Carl Gershman, President of NED
Embassy of Canada, Washington, D.C.
October 26, 2011

I want to begin by thanking Ambassador Gary Doer and Minister Kevin O’Shea for the Canadian Embassy’s continued hospitality in hosting the Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World. I also want to thank our two sponsors, the American Federation of Teachers, which is represented here this evening by the union’s International Affairs Director David Dorn, and The Albert Shanker Institute which is represented by its Executive Director Eugenia Kemble.

The Lipset Lecture has become an important annual occasion to reflect on the state of democracy in the world and to do so in cooperation with our neighbor to the North. Marty Lipset prided himself on being called the Tocqueville of Canada, and he loved to analyze the differences between our two countries – which he traced back to the American Revolution –even as he celebrated our shared democratic values. I’m happy to note that Canada has become a critical and valued ally in the effort to support democracy in the world, and the NED is deeply appreciative of its leadership in the defense of civil society organizations, and the rights of assembly and association, which are under attack in many countries in the former Soviet space, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

This 8th Lipset Lecture is especially timely, not just because our friend Abdou Filali-Ansary will address the Arab revolutions, which have now brought about the fall of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, with the very strong possibility that other tyrants will fall in Yemen, Syria and other countries, but also because it follows by just three days the first democratic election of the Arab Spring, which took place in Tunisia on Sunday. Delegations from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republic Institute, the NED’s two party institutes, were among 14,000 domestic and international observers who, by all accounts, were strongly impressed with both the integrity of the election process and the extraordinarily large turnout which exceeded all expectations. The victory of the Islamist Ennahda Party was not a surprise, but it raises profound questions about the future of democracy in the Middle East and the possibility that Islamist parties will adapt to the democratic process and embrace its rules and values – the very subject that Abdou Filali-Ansary has written about for so many years, with a number of his articles published in our Journal of Democracy.

In the 5th Lipset Lecture, delivered three years ago in this hall, Jean Bethke Elshtain divided those writing about the prospects for democracy in the Muslim world into three categories – the optimists, the cautiously hopeful, and the dubious. She placed Abdou in the hopeful category in the middle, a little reminiscent of the memos Kissinger has said he used to receive in the State Department giving him three options – nuclear war, total surrender, and then the State Department position. Abdou gets to the nuanced middle position by his own route. He is hopeful by nature, and his conclusions are based on deep scholarship and careful reasoning. This makes him an ideal Lipset Lecturer, since Marty Lipset was also a rigorous scholar who never lost hope in democracy’s promise and possibilities. I’m therefore very pleased now to call upon my colleague Marc Plattner, the co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, who will introduce Abdou Filali-Ansary.