Congressman Greg Meeks Remarks at the 2011 Democracy Award

I am delighted to be here today. You see, because when you get here, you realize real quickly that spring indeed arrived early. You know, when you think about this spring, when you were wiping away tyranny in the heat of the summer, we look for more than just jasmine’s blooming. We now look to Tunisia and Egypt, and we look for signs that democracy has taken root. And let me tell you something. When you think about it, over 200 years ago, one of the first countries to acknowledge the independence of the United States of America was Tunisia. And now, it is important that the United States stands with other countries as they fight for their freedom and democracy, and we are happy to stand with you today in making sure that that happens.

The world is so small and interconnected, and it reminds me of the truth of the matter and the struggles that we had here in the United States. I am an African American, I can think of one of my colleagues, John Lewis, who is celebrating the Freedom Bus Rides right now. Young people who got sick and tired of being in a certain condition, decided that they would walk in the streets, back in the 60s at that time these young people saw this new technology, called television. And knew if they could dramatize their plight and have it covered on television, it would get other people in the streets and draw the attention of other people of goodwill, and indeed began the change, the course of a nation. And that’s what took place in the 1960s.

And so how proud am I being a member of the United States congress today, watching young people in Tunisia and Egypt, say “we are tired of what our present is, we are going to make sure that our future is better. And we are going to get in the streets and we’re going to disarm the strength of what the dictators thought they had, their power, and we are going to, in a nonviolent way, change the course of history and make this place we call earth a better place.”

And so as we stand here today with Jamel Bettaieb and Zahraa Said who really are the young people that change the course of this planet utilizing this technology that we have today, bringing us closer together, making sure that this world will be better for their children, and our children. Then today and yesterday isn’t what’s for us.

So on behalf of all of the rest of the members of Congress, for sure the 700,000 members that I represent in New York, and as a board member of this great board of NED, I say congratulations to you. For because of you, my 11 year-old-daughter here in the United States of America is going to live in a better and a freer world. Because of you, and your vision and your dedication and saying “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I’m not just going to sit back and take it anymore, I’m going to get out there and do something about it, and be aggressive;” you have indeed changed the course of history and the camera of history has recorded it for those who come from behind us to see it and to study from it and learn from it for years and years to come. So thank you for your dedication, and thank you for what you’ve done for all of us, and humankind.