This year at the 2011 Atlantic Council Freedom Awards, apresented awards to Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski, Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, journalists Adam Michnik and Helena Łucywo of Gazeta Wyborcza; Egyptian activist Esraa Abdel Fattah; Belarusian dissidents Ales Byalyatski, Natalia Kaliada, and Zhanna Litvina; and US Senator John McCain. We also presented a posthumous award to Ronald Asmus of the German Marshall Fund.

2011 Freedom Awards at the Wrocław Global Forum

Rafał Dutkiewicz,
Mayor of Wrocław, Poland

Lee Feinstein,
Ambassador of the United States to Poland

Robert Kupiecki,
Ambassador of Poland to the United States

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council

Madeleine Albright,
Former U.S. Secretary of State

Alexandr Vondra,
Minister of Defense,
The Czech Republic

Władysław Frasyniuk,
Former Solidarity Activist and Politician

Jan Krzysztof Bielecki,
Council of the Polish Institute of International Affairs

Janusz Onyskiewicz,
Former Solidarity Activist and Minister of Defense of Poland

Maciej Witucki,
Atlantic Council Board of Directors

Aleksander Kwaśniewski,
Former President,
Republic of Poland

Freedom Award Recipients:
Ronald D. Asmus (accepted by Barbara Wilkinson),
Executive Director,
The Transatlantic Center

Helena Łuczywo and Adam Michnik,
Gazeta Wyborcza

Radosław Sikorski,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Republic of Poland

Vladimir Filat,
Prime Minister,
The Republic of Moldova

Esraa Abdel Fattah,
Egyptian Political Activist and Blogger

Ales Byalyatski,
Human Rights Center Viasna

Natalia Kaliada,
Belarus Free Theater

Zhanna Litvina,
Belarusian Association of Journalists

Senator John McCain (R-AZ),
United States Senate

Wrocław, Poland
Friday, June 10, 2011

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

RAFAŁ DUTKIEWICZ: Let me extend a warm welcome to all the guests of the Freedom Awards gala. Ladies and gentlemen, we are born toward freedom. The only limitation of our right to be free is freedom and happiness of others – of our neighbors. Poland has become a free country, thanks to the peaceful revolution of Solidarity.

Wrocław is a city with a young identity. This identity was only formed in the ’80s and ’90s of the 20th century. It was formed during Solidarity’s peaceful struggle for freedom and during the first decade of free Poland. In Wrocław, we do understand that freedom is not granted but given as a task. To remain free and to build freedom, we need people who demonstrate how to preserve dignity, how to remain human.

Today, we have such people in this room. Today, we want to show our gratitude for keeping watch, for showing the way. Vladimir Filat, Radosław Sikorski, John McCain, Ales Byalyatski and Zhanna Litvina, Esraa Abdel Fattah, Helena Łuczywo and Adam Michnik – ladies and gentlemen, let us give applause for the honorees of the Freedom Awards. (Applause.) I would like to extend the special welcome to Mrs. Barbara Wilkinson, the wife of the late Ronald Dietrich Asmus. (Applause.)

And now I would like the honorary co-chair of this evening, His Excellency Mr. Lee Feinstein, ambassador of the United States of America, to take the floor. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR LEE FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, Mr. President. It’s a great privilege and a genuine pleasure to be back in Wrocław and a great honor, as well, to be joined by so many committed defenders of freedom: Prime Minister Filat, Foreign Minister Sikorski and Senator McCain – three men who need no introduction. Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Minister, Senator, thank you so much for honoring us with your presence here tonight. (Applause.)

I’d like to recognize and congratulate Fred Kempe, Fran Burwell and the entire Atlantic Council team. It takes tremendous patience and talent and persistence to organize a major event, no less from across the ocean. And as always, you’ve done a magnificent job. Congratulations. (Applause.)

It’s hard to believe it’s a full academic year since we last gathered here for the first Wrocław Global Forum and the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Awards, and it’s been quite a year. Mayor Dutkiewicz won reelection by a landslide, a tribute to his laudable stewardship of this impressive city. Thank you, Mr. President, for everything you’ve done, and congratulations. (Applause.)

President Obama just concluded an enormously successful visit to Poland and, as President Komorowski said – and the president was here in Wrocław today – the visit opened a new chapter in Polish-U.S. relations and laid the foundation for productive cooperation for years to come. The president’s trip underscored the importance of the close partnership between the United States and Europe and the essential roles of the counties of Central Europe and Poland in particular.

It’s been a year of hope. Nine months ago, few would have predicted that a small group of committed young activists in North Africa and the Middle East would use the Internet to launch the next wave of democratic revolutions. And we are very honored to have one of them, Esraa Abdel Fattah, with us tonight. (Applause.)

Alas, also, it’s been a year of disappointment. Even as we have celebrated the progress of the Arab spring, we have witnessed the brutality of Lukashenko of the Belarusian people. It may be small comfort, but it is nonetheless significant that the United States and the European Union speak with one voice in condemning the cruelty of Europe’s last dictatorship, and in showing solidarity with the Belarusian opposition leaders and civil society. And it is fitting that tonight, we also honor Belarusian activists who bravely confront forces of oppression and corruption in Belarus. (Applause.)

And tonight, we also honor a dear friend and visionary, someone who worked tirelessly to bring the trans-Atlantic community closer together. Ron Asmus was an early and ardent advocate for NATO enlargement. Ron understood that the project of building a Europe whole and free would not be possible without an alliance of democracies, an alliance committed to one another’s security and committed to one another’s ideals. Most of all, Ron was a champion of solidarity between Poland and the United States. We’re very honored that Barbara is with us here today to receive a Freedom Award for Ron. Barbara, thank you for coming. (Applause.)

And we’re honored tonight by the presence of Adam Michnik and Helena Łuczywo, two courageous intellectuals who used the power of words to help rewrite the course of history. Over the course of four decades, they worked tirelessly to build coalitions to advance the cause of freedom. Adam was the cofounder of KOR, set up to support workers who had lost their jobs after participating in illegal strikes in the 1970s, and Helena helped to establish an underground newspaper, which strengthened ties between intellectuals and the working class. The alliance of workers, intellectuals and the clergy that they helped to build was the foundation for Solidarność, a movement they actively supported, including after the Round Table Talks, when they founded Poland’s only uncensored newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. (Applause.)

The men and women we honor here tonight have a great deal in common. They have all made tremendous sacrifice to advance human rights and democracy, universal values and principles that bind the trans-Atlantic community together. It’s my great pleasure to serve as co-host for this evening’s Atlantic Council Freedom Awards, as we pay tribute and express our deep gratitude to tonight’s honorees for their courage, for their vision and for their steadfast commitment to the cause of freedom. (In Polish. Applause.)

FREDERICK KEMPE: Hello. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. Please do start eating. There are so many – there are so many awards – please. (Laughter.) The reason they put me in this program is, you have someone to eat over. (Laughter.) We have so many people to honor tonight. And I know this is unusual, according to the protocol here in Poland, but you really do have to eat and we really do have to serve over this.

I would only really ask you, as the more important moments of the evening pass, please be very, very silent with your utensils and with your dinner conversation. There will be a break at the half point of this evening where you can talk and engage with your table partners. And then afterward, when we break at the end of the evening and all the awardees come up to the stage to gain your applause, you’ll be able to go outside to the terrace, guided by our staff, to see an incredible fountain show. And again, you’ll be able to engage with people there.

Mayor Dutkiewicz has just given us the theme for the evening. He said, freedom is not given; it’s granted as a task. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen – the biggest geographic, geopolitical set of events since 1989: That is our context for tonight. We started these awards three years ago because we wanted again to make democracy promotion and freedom a centrist, bipartisan pursuit in the United States and, again, a trans-Atlantic pursuit where the U.S. and Europe would work together on these issues. Now we actually have a whole new area of relevance because of an entire region that’s in ferment, and it has ripples throughout the world.

We are not nostalgically looking back to recognize democracy heroes of the past, though we will also do that. More importantly, we are boldly looking forward. How do we apply the lessons of the past to today’s Mid East upheavals so that the Arab awakening – the Arab spring – does not become a winter of discontent and that it gains the solidarity and the support it is owed? What do the Gdańsk shipyards have to do with Tahrir Square? What does Lech Wałęsa have to do with the fruit vendor in Tunisia, with the young activists in Egypt?

