NOTE: Remarks by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez added to the end of this post.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial, located a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A ceremony this morning, presided over by Heritage’s Lee Edwards, commemorated the more than 100 million victims of communism.
During his remarks, Edwards outlined a new goal: creating an online Global Museum on Communism, which will launch in 2009. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of communism’s collapse.
Here is Edwards’ prepared text:
Mr. Chairman, Secretary Gutierrez, Mr. Majority Leader, members of the diplomatic corps, honored guest, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, ladies and gentlemen:
We are here at this Memorial and on this first anniversary because we all believe, regardless of our political party, that man possesses an innate desire to be free and because we believe that anything or anyone that denies that basic human right must be opposed.
You and I know there has been no greater threat to freedom in our lifetime than communism. But many people do not.
And so our foundation has undertaken to educate this generation and future generations about the history, philosophy, and legacy of communism.
Our first step was to build the world’s first memorial to all the victims of communism—more than 100 million of them. When we dedicated the Memorial one year ago, President Bush, Tom Lantos, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher were our principal speakers, and their inspiring remarks were carried around the world.
Tom Lantos was a master of words. Here is how he summed up his life in a single paragraph:
“It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”
Just so we will never be able to express properly our deep gratitude to Tom Lantos for his advice and counsel and support of our work.
If Tom were still with us, we would ask him to contribute to the second step in our educational program—the Global Museum on Communism—the first museum on the Internet that will tell the whole story of communism from Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” to the continuing suppression of Tibet by Communist China. A preview of the Museum will be shown at the reception following this ceremony.
We will launch the Global Museum on Communism on the Internet early in 2009, to mark the 20th anniversary of one of the most significant years in history, 1989, when communism collapsed in Eastern and Central Europe and the Soviet empire began to implode.
I can report, based upon my recent visit to Budapest and Prague, that the nations of Visegrad Four—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—are planning a series of major events commemorating the Year of Miracles, and our Foundation intends to encourage U.S. participation in every way possible.
The third step in our educational program will be to build in Washington, D. C., a bricks and mortar museum and library on communism, modeled after the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters understand what is at stake. They understand that history must not be forgotten lest it be repeated.
We cannot, we must not, we will not fail in our mission.
We will tell the truth about communism at ceremonies like this, on the Internet, in museums and libraries in America and around the world so that never again will nations and peoples allow so evil a tyranny to terrorize the world.
UPDATE — June 16, 4:43 p.m.: The following remarks were delivered by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez at the anniversary celebration
It’s an honor to be here with Congresswoman Eshoo and other friends and members of Congress, and it is a great personal privilege to be here for the first anniversary of the Victims of Communism memorial. I think it’s very appropriate that we are honoring today Congressmen Lantos. He had a passion for freedom and a commitment to liberty that was forged through his personal experience with oppression and with tyranny.
Many great men and women have lived under tyranny. Many have fought back, stood for what is right and have made the cause of freedom and human dignity their own. Tom Lantos was one of those people.
It is his struggle and the struggle of millions who did not make it through that we honor today.
You know it is said that the greatest triumph of our generation is the fall of the Berlin Wall, defeating communism and ushering in a new era of freedom.
Our world has changed remarkably. From a time when Ronald Reagan called communism “a sad bizarre chapter in human history” and predicted that Marxism-Leninism would be left on “the ash heap of history.”
We’ve made great strides toward freedom, but the light of liberty still does not shine in every corner of the earth.
My native country, Cuba, remains one of the last vestiges of the Cold War: a forgotten island where communism’s iron grip has not loosened in over 50 years.
The communist dictatorship in Cuba deserves a place among the world’s most brutal, oppressive regimes.
I cannot help but think of the Cuban political prisoners who have died in inhuman conditions in Cuban jails. I can’t help but mourn the number of Cubans who have been executed for simply seeing through the hypocrisy and the false promises of communism.
And not all of the victims of Cuban communism come from firing squads and prisons.
Like in East Berlin, when people risked their lives to jump the wall to freedom, thousands have perished in the Florida Straits in rafts and inter-tubes and overcrowded homemade vessels.
As President Bush said in his 2nd Inaugural Address, the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty we will stand with you.
America has stood proudly on the side of freedom around the world.
We have opposed totalitarianism in Europe, and now freedom’s light shines in bright place like the Czech Republic like Poland and like Hungary.
We stood against tyranny in the Middle East freeing millions from Saddam Hussein’s cruel dictatorship and millions more from Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban, and we will continue to stand against the atrocities in Burma, in Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and in North Korea, until the killing stops and the people have the freedom and the dignity they deserve.
We will not ignore oppression or excuse oppressors.
Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Cuba and those political prisoners who are shackled in jail cells because they dare speak out in favor of freedom, in favor of liberty, and in favor of democracy.
While many are outraged at the plight of the oppressed around the world, some have forgotten the plight of those 90 miles from our shores.
The US is and has always been a friend of the Cuba people. The American people are the largest providers of Cuba’s food and medicine. US remittances are the largest source of direct support to the Cuban people, and we will support real change in Cuba by continuing to stand with the Cuban people.
President Bush recently said, and I think about this often, Cuba’s regime no doubt has other horrors still unknown to the rest of the world, and when revealed they will shock the conscience of humanity and will the shame the regimes defenders and all those democracies that remain silent. As Armando Vallidares said, it will be a time when mankind will feel the revulsion when the crimes of Stalin were brought to light. That time is coming soon.