Remarks by Carl Gershman, President
The National Endowment for Democracy
Remarks given at the first anniversary commemoration of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.
Last Friday the United States observed a day of national mourning for President Ronald Reagan, a man who revived America’s spirit, restored confidence in the nation’s purpose of defending and advancing freedom throughout the world, and left a legacy of achievement that is increasingly appreciated with every passing year.
As is well known, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) traces its roots to President Reagan’s landmark Westminster Address, in which he described the crisis of totalitarianism and called for a new “campaign for democracy,” one that would give momentum to the unfolding “democratic revolution” in the world and “leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history.” It was a visionary speech and also a very practical one. It referenced the experience of the German political foundations and stated a clear objective: “to foster the infrastructure of democracy — the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities — which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”
The NED is proud of these roots, and we are also proud that on our 20th anniversary last November President Bush gave another landmark speech that built upon the Reagan address and called for a new campaign for democracy — “a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East.”
As we gear up for this new campaign, we know that we cannot neglect the struggles for democracy that are taking place in other countries and regions: in Africa and in Latin America; in the Balkans and the Caucasus; in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus; in Central Asia and South Asia; and throughout East Asia, including China, the world’s largest nation; and even in a country as closed and remote as North Korea.
We know we cannot do this job alone. We need friends and allies. We were therefore delighted when President Chen Shui-bian sent a message to the Second Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, meeting in Sao Paulo Brazil in November 2000, declaring Taiwan’s intention to establish a democracy foundation. And we were gratified when such a foundation, the first of its kind in Asia, was established a year ago this month. This took political decisiveness and democratic commitment, qualities we have come to expect from Taiwan.
The NED looks forward to close collaboration with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. We are impressed that you have been able to gather all the major parties in Taiwan under a common umbrella. Non-partisanship is critical to the long-term success and viability of a national democracy foundation. So is the foundation’s independence and its commitment to keeping a clear focus on the promotion of democracy.
It would be natural if the new Taiwan foundation would have a special focus on the promotion of democracy in Asia. We look forward to working with you in strengthening democratic institutions and networks of democracy practitioners in Asia. We also look forward to Taiwan’s continued participation in the World Movement for Democracy, and to the TFD’s participation in the growing network of democracy foundations that now exists in North America, Europe and, we hope, increasingly in Asia as well.
As a new democracy, Taiwan has a distinctive role to play. There is great interest in Asia, Latin America and other regions in Taiwan’s success in making the transition from authoritarianism to a democracy that is vibrant and economically vigorous. The influence of Taiwan does not depend upon its size but upon its status as a beacon of democracy in Asia and the first Chinese democracy. The significance of this fact cannot be over-estimated.
Democracy cannot be built without democrats. We know of the courage of those who have fought to achieve democracy in Taiwan. The NED was honored, therefore, when it presented its Democracy Service Medal to Taiwan’s First Lady, Chen-Wu, Sue-jen, in a ceremony in the U.S. Congress during her visit to Washington in September 2002.
We can also never forget that democracy is a universal value, rooted in the idea of human dignity. In President Reagan’s Westminster Address, he said that “We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.”
That is the belief that guides us. Let us work together to advance democracy and, in so doing, to build a world of peace and human security.