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Atlantic Council, to welcome you to these third annual Freedom Awards. This the second year that we host them in Wrocław in conjunction with the annual Wrocław Global Forum. And we’re delighted to collaborate again with the city of Wrocław and in particular with Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz. Mayor, thank you so much to you and your team for helping us make this event and forum a success. If you ever want to run an election campaign in the United States, we’re with you. (Laughter. Applause.)

U.S. ambassadors can also skate through an assignment or look for ways to make a difference. And I want to thank the U.S. embassy in Poland and Ambassador Lee Feinstein because he’s a person who looks for ways to make a difference. And thank you for your co-chairmanship of this dinner. (Applause.)

I would also like to thank the Polish foreign ministry and the foreign minister – and we’ll get back to him in a moment – as well as our think tank partners in Poland: the Polish Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Relations and the Institute for Public Affairs. I particularly want to thank my friend – my dear friend and our Atlantic Council board member in Poland, Maciej Witucki, for his vision and commitment, which has been instrumental for this Wrocław initiative. Thank you, Maceij. (Applause.)

The Arab awakening has vindicated our belief in the universality of democratic values, that people around the world are yearning for the same freedoms that we hold dear: responsive government, respect for human dignity and rule of law.

That said, Foreign Minister Sikorski, speaking at our Bronisław Geremek lecture in D.C. recently, where we are honoring a former friend – a longtime friend of mine, tragically died too early, who taught me more about democracy and freedom than anyone I know. But at this lecture, he warned us that the Arab street doesn’t regard America as highly as did Poland’s Solidarity, perhaps limiting U.S. credibility. He spoke about the posters on the walls during the Solidarity era of Gary Cooper in the movie “High Noon.” The suggestion was that it was high noon for the Communist Party. The point was that the Mid East didn’t have a Gary Cooper.

Senator McCain, however, one of our awardees, also one of the Geremek lecture lecturers, suggested that perhaps the new Gary Cooper was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. The young of the Middle East are linked to their Western counterparts through the Internet. Facebook and the access to a world of information holds more sway over the average Middle Eastern teenager than does al-Qaida.

This evening’s honorees remind us of the Atlantic Community’s common responsibility to lend support and encouragement to those who yearn from freedom around the globe. The previous two speakers have listed the honorees tonight, so I will not repeat them and give my own reasons for why they are being honored.

However, I will mention, again, Egyptian blogger Esraa Abdel Fattah, who is accepting her award on behalf of Egypt’s young generation. This brave young woman was among the first to use Facebook to mobilize social protest in Europe. But it isn’t just the simplicity of Facebook. I think that – I think that Radek Sikorski really gave us some insight that’s it’s about Al Jazeera; it’s about Al Arabiya; it’s about all the ways we’re moving things today that governments are just catching up with. Radek, when he was asked, you know, was this Tehran 1979 or was this Berlin 1989, he actually said, very wisely, that perhaps it was 1980. And he called this the beginning of a long march.

I said at the opening reception that I used to say, I like to quote John F. Kennedy, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” and then I like to say, well, if you’re saying “Ich bin ein Berliner” in the modern day, you have to say, “Jestem Polakiem,” because that is what it means to be – (applause) – that is what it means to be in favor of freedom today. And I wear proudly an acknowledgment that this great country gave to me. But then, Esraa Abdel Fattah came up to me and says – said, no, at this dinner tonight, at this awards dinner tonight, you actually have to say – you have to say, “Ana Masri,” which means “I am an Egyptian.” (Applause.)

And, of course, we hope to say, at some point, I am a Belarusian. Tonight we will honor the Belarus Free Theater, the Human Rights Center Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, who will receive their awards on behalf of the people of Belarus for bravely pushing the boundaries of freedom of expression imposed by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. It is our hope that these brave Belarusian and tens of thousands more like them will someday usher their country alongside Moldova and Egypt into the free world. (Applause.)

The courage and conviction exemplified by our awardees tonight is truly inspiring, so let’s get started. It is fitting that tonight’s first award is our posthumous recognition of my dear, dear friend Ron Asmus. It will be introduced in a video by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She badly wanted to be here tonight; there was a commitment that was impossible for her to change. But there is no one who A, understands Ron’s commitments more and B, loves him more. It will then be personally presented by the Czech minister of defense and a democracy hero himself, Alexandr Vondra, who flew tonight from meetings that he couldn’t change on either end of this event because he wanted to be here to honor Ron. And I couldn’t be more delighted that my dear friend Barbara is here to accept on Ron’s behalf.

Ron was a friend of mine for 30 years. He was an inspiration to me so often. He was a pain in the butt for me very often as well, as he told me all the times I was wrong and right on issues. He was an architect of NATO enlargement, a man who truly did – truly did change the world during his lifetime, and a friend of so many in this audience.

When he first laid out his thoughts on NATO enlargement in the post-Cold War world with Steve Larrabee and Dick Kuglar at RAND, in The Wall Street Journal I compared – and I hesitated to do this, because I knew it would only further encourage his own self-confidence in the fact that he was going to change the world, which I think is a prerequisite to changing it –

But I compared this article’s intellectual brilliance to the famous George Kennan article in Foreign Affairs that introduced containment. I only noted that I thought it was very unlikely their ideas would ever be realized. And we have to think back. When this was going on, most people in the United States in positions of power were actually against NATO enlargement.

But it succeeded, in no small part because Ron’s intellectual brilliance was matched by an implementer’s tireless passion. He didn’t know how to be denied success. Hillary Clinton, a previous Freedom Award recipient in our first year of this award, said of Ron, “Ron will be missed for many things: the passion he brought to the world of diplomacy, his commitment to the ideals of freedom and democracy and for his wise counsel to decisionmakers in Europe and America. He was a statesman of the highest caliber, and his loss is felt the world over,” end quote Hillary Clinton.

Javier Solana, a Freedom recipient last year, said – and he sent this in an email to us in his regrets that he couldn’t attend tonight – said, I would like to join this homage to a good friend and a fighter of freedom in Europe. His efforts were not in vain. He brought new friends into the EU and NATO. Ron, we will not forget you.

There are far too many other messages that we’ve received to read. We will post them on our website. I ask you now to turn your eyes to the screen and Madeline Albright.

MADELINE ALBRIGHT (From video): I’m very pleased that the Atlantic Council will recognize our friend and colleague Ron Asmus with a posthumous Freedom Award for his extraordinary role in securing a Europe whole, free and at peace. I wish that I could be in Wrocław for this momentous occasion, but I’m honored to offer my remarks about Ron through this video message.

I first became acquainted with Ron without even knowing it. Throughout the 1980s, I was a devoted reader of Radio Free Europe reports. But at that time, I was not aware that Ron was the analyst responsible for so much of their brilliant reporting. It was only years later when Ron joined my team at the State Department that I connected the dots. As one might imagine, I was delighted to have him as a new colleague and confidant.

Once we were in the government, Ron joined me at the Lisbon Summit, where the alliance agreed to expand. And he with Strobe Talbott designed how expansion would happen. And Ron put in the time with the allies to see that the process would run smoothly.

And then in 1999, when Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined the alliance, the person I wanted there was Ron. It was a truly emotional day for me and Ron, when we traveled to Independence, Missouri, for the ceremonies making their entry official into NATO. And when he got to Independence, I hugged him and said, Ron, it doesn’t get any better than this. We’re making history. Hallelujah. Together, we brought to reality a dream that our fathers and forefathers would never have imagined possible.

In 2004, Ron helped accomplish another monumental task: the entry of most of the former communist bloc and Baltic countries into the alliance. And after leaving public service, Ron was not tired of fighting earnestly for those who hungered for democracy and freedom. Despite his illness, Ron always stayed just as engaged in supporting a provocative U.S. policy towards Central and Eastern Europe. And his commitment to the trans-Atlantic partnership and a Europe whole and free was not simply a professional calling, but a personal passion.

Last year, the secretary-general of NATO asked me to chair a group of experts on NATO’s strategic concept of the 21st century. And I asked Ron to join a group of the best minds on NATO. Like all the initiatives Ron put his mind to, it was provocative, trans-Atlantic and effective. And the work of the group built on the framework of the strategic concept that NATO adopted that is now being put to work in North Africa and elsewhere.

