Freedom’s Challenge Editor’s Introduction

A special abridged edition of Freedom’s Challenge is being released in conjunction with an important new initiative, the Atlantic Council Freedom Awards, which salute, acknowledge and honor women, men, organizations and peoples who nurture, defend and advance the cause of freedom around the globe.

We are delighted that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chosen this event to provide her own view of freedom’s future in a 21st-century global context. You’ll also find in these pages insights from some of the finest security thinkers of our times, including former Atlantic Council Chairman James L. Jones, current Chairman Senator Chuck Hagel and our International Advisory Board Chair Brent Scowcroft. 

We decided there was no better place to introduce our Freedom Awards than in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate in a reunited Berlin, 20 years after the fall of the Wall and in the 60th year of NATO. 

For it was this Alliance which helped contain threats to European liberty and ultimately created the conditions in which 200 million Europeans gained the freedoms that had been deprived them, leading to Germany being reunited as a free and democratic country that is respected around the world.  

And during the Cold War, it was the Berlin Wall that symbolized for the entire world the tyranny which collapsed with that structure in 1989, brought down not only by the Communist system’s corrosion but more importantly by the bravery and fortitude of groups across Eastern Europe who were rallied by irrepressible ideas and courageous individuals.

This book, introduced by President Obama, richly recounts long periods of fear and desperation when strategists on both sides were contemplating the real prospect of a catastrophic nuclear conflict. But ultimately it is a story of the triumph of hope over despair and freedom over oppression. It is a story replete with heroes – individuals and peoples – who we honor tonight. 

We salute the award winners and what they represent, recalling not only what ended the Cold War, but also reminding us what sort of character it will take to preserve and expand freedom and democracy into the future.

Fred Kempe is president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.

Editors’ note: Over the next two weeks, we will be publishing select essays and interviews from Freedom’s Challenge, an Atlantic Council publication commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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