Remarks of NED President Carl Gershman at the Presentation of the Democracy Service Medal to Francis Fukuyama
The NED created the Democracy Service Medal in 1999 when it presented the Medal to Lech Walesa and Lane Kirkland on the 10th anniversary of the Roundtable Negotiations that led to the dismantling of the communist system in Poland. Since then we’ve presented it to democratic leaders like Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama, as well as to democratic intellectuals like Seymour Martin Lipset and Leszek Kolakowski. We have also had a practice of presenting the Medal to retired Members of the NED Board who have made a special contribution to the Endowment during their maximum nine years of service. Frank has made such a contribution during his nine years with the NED Board, and he is also a democratic intellectual of great stature. The timing of this tribute also gives us an opportunity to bid farewell to Frank as he leaves Washington to join Larry at Stanford. Larry knows how fortunate Stanford is to snare Frank away from SAIS, and I’m happy to call upon him now to say a few words of tribute.
I think it can be said that with Frank’s moving to California, the intellectual balance in the country will be tilting somewhat more to the West, but we will continue to have Marc with us here at the NED and the Journal, bolstering our own coast, and it’s now my pleasure to call upon him for a tribute to Frank.
Frank has written hundreds of thousands of words, but I suspect he’d like a tribute to him kept to the minimum number of words since he’s a genuinely modest person, so I will try to be brief.
Anyone who has travelled abroad with Frank knows that his international reputation is a little like that of a rock star. But you’d never know it from talking to him or from seeing how he conducts himself professionally or as a friend and colleague.
Though the demands on his time and attention from his writing, travel and responsibilities at SAIS have been heavier than I can imagine, he has always made time to participate in an extraordinarily broad range of activities and initiatives, and to be available whenever he’s needed for advice and consultation. He also answers every email, though admittedly with not quite Larry’s painstaking fastidiousness.
This diligence has certainly been true of his nine years of service on the NED Board. As we’ve already heard, he’s worked closely with Marc and Larry on different components of the International Forum for Democratic Studies, including the review of applications for the Reagan-Fascell fellows program, meeting with the fellows, writing for the Journal and, as he has this evening, taking part in meetings and conferences.
Frank also assumed many other responsibilities as a Member of the NED Board. As many here know, we have the practice at the NED of asking a Board Member to take responsibility for reviewing with staff and reporting to the Board on all the proposals that are coming up for consideration at each meeting that deal with a particular region. As a truly global intellectual, Frank could have taken the whole world, and he probably would have had we asked him. But he first took the Middle East and North Africa region, and handled it with mastery in the years following 9/11. It’s not every time that you have a Board Member who is invited to engage in a one-on-one consultation with the likes of Moammar Kadafi, and who could report to the Board how he was able to get the Libyan proponent of Islamic socialism to change his mind about the perniciousness of profit after telling him how Bill Gates was able to become rich not by theft but through enterprise and innovation. This was a point the esteemed author of the celebrated Green Book had not thought about before his meeting with Frank.
Soon thereafter, Frank went off to St. Petersburg to engage in a public exchange with Presidents Putin and Nazarbayev. He patiently explained to both of them how a modern state, in order to function effectively in the new integrated global order, had to develop comprehensive mechanisms of vertical and horizontal accountability – real elections, independent media and courts, strong parliaments, civil society — liberal democracy, in other words. Unfortunately, he did not have quite the same success with the Russian and Kazakh presidents as he had had with the Libyan strongman.
There was another time, since I’m telling stories, when we had Richard Holbrooke tied into the Board meeting by phone. Dick was rarely able to attend a meeting since he lived in the remote city of New York. At one point Dick abruptly announced that he needed to hang up because he had to go to an important meeting with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf. “Is there anything you want me to tell him,” he announced with an uncharacteristic touch of self-importance. Frank, not missing a beat, shot back: “Tell him to hold an election.”
After overseeing the NED’s Middle East grants program, Frank shifted to Latin America, informing the Board that though he was associated more closely with other regions more than Latin America, this was actually the region he had visited the most. It happened that he took over Latin America at the very time he was promoting the idea that the Hemisphere needed to embrace a third generation of reform — after the first two generations of strengthening markets and governance — focusing on a new social agenda to address the enormous problems of poverty and inequality. We incorporated this idea in the NED’s five-year strategic plan adopted in 2007 after which we made a grant to a group led by former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to develop the idea further. Toledo held meetings in various Latin American capitals, and before long produced a comprehensive “Social Agenda for Democracy in Latin America for the Next Twenty Years” that was unveiled at the Ibero-American summit last fall. It is now being promoted by a group of twenty former Latin American presidents. This is just one small way in which Frank has helped shape the NED’s approach and strategic thinking on critical issues.
He was able to do so because he has a rare ability to think in a fresh and integrative way about fundamental questions affecting the future of democracy and democratic civilization more generally. We saw that in the panel just completed. Frank has written some truly incisive articles about the relationship of democracy to culture and religion; and he has also become one of a very small handful of policy specialists who really understand democracy assistance and its relationship to the broad range of policy considerations, strategic objectives, and competing priorities. There is arguably no one who has written in a more illuminating way about the link between democracy and development.
In addition to being a global thinker, Frank is also an engaged intellectual, committed not just to understanding and explaining democracy but to helping it meet the many challenges it faces in our very complex and conflicted world. I know I speak for the entire NED staff and for Frank’s colleagues on the Board when I say that it’s been an honor to have had him as part of our leadership for nine years. We honor him today not only for his service to the NED but also, and especially, for his continuing contribution to the idea and the cause of democracy. Let me now invite Marc and Larry to join me in presenting Francis Fukuyama with the NED’s Democracy Service Medal.