Around the same time last year, Ron and I shared a flight from Brussels to Washington. And he was going on to Texas for tests. As always, he was full of plans for how the alliance could get stronger and how it could be made ready to face instability in the southern flank. As so often, Ron was right. He would be so proud to see NATO stand up for human rights today in North Africa, as he was proud when it did the same in Europe in 1999. And I am so proud to have been his friend. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Bless you, Madeline Albright. You may have noticed her pin. It was an Article 5 pin, for insiders. I’m sure she wore it for us just to see how many noticed.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored to have with us tonight a very special guest and a great friend of Ron Asmus to present this award, Czech Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra. Despite his extremely busy schedule, Sasha wanted to come in person to pay tribute to Ron, to also bring along a Czech recognition for Ron. I am proud to call Sasha my friend. And I’m also so delighted to introduce him tonight and to welcome him to the stage. (Applause.)

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER ALEXANDR “SASHA” VONDRA: Well, good evening, everybody. First of all, I want to thank Fred, as well as Mayor Dutkiewicz, for selecting Wrocław for hosting the Freedom Award ceremony of the Atlantic Council. I think Wrocław is the right place to do so. We the Czechs have a special affiliation, because Wrocław was the real seat or real headquarter of the Czech-Polish solidarity in the late ‘80s, the underground movement which was building the bridge between Czech Charter 77 and Polish Solidarity.

And in fact, a similar event – although not done in such a champagne-style; rather, in the underground style – was organized in early November 1989 in support of those who were still political prisoner in my country. And I was among them. And this event was the real last nail in the coffin of the communism in my country, because the Velvet Revolution immediately flowed. So Wrocław, once again, thank you very much.

But – (applause) – today we are here to pay a tribute to the friend of many of us, to Ron Asmus, for his contribution to the trans-Atlantic relations and to the NATO transformation. His role in the NATO enlargement was, I would underline, irreplaceable. And his knowledge of Europe, and Central Europe in particular, was extraordinary and unique. I have met a lot of men and women in the last 20 years in diplomacy, in politics, as well as in academic sphere, but I have never met somebody who – like Ron who has combined in a unique way everything together – the academic knowledge and the depths, the diplomatic skills and the ability of the political networking. In this sense, Ron was really unique.

In fact, Europe circled in Ron’s blood. Born in Milwaukee, he was the grandson of the German immigrants and his grandmother was born in a Silesian village. And we were just trying to make research with Barbara, so it was (Lubań Śląskie ?), which is just between Wrocław and the Czech border. He perfectly understood the need for special security guarantees desired by the nations of Central Europe and the Baltic states. But his ideas and innovative approach to policy did not stop there. After the NATO enlargement in 2002, he focused his attention to the leaders of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. And when Russia attacked Tbilisi in 2008, he did not hesitate to criticize the West for not doing enough for Georgia.

I could go on and on like this forever. But the bottom line is clear. Ron was the four-star general of the trans-Atlantic bond and the NATO enlargement. And Ron, we all thank you very, very much. (Applause.) I am delighted that Ron’s wife Barbara joins us for this special occasion today to receive the award on Ron’s behalf. So Barbara, please join me in welcoming and please – (applause).

And now Ron has a special position here because he will receive two awards. And I hope Fred will forgive me for taking a minute to conclude some sadly unfinished business. When I became the defense minister last year, I awarded the Czech Golden Linden Medal to Ron for the role he played in bringing my country into NATO. Unfortunately, leukemia was faster and I never got the chance to present it to him in person. So, dear Barbara, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to present, in memoriam, this Czech Golden Linden Medal tonight. (Applause.)

And now, I think Fred, you should join us too. And I’m very honored to present the Atlantic Council Freedom Award to Ron. His contribution has brought freedom to many. And because of his legacy, it will come to many others in future. Barbara, it means so much to us that you could be here with us tonight. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

BARBARA WILKINSON: Distinguished guests, Sasha, Fred, dear friends, it is with great pride that I accept these awards on behalf of my husband, Ronald Asmus. He would have been supremely honored by your recognition of his life’s work and vision. His commitment to building a Europe whole and free was unwavering. I celebrate each of you who continue to pursue the course of freedom. May Ron’s legacy live on through you. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Atlantic Council events like this are not known only for bringing top-level honoraries (ph) who’ve accomplished extraordinary things in their respective fields, but also for distinguished introducers who, in fact, deserve the awards themselves. It is my pleasure to welcome to the stage Władysław Frasyniuk. As most of you know, Mr. Frasyniuk, a Wrocław native, was a very prominent activist in the Solidarity trade union, a member of the Sejm from 1991 to 2001.

Before I introduce him to introduce Helena Łuczywo and Adam Michnik, I do want to say one thing, Władek (ph). And that is, I knew a little bit – something about the Polish underground, but only because once in a while leaks would come out to me as a Wall Street Journal journalist that were well placed and who knows how they came to me. But after it was all over, there suddenly was this incredible newspaper called Gazeta Wyborcza. So whenever in the history of the world has the largest underground newspaper in history become one of the most successful commercial ventures in history?

I, as the newly minted managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, wanted to do a deal. And so I came out and met with Adam, met with Helena and we did a deal where they would regularly print a section from The Wall Street Journal and I would get to regularly visit Poland. And we had a press conference – and I told a bit of this story this morning, so forgive me, those who have already heard it – and Adam started the press conference by going on in the way Adam can and saying – noting all the things that he had been accused of during his time in prison, and including the fact that he had been accused of being in the pocket of Wall Street. And I, as the editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, had just done this deal with them. And he said, finally, that accusation has come true. So the great sense of humor that drives so many people who have to go through hardships is something that I’ve always respected in Adam.

But back to Władysław Frasyniuk. Arrested for his active role in Solidarność in the 1980s, he spent time in jail and was released under a general amnesty in 1986. In 1989, he was one of the opposition delegates to the Polish Round Table negotiations. Since we are celebrating democracy heroes tonight, we could not think of a more fitting person to introduce our next honorees, Adam Michnik and Helena Łuczywo, than you, sir. Please welcome me. (Applause.)

WŁADYSŁAW FRASYNIUK: (Through interpreter.) Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great honor to be able to say to Helena Łuczywo and Adam Michnik, thank you, thank you, thank you. Without you, we wouldn’t be free people. Without you, we wouldn’t have Solidarity. Ladies and gentlemen, Helena and Adam spent the majority of their adult lives to persuade others to dream about freedom. Without these dreams, we wouldn’t have Solidarity, we wouldn’t have – wouldn’t have leaders – worker leaders.

We owe them leaders who became real leaders for developments and changes in Poland. Without leadership, there is no freedom, no changes that took place in Poland. They learned to worker leaders sensibility to people, capability to listen, responsibility for words. They convinced these leaders to be – to hold the first democratic mandate in a dignified way, even when, instead of negotiators, soldiers would come.

Even if Adam Michnik in prison was wondering what he would receive for breakfast, Helena Łuczywo was not sure what would happen in an hour, Helena Łuczywo – she created foundations of underground Solidarity organizations. She made underground Solidarity operate immediately when Adam was arrested in the street. She created this very special newspaper, Mazofsha (ph) Gazette. It was an exceptional, most reliable source of information found in Poland, especially in this totalitarian, enslaved country.

Finally, they would persuade us, workers, leaders that a free person is free from hatred. They should sit and discuss, negotiate even with those who would close us in prisons before. They convinced us that in a free country, leaders think about future. They told it aloud; they uttered that democracy gives the second life also to those who failed before and were on the wrong side of the barricade.

Eventually, it was Adam and Helena – we could say they conceived this baby of a freedom, namely Gazeta Wyborcza. Wyborcza is paper who continually protects Polish democracy and safeguards this young democracy. And it protects weaker and poorer entities. It’s a gazette – a newspaper which is present everywhere worldwide, where who dream about freedom. In front of you, outstanding citizens of Europe, people whom we owe freedom in this part of Europe: Helena Łuczywo and Adam Michnik. (Applause. Music.)

HELENA ŁUCZYWO: Thank you, Władek (ph). Thank you, Fred. I just want to say that it’s wonderful that this is a freedom award. I’m quite moved by what Władek (ph) said because freedom – well, freedom is wonderful. Freedom is everything and helping win freedom for your country is, I think, the greatest joy one can have. Begin democracy: Well, this is tough and hard. Democracy is not full of joy. Caring for civil rights is also hard work. But all those countries that we’re thinking about now, whatever happens, I just wish them some freedom. Even moments of freedom are worth it. Thank you. (Applause.)

