President Bush and Pope John Paul II Receive IRI Freedom Award

IRI honored President George W. Bush with the 2005 Freedom Award for his dedication to the advancement of freedom and democracy.  U.S. Senator John McCain, chairman of IRI, presented (PDF)  the Freedom Award to the President.

IRI also posthumously honored Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., accepted the award on behalf of the late pope.  Pope John Paul II was recognized for his work advancing human rights and freedom in Poland and around the world.  Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, also spoke about the pope’s work.

In his remarks (PDF), President Bush thanked the guests for supporting IRI and thanked IRI for its work, “I’m here to thank you for supporting the IRI.  And I appreciate the work IRI is doing to advance the cause of liberty.  For more than two decades, IRI has been at the forefront of democratic change in more than a hundred countries.  You’ve trained the next generation of leaders, you’ve strengthened political parties, you’ve monitored elections, and you’re helping to build civil societies.  You’ve made an enormous difference in the lives of millions across the world – I hope that makes you feel good.  The world is safer and freer and more peaceful because of the International Republican Institute.  Thank you for your good work.”

President Bush also highlighted the importance of strengthening new democracies, “As new democracies emerge, we need you to help civic associations in those countries transform from regime opponents to issue advocates – so they can press legitimate governments for essential reforms.  We need you to help the democratic reformers you have trained make the transition from dissidents to elected legislators – by teaching them how to build coalitions, and set legislative agendas, and master unfamiliar skills, like constituent service.  We need you to help businesses in new market economies organize trade associations and chambers of commerce, so they can promote pro-growth economic policies.  And we need you to teach newly-elected governments the importance of building public support for their policies and programs – as well as how to effectively deal with a free news media.  By helping people build these institutions and develop the habits of liberty, you are helping them transform new democracies into lasting free societies.”

In his acceptance (PDF)  of the Freedom Award, Cardinal McCarrick Senator John McCain and Cardinal Theodor McCarrick. Cardinal McCarrick accepted the award on behalf of the late Pope John Paul II.recognized the great work that IRI does around the world, “As Senator McCain said so beautifully, the ideals of the late Holy Father are certainly very much the ideals of IRI and I think he would be so pleased to know of your work, to know of what you do, to know of how you reach out in so many areas.  The center piece of the teaching of Pope John Paul II was the dignity of the human person and the dignity of the human person demands that the person has rights – right to life, right to liberty, right to express one’s self – all those rights that are part of democracy.”

In his tribute (PDF)  to Pope John Paul II, Michael Novak praised the late Pontiff and recognized him for his fearless determination to call to account those who abused the rights and freedoms of their fellow human beings.  “His sheer presence as Bishop of Rome made it impossible for any abuse of human rights in Poland and surrounding territories – any clubbing of a priest with iron bars, any beating of a dockworker in Gdansk, any jailing of a journalist in Slovakia – to slip by without an international spotlight being flicked upon it from the Vatican.  His sheer presence opened up vast spaces of civil society in Poland and its neighbors.  And this man was gutsy enough to thrust himself into every one of those nations, in order to create still more opportunities for people to begin to live and to think and to act as free women and men.  ‘Be not afraid!’ he said.”

Past honorees have included then-National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mrs. Lynne Cheney, and Nobel Laureate and Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.


President Bush accepts 2005 IRI Freedom Award from Senator John McCain.
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