Washington, D.C.—The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Chairman Senator John McCain emphasized the need for American leadership in a “world in chaos” at IRI’s “Freedom Dinner” on Tuesday night. Senator McCain was recognized alongside Cuba’s Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), the peaceful civic movement that fights for Cuba’s political prisoners.  

In a speech honoring the Ladies in White, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said “The Damas de Blanco are repressed by the Cuban regime because they fear what the Damas have to say. The Ladies in White represent the true Cuba; they are the future.”

In another show of the Castro regime’s fear of democracy, the Cuban government wouldn’t allow Ladies in White leader Berta Soler to attend the event. Accepting the award on behalf of the group, Ladies in White representative Blanca Reyes said “The Freedom Award is the recognition of our dedication and motivates us to continue working for the human rights and liberties of all Cubans.” 

Senator Lindsey Graham paid tribute to his longtime friend Senator McCain, saying “Wherever there is oppression, he wants to go there; wherever there is conflict, he is ready to show up; and wherever he shows up, he brings the best of America.” Veteran CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer also expressed his admiration for Senator McCain before sitting down for a one-on-one discussion with the Senator.

Since 1995, IRI has presented the Freedom Award to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of democracy and human freedom. Past recipients include President Ronald Reagan, Aung San Suu Kyi, and slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Founded in 1983, IRI is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that works with political parties, civic groups, and legislatures in more than 100 countries to strengthen democratic institutions, safeguard elections, advance citizen engagement, and promote open and accountable government. For more information about IRI, visit iri.org


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