ADAM MICHNIK: Ladies and gentlemen, my English is terrible. (Laughter.) I prefer Polish language. Władek (ph) –

MS. : Władek (ph) –

MR. MICHNIK: Frasyniuk,

MS. : Frasyniuk,

MR. MICHNIK: (In Polish.)

MS. : My dear friend –

MR. MICHNIK: (In Polish.)

MS. : Is also –

MR. MICHNIK: (In Polish.)

MS. : My co-mate. We sat in prison at the same time and we were charged in the same court proceeding. There is, I think, symbolic in the fact that today, Władek (ph) here told about Helena and about me what you’ve just heard – things that you have just heard. This award is, of course, a very special award for me. It’s not the first award that I’ve ever received, however, but it is the first award that I received here, in Wrocław. I receive it from Władek (ph).

This award – it’s a Freedom Award. During the martial state, Wrocław was the city of freedom, to a large extent, thanks to Władek (ph). Today, this centenary hall – this beautifully renovated building, thanks to Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz, probably the most outstanding mayor and president of Polish cities today. Thanks to Hannah Chevinkola (ph), who put her entire passion and love to make this centenary hall what it is now and what it will be in the future: the pearl in the crown of Polish buildings of this kind.

Finally, for me, this is the special award because I receive it together with Helena, who is a person – a very special person. Thanks to her, Gazeta, mentioned by Władek (ph), was created – was founded. It became what it is now. For all of us, not only in Gazeta, it’s an institution of Polish democracy.

I want to tell here a few words about the absent people here. I want to say how much we – our country, our freedom owes to Russians who are not present here: such people like Andrei Sakharov. I would feel bad not having mentioned this name today. This is the award for Gazeta Wyborcza, for its journalists, for its editors and its pride, power which makes us keep repeating after Tadeusz Konwicki the words of an oath that never will direct our pen against our people. This is a newspaper which, again, I’ll quote Konwicki here, when it writes about Belarus, it thinks about good Russia – not Belorussia, but good Russia. It’s a wonderful nation that lives hardship today.

So, from this place, today, being aware that I’m being listened by most prominent people from the last 20 years in my country, I want to say about him. I want to say to my friends and brothers in Belarus, please remember – keep in mind that today, you are persecuted. But don’t forget that after every single – even the longest nights, there comes dawn, sunrise. So you – we together will go out to the sun of freedom. Stay well. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Adam, and thank you, Helena.

Adam, I’m very glad you mentioned Russia, because it certainly is our view that a Europe whole and free can never be accomplished without the full integration of Russia. The reset policy of the Obama administration – reset policy of Poland has opened up new opportunities, new chances, we’re moving in the right direction, and I hope that a Europe whole and free can completed with all members included.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the greatest challenges of the night for me, because our Freedom Award for Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski is not only intended to honor him for all his many accomplishments, a lifetime of intellectual and political commitment to freedom’s challenge, but we also are presenting this award on behalf of Poland, but not on behalf of Poland’s past, which we’ve celebrated a lot, but on behalf of its present contributions to freedom and democracy around the world and for its future possibilities from Belarus – as Lee Feinstein says, from Belarus to Benghazi.

From the early days of its transition, Poland has remained committed to ensuring that human rights and democracy would be pillars that sustained the successful transformation of Central and Eastern Europe after the Cold War. It has helped make democracy assistance and promotion an existential theme of the European Union. Indeed, I would question whether it would be so much of the center of EU thoughts and talks were it not for Poland.

Minister Sikorski, last year you put democracy back on the global agenda with the high-level democracy meeting in Krakow, where you gathered 114 countries, including 87 official government delegations. You stood in defense of democracy activists worldwide and rallied foreign ministers to join you in this act.

We at the Atlantic Council played our small role, launching the Young Diplomats for Democracy and highlighting the role of youth months before the younger generation played such a key role in the Arab Awakening,

As Poland’s post-Communist transformation flourished, so too did its strong civil society, as more NGOs opened in Poland committed to sharing the lessons of solidarity with its neighbors through cross-border programs in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and further afield, in countries such as Cuba and Burma. Poland went from being one of the largest recipients of democracy assistance from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy to becoming one of those – one of these institution’s strongest partners for implementing democracy assistance programs in other countries. I dare say that we’re now learning from Poland what democracy assistance is about in the United States.

The Atlantic Council has been honored to work with one such organization, the European Institute for Democracy. Another such initiative was the creation of the Polish Committee for Solidarity with Cuba, launched with one of our previous freedom awardees, Solidarity hero President Lech Wałęsa, and which also includes two of our guests with us here tonight, President Kwasniewski, another freedom awardee and Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member, and Dr. Janusz Onyszkiewicz.

Poland’s courageous leadership on Cuba policy has been critical in raising awareness in Europe about the Cuban regime and is human rights record.

This year Poland celebrated another great achievement in global democracy efforts, the legal establishment of a Warsaw-based secretariat for the intergovernmental Community of Democracies. We’re proud to say again that an Atlantic Council alumni – alumnus – Michał Safianik is working with Professor Bronisław Misztal to lead efforts of the newly established secretariat. Just last week, the Community of Democracies and U.S. State Department led a mission to Burma, which Senator McCain participated in, to urge greater democratic change in that country.

Next week, Foreign Minister Sikorski will be in Tunisia and Egypt carrying this work forward. With Poland as EU president, Mr. Minister, you will be instrumental in mapping the European Union response to the Arab Awakening, which I dare say may be as crucial as the response was in 1989 from the West to what was happening across the former Soviet bloc.

During your tenure as foreign minister, we have seen Poland take up more strongly the cause of its Eastern neighbors, pushing for a more proactive European policy for the East. Poland’s launch of the Eastern Partnership Initiative has played a critical role in anchoring pro-European reforms in countries such as Moldova. Poland’s efforts to promote democracy in Belarus, and to encourage others in Europe to do so as well have been courageous and, we hope game changing.

We honor you tonight personally, Radek, but we also honor Poland as a country, for helping to advance the cause of a Europe whole, free and at peace, and realizing this challenge has now stretched way beyond Europe’s borders. For all of that, Minister Sikorski, dear Radek, it is a distinct pleasure to present you with a much-deserved 2011 Atlantic Council Freedom Award honoring you and the Polish people. (Applause.)

MINISTER RADOSŁAW SIKORSKI: President Kwasniewski, President Dutkiewicz, ladies and gentlemen: Apparently when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and he was cheered, the donkey thought that the cheering was for him. I promise you I will not forget that this award is accepted by me on behalf of the Polish people. (Applause.) It means a lot to us.

The son of this land, the blessed Pope John Paul the Great, said that freedom cannot be had; it must constantly be won. How true and how prophetic. While many of us in Europe and in the West take freedom for granted, others risk or sacrifice their lives for it: Neda Agha-Soltan, a young aspiring musician, shot point blank by a regime thug on the streets of Tehran; Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist of Gazeta Wyborcza, a prisoner of conscience in Belarus; Hamza Ali al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy, tortured to death in Syria.

Today we honor some of these heroes of the struggle for freedom: the representatives of the Belarus Free Theater, the Human Rights Center Viasna, and the Belarus (ph) Association of Journalists. They are an eyesore for Alexander Lukashenko, for they remind him that all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights – among those, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed.

We have with us – it’s already been mentioned – the Egyptian blogger Esraa Abdel Fattah. She is the face of Egyptian youth who used technology to organize together so that they could go out on the streets and topple a despot.

I salute all of you. Mindful of Poland’s painful history, we Poles cherish freedom daily. In early 19th century, the Poles’ rallying cry was “for your freedom and ours.” A hundred and fifty years later, the struggle continued; this time, the calling was Solidarity. And we’ve honored some of the heroes of that time.

The Poles were lucky to have friends who helped us regain freedom and democracy – brave Americans like Senator John McCain, who is with us tonight, or indeed, the late Ronald Asmus, who first dreamt of Poland and the rest of East-Central Europe in NATO at a time when everyone else thought it was a pipe dream.

I am personally grateful also to many friends in Great Britain. After the martial law was imposed in Poland, they gave me, an 18-year-old political exile, a temporary home. Now it’s time for Poland to give back.

Dictators delude themselves, thinking they can crush the craving for liberty. Time and again, history proves them wrong. Ideals and values can be stronger than the chains of tyranny. What fires people up is an intrinsic sense of dignity. We who are fortunate to enjoy freedom and democracy can and should help.

