit, on display through the end of the year at the Bush Museum.
The exhibit illustrates the quest for freedom both in the United States and around the world over the centuries with rare artifacts and interactive displays. They include a 14th century copy of the Magna Carta as well as rare versions of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, Bill of Rights, and Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibit also traces the work of freedom advocates and how their work has changed the lives of millions through newspapers chronicling women’s suffrage and rare books by thinkers from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Martin Luther King Jr.
The exhibit also uses personal perspectives to examine the concept of freedom, something that Olga and many other immigrants who left their home countries in search of better lives for themselves and their families in the United States already understand.
Olga was part of a group of immigrants studying in the adult literacy program at Rockwall County Library who visited the museum together. The other students come from countries including Venezuela, Mexico, Iraq, Colombia, Costa Rica, Philippines, and Moldova.
For them, the pursuit of freedom is part of their personal journey – not an abstract concept or part of history.
“Staying in the United States means love, happiness, and opportunities,” said Daniella, who immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica.
Tatiana, who recently immigrated to the United States from Colombia – a country emerging from decades of civil conflict to face a resurgence of narcoterrorism – connected the dots:
Living in America equates to “freedom and new opportunities” for herself, her son, and her family, she said.