Washington, D.C. — Four hundred million un-born lives “snuffed out,” another 100 million who lived just long enough to be massacred by Mao, Stalin, Castro and the like. But for all those deaths, there is only one statue in one city to remember the international victims of Communism: the Goddess of Democracy at the intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenue in Washington, D.C.
A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the memorial on June 12, marking the fifth anniversary of the memorial’s dedication by President George W. Bush and Representative Tom Lantos (D., Calif.) in 2007. The memorial was modeled after the statue erected by Chinese students at Tiananmen Square in 1989, and which after just five days was destroyed by the People’s Liberation Army.
Accents abounded among the 100-plus in attendance at the ceremony Tuesday morning — from Midwestern to Eastern European to Central Asian; all gathered to remember the victims of Communism from around the world.
Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke at the event, and received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom from Edwards and Lantos for “his dedication to our nation, for his lifelong opposition to Communism, and for his enormous commitment to freedom and democracy.”
Past recipients of the award include former president of Poland Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, and William F. Buckley Jr. After receiving the medal, Rumsfeld placed the first wreath at the feet of the Goddess. Following him was a long procession of representatives of countries who have suffered under Communism, past and present, and organizations working to fight Communism.
Other speakers included Anhthu Lu (one of the 1.2 million “Boat People” who fled Communist Vietnam from 1975 to 1995), Reggie Littlejohn (president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and fierce critic of China’s one-child policy), and a representative with a message from the exiled Tibetan congress, asking the world to “stop turning a blind eye to those who suffer under Communism.”
The keynote speaker was Annette Lantos, widow of Tom Lantos. She lived in Hungary in the late 1940s, as the Soviet Union tightened its grip on western Europe. Lantos blasted Communism as “an ideology that can only be maintained through fear, intimidation, and indoctrination.”
“I think we all wish we lived in a much less selfish society, that prosperity was available to everyone, and that great disparity in poverty, hunger, and wealth were eliminated,” she said. “But any noble ideals of this Godless system of government are obscured — completely — by Communism’s commitment to deprive people of what is most valuable, the only thing that is inherently our own: our freedom of thought, of action, of faith, and of choice.”
“We must not forget the millions around the globe who are still trapped in tyranny, still clinging to hope, and still looking to us,” Rumsfeld told the crowd after receiving his medal. “May the United States of America always be a beacon of light to the world and may we be blessed with leaders who understand that and who value it.”