Senator McCain once wrote, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself.” He has lived true to this motto. So did Secretary Dean Acheson, one of the founders of the Atlantic Council and architect of the Marshall Plan and other policies that helped preserve peace in Europe.

We need the same vision, the same bold action to constantly win freedom. That’s why a few years ago, Carl Bildt and I proposed the Eastern Partnership, a program of cooperation to help entrench democracy in free markets in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. It works not only because EU member states and Brussels are on board; it works because there is no shortage of fine leaders in Eastern Europe, strong-willed reformers looking at their country and people beyond the electoral cycle.

Let me salute Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, who is one of those diligent reformers. (Applause.)

Thanks to the partnership, we are tearing down walls that separate the EU from its partners and neighbors in such areas as trade and mobility. As the Arab Spring began to unfold, I told my colleagues in the EU that we should set up a European endowment for democracy. I thought we needed a flexible tool to transfer Central Europe lessons learned in a democratic transition to support the fledgling civil society initiatives and other forms of democratic rejuvenation. This project, I hope, will be launched during the Polish presidency in the EU later this year.

Poland will supplement this – (applause) – with our own international solidarity fund. Here in Poland, we do not take freedom for granted. It is, as has been said earlier, in the DNA of all people. But perhaps in Poland, the experience of regaining it is so fresh. We feel it in our bones. And that is why I pledge to you that we shall not cease in promoting the freedom and democracy agenda. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Minister Sikorski, thank you for acknowledging Dean Acheson, one of the founders of the Atlantic Council, who of course is famously known for having been there at the creation. And we are certainly at a point where much more needs to be created.

I think anyone listening to you in the audience knows that you may well be one of the right men at the right time – the Eastern Partnership was visionary; the idea of a European foundation for democracy is visionary. It is time to create these sorts of things. So thank you so much for that.

I’m honored to welcome to this stage Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, a former prime minister of Poland and an advisor to the Solidarity trade union in the 1980s. Prime Minister Bielecki, aside from being a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal when I was there, served as the second democratic prime minister of Poland from January to December of 1990. It was the beginning of Poland’s road to the European Union, NATO, full freedom and democracy.

During his distinguished career, Prime Minister Bielecki also served as minister for European integration. And for a decade, he represented Poland at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He is now president of the economic council to the prime minister of Poland, and the chairman of the Council of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, one of our Wrocław global foreign partners. Please welcome Prime Minister Bielecki to the stage. (Applause.) This will be a special prime-minister-to-prime-minister introduction.

JAN KRZYSZTOF BIELECKI: Very good evening to you, ladies and gentlemen – (in foreign language) – Moldovan. I would like to say that I’m Moldovan; as Fred Kempe decided to be Egyptian, I would like to be Moldovan. And I hope that my Moldovan language is – (applause).

It’s really a great pleasure to present the Freedom Award to Vladimir Filat, the prime minister of Moldova. In this way, we want to pay tribute to his leadership in taking his country on the ambitious path towards democratic and economic maturity that is at the core of Western community of values.

My pleasure in presenting this award is greatly enhanced by the fact that Prime Minister Filat also happens to be a supporter and fan of the Scorpions, the rock band – (laughter). As you remember, many, many, many years ago it was the hit “The Winds of Change (ph)” which accompanied many of us. Today, looking unfortunately gray-haired, grandfathers like me – but in our peaceful struggle for freedom 20 years ago, “The Winds of Change (ph)” was a very moving music.

And Prime Minister Filat, being here with us, being with us here, bears testimony to the prophetic lyrics in that song which spoke of the children of tomorrow dreaming away in the winds of change. Prime Minister Filat is living that dream today. And with the wind still blowing strong in places such as North Africa, we can be sure that there will be others like him in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vladimir Filat deals with an enormous task of transforming a country that faces even more difficulties than we did 20 years ago. Like Poland, Moldova is reforming its politics and its economy simultaneously. But unlike us, he’s also dealing with an internal conflict and separatist movements. Our task was extremely difficult, and at that time, many doubted that we would succeed. But we did. So will you, Mr. Prime Minister, and good luck. (Applause.)


PRIME MINISTER VLAD FILAT: Well, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I have to confess I am honored to receive the Atlantic Council Freedom Award. It comes from a community of people I value personally very much. Their solidarity in the name of freedom comes at a price that so many of you have paid, in particular here in Poland. And I’m proud to share the same values as you, and to join you here tonight in Wrocław.

It’s the Moldovan people who deserve this award, in particular, our younger generation who took to the streets two years ago in order to force the regime to conduct fair and free elections. We were persecuted while being in opposition, but we have never run away, hiding. Instead, we took every opportunity to stand up and fight when fundamental rights were violated and freedoms restricted.

But it was the people who took the biggest risks and fight the hardest battle for democracy and for freedom. No power can keep them in darkness. I will leave the historians to assess the impact of democratic transformations. But as a politician, I see the freedom not just from a liberal perspective of sudden change in political life, but also from the popular perspective of ensuring individual rights, competition and prosperity.

So many revolutionaries have failed their peoples. I’m careful not to go down the same road. Any change of a non-democratic regime means nothing if we don’t continue our efforts to make the lives of all citizens better.

Receiving recognition from the Atlantic Council puts me in the company of people I have always admired. And I will strive to deserve it. Therefore, my dear friends, I receive this award with honor and pleasure, but also with a weight of responsibility for the fight of the country and people I represent.

I will only deserve fully this prize when Moldova passes the point of no return in its democratic development, when it joins in the European Union, when the trans-Atlantic values are firmly and fully incorporated into the very structure of our society.

I am confident you will continue to support Moldova on this way. And I am grateful for that as well as for the Atlantic Council Freedom Award.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Mr. Prime Minister, that’s a good point at which to close the first part of our evening. So many revolutionaries have failed their peoples, you said. Helena Łuczywo said, thank you for this Freedom Award; democracy is a lot harder. I think that’s a great message for all of us to think about as we go into a break. And then, we’re going to come back to Egypt, to Belarus and to Senator John McCain. Enjoy your dinners. (Applause.)


MR. KEMPE: Yet again – please take your seats; we’re going to get started. Yet again, I can say that I am welcoming to the stage another great Polish leader to make the introduction. Now, I must say, the reason that I got to know Janusz Onyszkiewicz in the first case is because I was one of those mercenary journalists who needed information, and he was the spokesman for Solidarity who had it. And he was – I think sometimes people underestimate how crucial that position was because so much of the information that would reach Poland came first through us as journalists, and then came back to Poland through Radio Free Europe and other channels.

(Sound of beeping) – you hear that beeping?

MR. : (Off mic.)

MR. KEMPE: OK. This is a man who was involved in Solidarity, as I noted, before becoming Polish minister of defense after the fall of communism. As I said, I have a particular relationship with him. And I think that this moment in history cannot be underestimated, the role that individuals played at these crucial moments.

I then played another role with Janusz – and I don’t know whether he wants to reveal how this all happened because I still don’t know entirely myself – but I received letters as a Wall Street Journal editor and reporter that he smuggled out of prison during Poland’s martial law, which were then published in The Wall Street Journal showing that the spirit of Solidarity was durable and could not be extinguished.

After the fall of communism, Janusz became a member of the Polish parliament before becoming one of the first civilian vice ministers. He then went to become minister of national defense of Poland, not one but two times, in the early 1990s, and then from 1997 to 2000.

It is thrilling for me as such a student of Poland to have so many heroes of a free, democratic Poland in one room. Ladies and gentlemen, Janusz Onyszkiewicz. (Applause.)

JANUSZ ONYSKIEWICZ: Well, the years ’70s, late ’70s and beginning of ’80s, was a very seminal period for democracy in Poland, and for democracy in Europe. These years were the years where Polish opposition got consolidated; Soldarity was born. But that was not the only contribution to the democracy as far as these years are concerned. The other contribution which at the beginning was underestimated was the birth of Esraa Abdel Fattah. (Chuckles, applause.)

As a young girl, she joined as a volunteer of liberal democratic party centered on human rights and the empowerment of women, party of young people, party which has the name – very telling – it was el-Ghad, which means “tomorrow.” And really, she – it was all the time committed to the issue of human rights. And she was as trained journalist committed to contact people. And that’s how she was a part of a group of people which helped to launch a Facebook group which soon got 74,000 registered members.

