Victims of Communism Memorial Groundbreaking
Remarks at Groundbreaking of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
September 27, 2006
As we gather today to break ground for this memorial, we owe thanks to those who made it possible. Dr. Lee Edwards, the Chairman of the Memorial Foundation, along with the Foundation's national and international members, gave generously of their time and effort in leading this project, and we thank them. I am proud to recognize the significant contribution made by my father, Ambassador Lev Dobriansky, who preceded Lee as chairman. Members of Congress of both parties, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Lee Hamilton, and the late Congressman Jerry Solomon, played a crucial role in enabling and supporting the Foundation's work.
Our breaking of this ground in many ways signifies the end of the Cold War. This project has been guided by men and women for whom the Cold War was a central reality for most of their lives. The memorial built here will stand after we no longer do. It will educate future generations about the misery caused by communism, the massive resistance efforts, and the fortitude of those who were victimized by it and who ultimately overcame it.
Communism corroded the human experience of the 20th century. The sheer number of victims staggers and chastens us. Over a hundred million people died as a direct, and often intended, consequence of decisions made by Communist rulers. The innocent lost their lives in Katyn Forest; in the frozen gulag; on the streets of Budapest; in the fields of Cambodia. Those who did not die at the hands of Communist rulers suffered terribly under totalitarian regimes. They could not speak their minds; they could not travel freely; they could not realize their inherent potential; they had no say in the direction of their nation.
One of this country's great presidents, Ronald Reagan, stated frequently that communism is contrary to human nature. All people everywhere want to express their ideas, to worship as they see fit, to work at a trade or profession of their choosing, to own private property, above all to shape the future of their lives and that of their country.
The fall of communism in nation after nation at the end of the 20th century was a victory of the human spirit, a vivid demonstration that it burns with a vital fire even under conditions designed to smother it. It is right and necessary that we remember and pay tribute to those who suffered under, persevered, and eventually triumphed over tyranny and brutality. The memorial that will rise on this ground, the Goddess of Democracy, is a universal symbol of freedom, representing in majestic form the rights and aspirations of all women and men. Students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 erected this figure. It reminds us that many still live under communism -- including close by, in our own hemisphere.
It is the right of every woman and man to live in freedom, and it is the duty of all who enjoy liberty to stand by those who seek to attain it. Here today are representatives of countries that threw off the yoke of tyranny after decades of oppression. We gather to mourn and memorialize the victims of communism. Let us also honor them by rededicating ourselves to the furtherance of our democratic ideals.
Released on September 28, 2006