“Recent events in China, Russia and the Arab world vividly demonstrate that democracy remains a universal aspiration, but also that the forces of repression have powerful means to resist the tide,” the Washington Post notes:
Thirty years ago, on June 8, 1982, President Reagan delivered an address to the British Parliament that stands as one of the greatest of his presidency and a milestone in the final years of the Cold War. At a time when the Soviet Union seemed to be a permanent, if foreboding, presence in the world, Reagan predicted that “the march of freedom and democracy” would “leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.”
The Westminster address proposed a new initiative to promote democracy around the world, echoing a proposal that Democratic Congressman Dante Fascell (right, with Reagan) had been pushing for several years. A year later, Congressional Democrats and Republicans joined forces with organized labor and business to establish the National Endowment for Democracy, an initiative marked by a bipartisan commemoration earlier this week.
“Although Mr. Reagan’s focus was on the Soviet bloc, his vision has endured long after Soviet communism expired,” the Post observes, noting that the NED supports democratic activists and groups in more than 90 countries:
The National Endowment for Democracy, and like-minded agencies that other democracies subsequently established, have found useful ways to aid and nurture freedom movements. Words, too, are important. Reading the Westminster speech is a good reminder of their power to inspire action, and change history.