The beginning of the activity was to appeal to people to join the strikers protesting against the raise of prices and poor salaries. But that was not the only contribution. But nevertheless, this activity was very highly recognized by the authorities, and this was expressed in a – similar to any other case this way, very typical for autocratic systems – she was simply arrested. And she got a certain privilege to be the first Arab woman arrested for political reasons.

Hopefully, she was not kept all the time. And she could join the whole movement and help to build the whole movement of mass protest which then was seen on the famous square in Egypt. And she became known as a “Facebook girl,” and her face and her voice became the face and voice of the whole movement.

It is not only that she was very instrumental in bringing about these changes and in generating this movement in Egypt, but she is still very active in political life, instructing people how to cope with new opportunities and with new challenges. And because of that, in the year 2011, she was nominated as one of the most powerful Arab women, which is quite an achievement. I think that that’s probably enough – (applause) – to justify the award we are going to give her.

So Esraa, welcome. (Applause.)


ESRAA ABDEL FATTAH: Thank you all. It’s my honor to address this audience tonight full of individuals who embody the values of freedom, democracy and justice. I would like to thank the Atlantic Council and Mr. Kempe, its president, for inviting me to receive this distinguished Freedom Award on behalf of Egyptians.

Also, I wanted to thank – I try to say it in Polish – (speaks in Polish) – (applause) – (continues in English) – and thank also everyone participate to make this event very successful and so amazing.

I believe all Egyptian people deserve this great award, and especially the Egyptian people who sacrificed their life in the struggles for a free and democratic Egypt. This award means a lot to me. It means that Egypt and its people deserve freedom and democracy after the very long years of repression and restrictions of freedoms and dictatorship.

Yes, the Egyptian people, as usual, write their history. Yes, the Egyptian revolution should be taught in schools. And yes, most importantly, world leader will write to speak out in support of all Arab revolution.

Egyptians have suffered from severe injustice, court corruption and suppressions of freedom. But finally, they revoluted against all these bad values to move toward this dignity, freedom and democracy.

Egyptians struggled for years against this bad and unjust regime. And they used all the tools within reach in their struggles. When they found that all the tools for opposing the tyrant were totally controlled by the regime, they created their own tool using technology and the new media. They successed in using this tool to a very great and effective extent, creating their own revolution, striking down this regime, and drawing the entire world’s attention to Tahrir Square.

Egyptian youths were arrested, beaten, assaulted, tortured and killed – all that for Egypt. The Egyptian news was a torch of the Egyptian revolution. They started, called, motivated, struggled, and finally, all Egypt heard these voices, accepted the call and joined them in 25th January revolution.

Thank you, all Western-world leaders representative here for stopping, keeping away from what happened in the Arab world, and starting to be in effective touch with what happened there, as it is a greater chance now to listen and to understand our real values and the principle through our struggle.

Thank you all for nominating those of Egypt for this award. And thank you for recognizing the importance of their efforts. And let me at the end thank all Egyptian for all their efforts and struggles, which leads them to deserve this – (unintelligible) – award. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Count me as one of the cynics about corporate social responsibility. I always thought at The Wall Street Journal that corporate social responsibility was about creating jobs, creating growth so that there would be more jobs, creating products, creating future, creating technology. But on the other hand, I think it was a good thing to bring corporate social responsibility in the boardroom to remind leaders of companies that they actually do have a responsibility beyond their bottom line.

One of the people who understands that most passionately in the way that he leads his life is Maciej Witucki, the CEO of Polish Telecom. It’s my distinct pleasure to welcome him to the stage. He is a board member of the Atlantic Council, and he is one of our most capable and creative board member(s). He is also one of the most capable business leaders I know, constantly thinking of ways to do better to improve his business, to find stronger partners.

But he’s also the sort of business leader who understands as well his responsibilities to society more largely. And very often, it’s a personal commitment. One of the things he’s done is, he’s had a crucial role in launching the Wrocław Global Forum and helping us to make it this huge success in bringing all these people around who celebrate not just democracy and freedom past, but also find a way to push these ideals into the future.

So we all have to thank him for a lot of this, but also to thank him for setting a standard, I think, for business leaders who really have a responsibility to act way beyond their companies and for society. So Maciej, please join me on the stage to introduce our next honorees. (Applause.)

MACIEJ WITUCKI: Thank you, Fred, very much, first of all. Ladies and gentleman, the first message is, yes, you are allowed to go to dessert. And now, let me introduce our next nominees.

And where a businessman like me is asked to present the Freedom Award to the people who are living their lives, to change the history and to bring the democracy to one of the last authoritarian rule in Europe, I have then, as a businessman, no other choice than to outsource it to a poet.

And Mr. Czesław Miłosz once said, in historical moments where nothing depends on the man, everything, in fact, depends on the man. This transition from the dictatorship to the democracy depends on a number of varying elements, factors, like geopolitical, economic. And there are internal factors, processes or financial hardship.

By the end, there is the luck: a moment – a moment in which you can change the course of history. However, one thing is absolutely necessary to provoke the change. And that’s what Władysław Frasyniuk, Helena Łuczywo, Adam Michnik or Esraa Abdel Fattah have proven: It is the people who make changes; it is the people who help democracy to prevail.

Our awardees come from three different organizations which fight for the freedom of expression, be it in the media and the radio like Belarusian Association of Journalists, in the streets, like the Human Rights Center Viasna or on the stage, like the Belarusian Free Theater. Representatives of these organizations boldly defeated the Belarusian regime and the limitations it pose on living a normal life. We see it fit to honor them because of their broad base, grassroots presence through Belarus. They are but a handful of people from only three organizations. However, they are spreading the word and their voice is being heard and growing louder in the process, not only in Poland but around the world. The change is coming.

Getting back to Czesław Miłosz, the voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history. And we’re going to have in front of us passion people. This award is for a passion of change your lives and the lives of your fellow citizens. May you change history by this process. Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately, one – unfortunately, one of our honorees could not join us tonight. But we have a video message from her. Let me present your Natalia Kaliada from the Belarus Free Theater. Please have a look on the video. (Applause.)

NATALIA KALIADA: (On video.) It is the greatest privilege to receive the Atlantic Council award. But it’s huge responsibility for this theater to receive such, the award, on behalf of the people of Belarus. Six years ago, we gathered together to say whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, to whom we want, by means of votes. We wanted to talk of the issues that obedience keeps silent.

On December 18th, we performed our plays underground in Belarus. On December 19, all of us went together to a peaceful rally to say whatever we think to the last dictator of Europe. On December 20, just imagine: You pick up your phone; you try to call to your friend and nobody is answering. All my friends were in jail: Andrei Sannikau, Dima Bandarena (ph), Natalia Radzina, Irina Khalip, Alexander Atroshchankau. People with whom I worked: Nikolai Statkevich, Anatoly Lebedko. Many, many people, even those who we don’t know, very young people who went to protests against mass falsification of presidential elections.

We were lucky enough to leave the country. Our partners in New York – they help us to leave the country. And we started to – (inaudible) – greater abuse, amazing influence but no joy, knowing that people are still in Belarus, in jails. They are tortured, threatened, humiliated. The main question is why the world keeps silent on Belarus. For the last 17 years, there is dictatorship in Belarus. And it’s located in Europe. It’s just one hour flight from Warsaw. No gas, no oil – just people.

So this may be just a good time to think not about your political interest and business profits, but about people. Dictatorship: It’s not political problem, it’s moral problem. As our patron and greatest friend Tom Stoppard said to us when he came to Belarus underground and met many of those people who are today in jail. I want to tell you what said Nobel Prize winner, our patron and our friend, amazing British playwright who went to the protest all over the world. His name is Harold Pinter.

“A writer has to smash the mirror for it is on the other side of this mirror that the truth stares at us. It is by the enormous odds which exist unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our society is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is, in fact, mandatory. If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision, we have no hope what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.” We appeal to you: help us to free Belarus now. (Applause.)

MR. WITUCKI: Ladies and gentlemen, such messages have been coming from Poland when I was in high school 30 years ago. They’re coming today from Belarus. We in Poland – we are today members of NATO, European Community. We are enjoying to invite our American friends for dinner. Let’s hope that this change going to come for Belarusian friends very soon.

We are very honored to have with us tonight the representatives of Human Rights Center Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists. Please join me to welcoming those heroes on the stage. (Applause. Music.)

ZHANNA LITVINA: (In Belarusian. Applause.)

ALES BYALYATSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, I will speak in Belarusian because my English is not very well. (In Belarusian.)

