National Endowment for Democracy 2008 Democracy AwardsPaula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
345 Cannon House Office Building
June 17, 2008
Thank you, Congressmen, Carl (Gershman), and Vin (Weber), for those kind words, and for your service on the NED board. Having served by your side, I can attest to the enormous commitment of time and energy that every member of NED’s board and staff gives to advancing liberty.
Today we are here to honor both those who cannot be with us as well as those who have risked much to do so. We are here to commit ourselves to supporting their goal of full democratic freedoms in China.
We honor Zhang Jianhong’s defense of freedom of expression – a call we support through the State Department’s Global Internet Freedom Task Force, which I co-chair. The Internet is an invaluable forum for legitimate debate in closed societies, and it is the responsibility of all free nations to protect unfettered access to information and ideas.
We honor Yao Fuxin and Hu Shigen for their commitment to worker’s rights; Li Heping and Li Baiguang for their leadership on religious freedom; and Chen Guangcheng and Teng Biao for their dedication to human rights and the rule of law – all essential elements of a vibrant democracy.
Each of these brave men has made significant personal sacrifices on behalf of millions of others in the quest to expand freedom in one of the most important countries today.
They give us faith that the hope necessary to continue on with this difficult work cannot be extinguished, and that there exists in the hearts of these four souls the courage of thousands, indeed millions, more.
The memory of one person who cannot be with us today remains close to my own heart, as I have little doubt it does to everyone in this room.
I can think of no more fitting recipient of the Democracy Service Medal than the late Tom Lantos, a giant in the the defense of human rights, whose absence long be felt. Having been a direct witness to the darkest evil of totalitarianism, his commitment to tolerance and freedom was forged in profound moral terms that few will be able to equal. His legacy sets a standard for which we can be grateful.
As an original co-sponsor of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, Representative Lantos was a driving force behind the State Department’s report on ‘Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism,’ released earlier this year – a report we were proud to dedicate to his memory.
In that dedication, we wrote that Tom Lantos “attested with uncommon eloquence to a truth based on an unspeakable experience: (that) promoting tolerance is essential to building a world of freedom and peace.”
Leaders of conscience from around the world join us in honoring Tom Lantos, and I thank the NED for recognizing his monumental contributions to those goals of freedom and peace to which we continue to commit ourselves each and every day.
Released on June 19, 2008