George W. Bush unveils online video archive devoted to nonviolent dissidents, activists

Video: Here

The foreign policy aims of George W. Bush came back into focus Wednesday night as the former president formally unveiled the Freedom Collection, an online video archive that highlights the thoughts and words of nonviolent dissidents and freedom activists from across the world.

“We believe that freedom equals peace,” Bush said at an invitation-only ceremony at Dallas’ Winspear Opera House. “We believe it’s in our nation’s interests that we stand side by side with dissidents, political prisoners, courageous folks who demand their God-given rights.”

Bush and his wife, Laura, explained the archive, which is found online at, to an audience packed with dignitaries and some of the dissidents who have already shared their personal stories and perspectives.

The former president and first lady echoed other key members behind the project in saying they hope the archive serves both as a reminder to Americans about ongoing struggles across the world and as a guidebook for activists who continue to combat oppression and tyranny.

“The Freedom Collection reminds us of the challenges that we have to support freedom movements around the world,” Laura Bush said. “To those still struggling against tyranny and working to build democracy, the Freedom Collection provides encouragement and inspiration.”

The archive, which features nearly 60 interviews with the likes of the Dalai Lama and former Czech President Vaclav Havel, has its roots in some of Bush’s first meetings after leaving the White House.

As Bush brainstormed with advisers, it became clear that an online archive would best allow the material to be shared.

Kristen Silverberg, an early leader of the online archive, said the project is designed to help people understand “what is it that makes a dissident take these extraordinary risks for the cause of freedom.”

Wednesday’s event celebrated some of the freedom activists who made those sacrifices and inspired the collection.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking via video link, described the struggles for freedom in her country and the lessons she learned after spending time in prison for advancing those causes.

“It just strengthened my own conviction that when I got out, I would work harder to bring freedom, to bring equality and equity to all in our society,” Sirleaf said.

And Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet, who remains in his country after being released from prison last year, had a surrogate donate his Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by Bush in 2007, to the collection.

“We’ve got to understand how courageous this guy is,” Bush said after receiving the medal. “That’s what the Freedom Collection is all about.”

The initial set of activist interviews includes four Nobel laureates as well as people who have toiled in obscurity.

The activists represent far-flung corners of the globe, although there aren’t yet interviews with dissidents from Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries forever linked to Bush’s presidency. But that’s expected to change soon.

As the archive expands, officials want to find activists who represent a passionate but nonviolent push for freedom.

“It’s not enough for us if someone is opposing their government,” Silverberg said. “We want to look for somebody who intends to replace their government with a robust democracy.”

That desire is evident in one of the more poignant parts of the archive, a video summary of messages the freedom activists had for dissidents.

Nima Rashedan of Iran encourages, “Nobody really can silence us.” Cristal Montanez Baylor of Venezuela implores, “Do not give up.”

And on Wednesday, Sirleaf added one more piece of advice: “Stay the course. Remain courageous.”

IN THE KNOW: Freedom Collection

WHAT: The George W. Bush Institute has created an online video archive of interviews with freedom activists from around the world. The institute is also collecting related artifacts to display in the Bush Presidential Center, set to open in spring 2013.

WHO: The collection features discussions with four Nobel Peace Prize winners, but also lesser-known dissidents. High-profile names include the Dalai Lama, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.


via George W. Bush unveils online video archive devoted to nonviolent dissidents, activists | Dallas-Fort Worth Communities – News for Dallas, Texas – The Dallas Morning News.

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