TRANSLATOR: Thank you for the organizers – to the organizers for this prize. Our organization deserves this award. It has been 15 years since we were set up. The 15 years were exciting years, dramatic years of our life. But the last five months after the elections on the 19th of December, the time was particular – became particularly hard, quite unexpectedly, for the Belarusian authorities. And, quite unexpectedly for us, we had 40,000 people in a rally on the streets. Those people wanted to protest against the dictatorship and the sole leader who has been ruling for 16 years.

Belarus people wanted to fight for human rights. But the authorities could not stand it – could not bear this. And that’s why I am just highlighting the aspects of the unexpected. I think the authorities became quite nervous and upset. More than 700 people were arrested and detained. Later, more than 50 people were imprisoned for longer time, or stayed in – (inaudible) – for a longer time. And in those days, our task or objective was to support them with legal advice and counseling and to collect information, get information about them, support them as well.

It was very difficult and the Belarusian authorities responded quite fiercely. On the night of the 19th, the 20th of December, the police came over to our office. It was impossible to stop them. They took all the computers from our office. We brought old machines from home – the OBW (ph) gave us their old computers and we could continue our work. In January, KGB visited us. But we were prepared. We simply blocked the door and destroyed documents and then left the office from the second floor through a window. One of our lady friends – lady colleagues, she was celebrating her birthday and I think she was simply laughing at herself. She said she couldn’t expect she would be jumping out of a window from the second floor on her birthday.

We were threatened. The defenders of the human rights were called “the fifth column” by Lukashenko. But we set the objectives for ourselves to release prisoners – political prisoners. We would make every effort – legal, lawful effort – to make release. We also look forward for your support.

For the 17 years the total regime of Lukashenko has been ruling in Belorussia, sometimes, we just think how much we’ve lost over that period of time. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania: The countries that joined European Union became independent democracies. This was a time of lost opportunities for Belorussia. And back to – (inaudible) – who said that Belarus was the most Soviet country out of all the Soviet countries.

The 17 years was the time of a formation of a new society: a society focused on democracy, on human freedoms. And the authorities were doing everything not to make it happen. But due to our efforts, this generation is growing. I sincerely hope and I’m expecting the support, too, from our neighbors – those nations who know what the communist regime may mean because the stability of the political and economical relations in this area depends on the level of democracy and human rights in our country.

In the history, the 1,000-year history of Belorussia was always linked to Europe. Now we are out of context. And we have to do everything to order to join or rejoin the European nations. We can’t have – we can’t allow an authoritarian regime to rule in Belorussia. There is no place.

Our organization’s name is Viasna: springtime. Spring is the time when nature usually changes. And when we were setting up this organization, we had changes on our minds and we hope for the changes to happen. (Applause.)

MS. LITVINA: (Through translator.) Of course, my first words are thank you, thank you for me, for my colleagues today. This freedom award is a great honor. This award is especially significant in this period today because all the years of Lukashenko’s power – everything was so cruel – his repressions. But the last events – the last election campaign, as regard the scale of repressions, is far beyond any records.

Six of our colleagues were condemned based on criminal codes under pretenses of riots. Twenty of my colleagues were imprisoned. Eleven of them spent several days in a prison. Radio, television, TV – everything was closed down. And today, I think that that this award is also a recognition of professionalism and independence of Belorussian journalists because regardless of detentions and detention of hardware and investigations, my colleagues continued to work. They performed their professional duties.

And today, authority very consciously still is more and more strict about our activity. We’ve heard about Andrei Pachobut today, a journalist of Gazeta Wyborcza. In three days, his court hearing is about to take place. He is charged of discrediting the president and he is risking from two to four years of prison again. And now we are waiting for a court procedure, which may lead to imprisoning two of most popular independent newspapers: Narodnaja Volya and Nasha Niva.

And these processes – our courts’ processes – court cases, they are not against two particular titles or two particular people. Today, journalists in Belarus are charged – are not popular. Today, we wait very much for not censored information. Our nations (ph) are changing, and authorities find it more and more difficult to limit the social conscious and control the spirits of the nation. Therefore, this hunger for information makes them afraid because we would do everything to answer – to respond to this hunger of our nation.

And so I want to use this opportunity, also, to thank very sincerely to all of you representatives of organizations, politicians and all people present in this room for speaking out about our most basic demands about releasing the political prisoners, about cancelling the decisions that were already issued by courts, for possibility to exist by independent media, our property.

It’s hard for us to tackle all these by ourselves. But the awareness that we are not so left to ourselves, that we are together with all of you leaves a certain trust and believe that the future of Belarus will be a democratic one, that Belarus will join these processes to Europe.

And, at the end, I want to direct Adam Michnik directly. I have a huge respect to him as a professional, as a person. I want to share and tell him that I hope that soon, together, you and Andrei Pachobut will be able to meet and enjoy our presence. We’ll be happy for our friend because this amount of solidarity that was showed by your magazine; (you’d have 40 ?) Polish newspapers that outspoked (ph) and protested as regards the subject. Therefore, I believe it will not vanish without any trace. Therefore, this day will come for Belarus as well. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Zhanna Litvina from the Belarusian Association of Journalists and thank you, Ales Byalyatski from Viasna Human Rights Organization, for reminding us something that Radek Sikorski said earlier tonight. Minister Sikorski said, it’s time for Poland to give back. And I would say it’s probably time for us all to give back.

In some ways, hearing your stories in this luxurious surrounding seems wrong. But on the other hand, it seems right if we all walk away and do remember what Minister Sikorski said. Quote, “Dictators delude themselves, thinking they can crush the craving for liberty. Time and again, history proves them wrong. Ideals and values can be stronger than the chains of tyranny. What fires people up is an intrinsic sense of dignity. We who are fortunate to enjoy freedom and democracy can and should help.” So this dinner is not meant to be something that stops here. It’s something that is meant to go on.

Our final awardee – I want to quote Radek Sikorski again; Minister Sikorski again, where he quoted John McCain – Senator John McCain, saying, nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself. He has lived true to this motto.

Ladies and gentlemen, I met our introducer for Senator John McCain at the World Economic Forum in Davos shortly after he was elected president of Poland. He told me a funny story about how he learned about capitalism during a drive across the United States during capitalist times, when you could take a car and deliver it from one place to another at no cost and just drive across the United States.

He found an enormously cheap motel – I think, President Kwaśniewski, you said it was near Atlanta – and couldn’t believe his luck at having got such a price, until he heard planes flying all night overhead and he didn’t sleep a wink the entire night. His conclusion, he told me at the time, was, in capitalist countries, you get what you pay for. (Laughter. Applause.)

After telling me that story, he told me another improbable tale about how he was determined to bring Poland, during his time in office, both into NATO and the European Union. I published that story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, although I didn’t really believe it. But he did pull it off and history books will give him credit for that.

President Kwaśniewski serves on the international advisory board of the Atlantic Council and we’re lucky to have him. For his transformational leadership, we presented him with its Freedom Award – with our Freedom Award last year. Mr. President, we’re delighted and honored you are with us again tonight to present our final award of the night to Senator John McCain. The floor is yours. (Applause.)

ALEKSANDER KWAŚNIEWSKI: Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to congratulate our laureates, fantastic individuals with great achievements for democracy, freedom. And I would like to thank Fred for his introduction, good memory and nice jokes.

And maybe you know or not, but this year, Fred published his new book, which is about Berlin, 1961 – a very special time in the history of the city and in the history of Europe and Cold War. And I read this book and I’m very much impressed because, really, it’s fantastic literature – political literature with deep knowledge of this era, with passion, with great heroes because it was the time of President Kennedy, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev and famous German politicians like Adenauer, Willy Brandt or Walter Ulbricht. And today, I said all these compliments to Fred, morning, and he said, Aleksander, feel free to say all these things publicly. (Laughter. Applause.)

But I want to do and my good advice, because I’m in international advisory board of Atlantic Council, my advice to you is to go to bookstores and buy the bestseller of the year:
title, “Berlin in 1961,” author, Fred Kempe. (Applause.)

Distinguished guests, dear friends, really, it’s my great honor to be here tonight to introduce a very special American leader who obviously needs no introduction: United States Senator John McCain. (Applause.)


He is a – he is one of those rare leaders for whom – that’s a special exercise for Senator because I prepared a little bit longer speech and it’s necessary to wait to the end. But I want to say – please, sit for a second.

