2003 Democracy Service Medal Presented to Enrique Bolaños and Donald Payne

February 25, 2003
05:00 pm - 07:00 pm

Enrique Bolaños, President of the Republic of Nicaragua

February 25, 2003

When he was inaugurated as Nicaragua’s 38th President on January 10, 2001, Enrique Bolaños Geyer pledged to uphold the principles of social justice and the rule of law, to eradicate corruption and promote the modernization of the public sector, and to build a new Nicaragua “where integrity and fairness for all prevail and where all Nicaraguans, from the poorest to the wealthiest, are treated with dignity and respect.” There were many who greeted this pledge with skepticism, given the state of Nicaragua’s economy and the arrangements arrived at during the previous administration to block reform in the National Assembly and protect the immunity of officials guilty of corruption and betraying the public trust.

To the surprise of these skeptics, President Bolaños has kept his promise to the Nicaraguan people and has taken the most far-reaching steps in the history of the country to end the corruption and abuse of power that have prevented Nicaragua from fulfilling its potential as an independent and democratic country. In so doing, he has displayed both personal courage and firm democratic conviction, offering a model of presidential leadership that is truly admirable.

We at the National Endowment for Democracy are gratified but hardly surprised by the performance of President Bolaños. We saw his courage firsthand in the 1980s, when he was a leader in the national struggle to defend human rights and the rule of law, enduring persecution, arbitrary imprisonment, and the confiscation of family property in his service to the cause of democracy in Nicaragua. He has never wavered in his commitment to human freedom and in his solidarity with the underprivileged of Nicaragua-not then and not today.

For the leadership and integrity he has demonstrated consistently and over time, for his devotion to the people of Nicaragua and their democratic empowerment, for his courage in defending democracy and his civility in pursuing it, the National Endowment for Democracy is honored to present its Democracy Service Medal to President Enrique Bolaños Geyer.

The Honorable Donald M. Payne

March 12, 2003

Within the U.S. Congress, Don Payne is recognized as the leader of efforts to promote democracy throughout Africa and to build close bonds of friendship between African democrats and the people of the United States. Regardless of the administration in power or the issues that capture the spotlight of the media, Don has been a steady voice for engagement abroad to advance human rights and peace, and for solidarity with those who are struggling, often against great odds, to build democratic societies. 

During his nine-year tenure on the Board, Don was the member responsible for overseeing NED’s program in Africa. Despite a heavy congressional workload, he not only devoted great time and energy to reviewing the Africa projects and reporting on them to the NED Board, but also met regularly with NED and institute staffs to strengthen the coordination of the Africa program and also the sense of common purpose among the entire NED family. Under Don’s leadership, the Africa program flourished, and today we at NED take pride in the fact that our work is recognized throughout the continent, both in those countries where democracy is beginning to take root and in the more difficult situations where so many courageous democrats are fighting to defend human rights and build societies of tolerance and peace.

From the successful struggle to achieve democracy in South Africa, to the protracted efforts to remove the dictators from Nigeria, to the ongoing attempts to heal the ravages of war in Congo, Liberia, and Sudan, Don has played a significant role both on the Hill and at NED. He has effectively combined a thoughtful, low-keyed approach with an intense determination to fight injustice, and not only in Africa. Indeed, Don has traveled frequently to many parts of the world where democracy is at best a long-term prospect, in each place giving democrats hope through his interest and involvement.

For his deep commitment to African democrats and his tireless efforts on behalf of a democratic future for people everywhere, we are pleased to bestow the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Service Medal on Congressman Donald M. Payne.