Ronald Reagan Monument Dedication Ceremony
Sofia, Bulgaria May 10, 2017
Ambassador Eric Rubin; Deputy Mayor Barbalov; Chairman Kisiyov, members of the Reagan Initiative Committee, City Council members; Freedom-Lovers All- Dobro hen! Good day!
It is a heartening honor for my wife Susan and me to be here representing the Young America’s Foundation and the Reagan Ranch on this momentous occasion, and to be speaking here on behalf of YAF President Ron Robinson, fellow Reagan Ranch Board Member Robert Agostinelli, who is here today, and President Reagan’s Attorney General Ed Meese, co-chairman of the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors, and Andrew Coffin, director of the Reagan Ranch, both of whom served on the jury to select the winning artist but they sincerely regret they could not be here with us today.
I would like to begin by thanking our wonderful hosts during our stay in Sofia, Bulgaria, and by particularly thanking and commending the Citizen’s Initiative Committee:
Chairman Vladimir Kisiyov-steady, early, visionary leader. Chairman of the Initiative Committee, great Bulgarian leader.
Dr. Borislav Borislavov- respected Sofia City Councilor
Stefan Ivanov – former City Councilor, Chairman of the Democratic Action Movement
Hristo Angelichin-former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and sharp leader
Ivan Sotirov-former Deputy Mayor of Sofia
Konstantin Arabadjiev-energetic member of Citizen Initiative
Boris Borisov- Sculptor of this outstanding monument of Ronald Reagan
Maria Nenkova –coordinator; absolutely crucial in executing and coordinating all of the events.
And, finally, Georgi Nenkov and Stoyan Traykov, with whom we have worked most closely and to whom we extend our profound appreciation for our inclusion in these events. Big Blagodarya’s to you all!
Thank you all… For reminding all of us that the torch of Freedom has been passed to us.
Robert Agostinelli and I have the great privilege of serving on the Board of Governors of the Reagan Ranch, entrusted, along with my colleagues, of preserving Ronald Reagan’s beloved ranch home in the mountains of California, and training young people in the principles and ideas that inspired and motivated.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Right now, Right Here, I can sense Ronald Reagan’s spirit in the courageous and optimistic, smiling faces here with us today in Sofia, Bulgaria. This is a most historic meaningful tribute and event that will endure as generations of young people and children will see this monument and ask their parents and grandparents- Who is this Ronald Reagan?
Ronald Reagan is remembered as one of America’s most effective leaders, with historic tax cuts and government reforms, credited with revitalizing our economy, returning a sense of pride and patriotism to the American people, and bringing an end to the Cold War, as Margaret Thatcher most famously said, “without firing a shot”.
People will remember, Ronald Reagan was not only committed to ensuring freedom and prosperity in the U.S., but also to advancing freedom for people yearning for liberty, self -governance across the world.
He spoke often, while President, not just of the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, but of the concerns of the millions whose lives were severely limited and restricted behind the Iron Curtain, including those in Bulgaria.
He used every opportunity to communicate this message of personal freedom and self-determination. During one of his weekly radio addresses, Ronald Reagan spoke of the people of Bulgaria, and he reminded us that, no matter where in the world injustice is occurring, “The violation of human rights…is the rightful cause of all free peoples.”
Before the days of smart-phones and the internet, (and Bulgaria is ranked as having one of the world’s fastest, best internet service) estimates at the time suggest that the Voice of America, Radio Liberty and other western broadcasts, carrying this message of freedom, were heard at least once a week by 33 percent of the adult population of Bulgaria.
That message of solidarity, provided those trapped in the USSR with essential moral support for dissidents, pro-democracy movements, and people who yearned for freedom.
For example, Natan Sharansky, in a Siberian gulag, later told the story of a “glorious day of celebration”, when he and other imprisoned dissidents had heard of Ronald Reagan’s speech characterizing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire”, and was heartened that there was finally a strong leader outside of the Iron Curtain that knew and understood the repression and injustice inside that “Evil Empire”…and was willing to courageously express it with moral clarity.
Ronald Reagan loved hearing this story directly from Natan Sharansky. That’s why I feel that Ronald Reagan is in Heaven smiling, observing this appreciative monument in Sofia.
Our organization, Young America’s Foundation, is committed to that legacy. It is a privilege to partner with freedom-loving Bulgarians who seek to honor Ronald Reagan’s accomplishments in a country transformed by the commitment of leaders like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II to turn back the tide of tyranny and extend freedom to hundreds of millions of people from Bulgaria and the Black Sea to Estonia on the Baltic Sea. People who were once behind the Iron Curtain were allowed to breathe in the fresh breeze of liberty and taste the sweet nectar of freedom-extending freedom- religious, economic, and personal — to all.
Ronald Reagan cautioned us that “Freedom, is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Our country is too quick to forget this lesson. I suspect the same may be true here in Bulgaria. Yet it is essential that we remember the lessons of the past so that we may be prepared to face the challenges of the future. We are passing the torch of Freedom to future generations.
This remarkably good likeness of the President; his expression, the height and scale, the choice of materials — all of it works together perfectly to create a poignant tribute to a great man and a cause worth remembering and preserving. The sculptor has captured the determined look of his mouth and with his optimistic eyes, Ronald Reagan is looking toward Bulgaria’s Parliament, reminding them that government derives its just powers only with the consent of the People.
The Bulgarian people’s decision to place this impressive statue in such a central location speaks volumes about your appreciation for positive American leadership–and will continue to send a powerful message for decades to come. It is most encouraging to know just how many thousands of families and children will see this monument here.
Ronald Reagan, still stands as a symbol of freedom, representative democracy, and a positive trusting of free people and free enterprise remains an enduring motivation for people in Bulgaria and throughout the world.
From the heart of every man and woman in the Young America’s Foundation back in the U.S.A- Thank you for your leadership and the honor your bestow upon us in allowing us to join you in this historic, optimistic recommitment to Freedom and Opportunity for All!
Bulgaria has the majestic mountains, fertile farmland, and beautiful Black Sea beaches which are attractive for tourism, food, and commerce. Bulgaria has many resources including energy resources. The best resource of Bulgaria is you, the people of Bulgaria. And with your unflinching leadership, Bulgaria’s greatest and best days are ahead.
In closing, I know Ronald Reagan would urge us all, no matter the challenge, regardless of the decision; please always choose to stand strong and positive for freedom!
As Bulgarians on this day, with this impressive monument, carry the torch of liberty; may others follow your and Ronald Reagan’s lead… “lighting the path as the whole world climbs out of the dark abyss of tyranny to Freedom.