John McCain is one of those rare leaders for whom public service is an honor and with courage, conviction and integrity. As many of you know, John was a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years in Vietnam, where – these words were quoted today twice, but please allow me to repeat this very important sentence – he learned that nothing is more liberating than to fight for a cause that is not defined by your existence alone. And in his many decades of service since the Vietnam War, he has put these words into practice.

He understands that for the Atlantic community, to maintain world leadership, we must maintain our moral authority. He rejects the arguments of moral relativism, arguing that only some civilizations are fit for democracy while others are left to be ruled by autocracies. He’s a clear and consistent voice in defense of every people’s right to choose their political destiny. John always insisted on respect for the basic human rights, not only of our friends and the innocent, but even our enemies, even when those enemies condemn our ideals. There is hardly a better example than his engagement and yearlong dialogue with Hanoi.

John is a real political fighter, never afraid to speak his mind, even when his views are not popular. Speaking after the end of the Cold War, he denounced those who argued America should curtail its international commitments and leave the nations of Eastern Europe to defend themselves in the changed world without American support and solidarity – voices, he said, that want to define this country only by what we are against and not by what we are for.

In Poland’s struggle for freedom, we were lucky to have John on our side. Many of you recall that when Poland began its drive towards NATO membership, there were many skeptics in Washington and Europe. Success was anything but certain. In the U.S. Senate, ratification was necessary before NATO enlargement could take place, and the voices of doubt were many. Among our most dedicated advocates was John McCain, who understood what was at stake and the sacrifices made to achieve it. He knew that enlargement would redefine NATO’s mission after the Cold War and secure long-lasting peace on the European continent.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, as we now watch the astonishing events of the Arab spring, John McCain, to the surprise of no one, has become America’s most outspoken advocate for supporting democratic change wherever people have the courage to demand it. He believes freedom has no borders and every person’s human rights, no matter the land and circumstances of their birth, are as sacred as his own.

Therefore, he remains committed to the transformation of Eastern Europe too. John is very engaged in supporting democracy and freedom in Belarus, frequently meeting opposition leaders and observing the political developments in this country. He demonstrated the same concern for all those in Eastern Europe struggling to improve democracy and their way of life. John remains a champion of Euro-Atlantic integration, supporting an open-door policy for countries farther east who deserve, as every people deserve, to live free, secure and prosperous lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, today I’m more than honored to pay tribute to this courageous individual and outstanding American. We could hardly find at the Atlantic Council a more deserving statesman than John McCain to receive the Freedom Award, and hardly a better place to do it than Wrocław, an essential European city combining grand achievements, a tragic past and a prosperous future.

Thank you, John, for what you have done for us, for Poland and for all nations that yearn for freedom. Thank you for your friendship and solidarity during some of the most important moments of history for my country. And thank you for your faith to a cause greater than yourself, for which humanity will always owe you a debt of gratitude. It’s my honor and I would like to invite Fred to me to give you this Freedom Award. (Applause. Music.) Ladies and gentlemen, now I invite Senator John McCain. (Applause.)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. President for your generous and gracious introduction. To hear such warm and undeserved words of praise from a man I respect as much as you is a humbling honor indeed. Thank you, sir.

I also want to pay tribute to my fellow honorees here tonight for their contribution they have made for the success of freedom from here in Poland, to neighboring Belarus, to further away in Egypt. These champions of liberty are the defenders, supporters and authors of peaceful democratic revolutions, both those that have been successfully made and those, as in Belarus, that have yet to come but surely will.

It is a high privilege to share this special night with such inspiring men and women as these. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Atlantic Council for this honor and for convening this important conference. And I want to thank Fred Kempe and his colleagues for organizing this beautiful event. Can we thank Fred and all of his staff here for their great work? (Applause.)

The Atlantic Council has transformed itself into one of the leading voices in Euro-Atlantic and global policy issues, and I’m a constant beneficiary of its wisdom. Perhaps the clearest expression of that wisdom was the decision to present these awards and hold this global forum here in this beautiful – most beautiful and historic city of Wrocław. I want to thank the mayor, who I met with earlier – thank you, Mayor, for your leadership and all you’ve done and – (applause) – congratulations on your – or condolences – on your recent reelection. (Laughter.) And thank our fellow citizens for their warm hospitality.

This amazing city has witnessed and absorbed the full spectrum of Europe’s triumphs and tragedies over many millennia and it has emerged today as an independent center of culture and commerce at the heart of Europe. And that is the nature of this great country. One of the deepest pleasures of my professional life has been watching the progress of the Polish people from noble resistance to national liberation to democratic triumph. In just one generation, Poland has transformed itself from a captive state of an evil empire to a democratic driver of continental unity, from an object of struggle for a Europe whole, free and at peace to an architect of that dream’s expansion on behalf of others.

From the fight to get Poland its rightful place in the NATO alliance to the ongoing struggle for its long-overdue inclusion in the U.S. waiver program, I have always been and will always be a proud champion of Poland and its people. I will never tire in that quest. Poland embodies the very idea that animates our broader trans-Atlantic community: the idea that Euro-Atlantic democracies, the stewards of Enlightenment principles, need not and should not tackle our challenges in isolation, the idea, in short, that our individual struggles for liberty are really a shared endeavor imbued with greater meaning. There’s a word for this: solidarity. And it unites freedom loving people always and everywhere in the peaceful struggle for justice.

Today, that struggle is unfolding in places like Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus and, most vividly of all, across the Middle East and North Africa. The question for us now is the same as it was when Lech Wałęsa climbed that fence at Gdańsk. What side of history will we, the great democracies, be on?

There’s always the temptation to see in the dreams of others for democracy all of the particular reasons why their struggles are different from ours, to concentrate on the many features of culture or history or religion that sets us apart from these people’s aspirations. But if I leave you with only one thought tonight, my friends, let it be this. It is our obligation as free peoples to look beyond these divisions, to disregard all of the arguments that counsel passivity in the fight for human dignity and to reaffirm that core idea that still unites us all and summons us all to still noble endeavors: solidarity – solidarity with the universal longings of the human soul for basic rights and equality, for liberty under the law, for tolerance and opportunity.

Like the workers of Gdańsk or the youth of East Berlin, young people across the Middle East and North Africa and many other places too are peacefully demonstrating to change the character of their countries, demonstrations that are defined not by violent extremism but by peaceful dissent, not by hateful ideology of violence, but by the indivisible longing for human rights and democracy. And as such, they’re expanding limitations of what many once thought possible in these societies. They’re forging a new reality in the region where power and freedom align. And this would be the profoundest repudiation imaginable to the last awful remnants of totalitarianism in our world: the ideology of al-Qaida and its terrorist allies.

This is the same spirit that launched Solidarity and tore down the Berlin Wall and pulled back the Iron Curtain. It’s the same spirit that liberated Poland and deepened the unity of Europe and expanded the Atlantic alliance. And it is this peace-loving, life-affirming, justice-seeking spirit that will one day overcome the final challenges to it.

Thank you again for this great honor. I will cherish it forever, just as my fellow Americans and I cherish our nation’s warm and enduring relationship with Poland. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: I’d ask Senator McCain to stay here for a moment, and if the other of tonight’s awardees – hold your applause for a moment – as the other of tonight’s awardees and introducers come to the stage, I’d welcome you all to the stage for a final round of applause, though hold it for just one second. And also, Mayor Dutkiewicz, please, and Ambassador Feinstein.

You’re all going to be invited to the terrace for an incredible fountain show and champagne afterwards to toast the awardees there and continue your conversations. Before I thank you for coming and ask you to applaud our awardees as they all come to the stage, I do want to thank some organizers.

I’d like to say this was a U.S.-Polish triumph tonight, but the organizer on the Atlantic Council side was the Polish director at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Ania Voloshin. I want to thank her and her team, Magda Piesetska (ph) and Anjay Bobinski (ph) and their teams for making this such an incredible success. Thank you. (Applause. Music.) And thank you all for coming to the third annual Atlantic Council Freedom Awards. And please join in applause for all of our awardees tonight. Thank you. (Applause. Music.)

MR. : Ladies and gentlemen, as it was mentioned, you’re welcome all to watch the fountain show, which is outside of the building that we’re in now, on the ground floor terrace on the left hand side when you go down the corridor. Once again, the show will start in 10 minutes and it’s on the ground floor terrace on the left hand side when you go down the corridor. Thank you very much for participating in tonight’s event.


Related Experts: