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12/15/03 - HUMAN RIGHTS DAY - 2003-12-17

Freedom is the basic right of all people wherever they live. As President George W. Bush said, freedom “ is not America’s gift to the world. It is God’s gift to every man and woman who lives in the world”:

“We believe that liberty is the design of nature. We believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence comes in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone. It is the right and the capacity of all mankind.”

America is working now with dozens of other nations in Afghanistan and Iraq. And “in countries like Belarus, Cuba, and Zimbabwe,” says President Bush, “we continue to stand with those who struggle for democracy. We will continue to call on Burma’s ruling junta to release political prisoners.... We also look forward,” says President Bush, “to the day when the men and women of North Korea can live in a free society”:

“Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country, or that people, or this group, are ‘ready’ for democracy -- as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing, from Bangladesh to Botswana to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.”

Building democratic governments that respect human rights can be a massive and difficult undertaking. But as people are finding out all around the world, it is worth the effort and it is worth the sacrifice.