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Themes What is Freedom?

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TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister 1997-2007, United Kingdom: Sometimes people talk about freedom as if it’s an American value or it’s a British value or Western values. The idea of freedom is it’s a universal value of the human spirit and everywhere, any time, any place people get the opportunity to choose, they choose to be free, and why wouldn’t you?

JORGE LUIS GARCÍA PÉREZ, Cuba: For those of us who were not born into liberty and have not known it, the sole fact of wanting it and fighting for it without knowing it says a lot about what it means.

KIM SEONG-MIN, North Korea: On a very basic level, I feel that freedom is something that is given to every human being. The rights and happiness that people have are also included in the concept of freedom.

WAI WAI NU, Burma: What freedom means to me is everyone’s basic rights are granted equally, respectfully, and with dignity, regardless of differences.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, Secretary of State 2005-2009, United States: Human beings have tried to translate that God given right into political rights, so that we are protected from the tyranny of the state; from the arbitrary power of those who would woo us.

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BIRTUKAN MIDEKSSA, Ethiopia: In a way, the public impressed that we can have political change without violence, you know, just through political debate and through the ballot box.

VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS, Lithuania: Let’s ask the people how they wish to live.

SARAH BEN BEHIA, Tunisia: It’s not a matter of choosing the political party from the left or the political party from the right, but go to vote because hundreds of people died in order for you to go to vote.

CARL GERSHMAN, National Endowment for Democracy: There’s a difference between rights and liberties. Rights are what people have by virtue of being human beings, but civil liberties are contractual obligations that governments have to respect the rights of people. These are embedded in constitutions, they are embedded in agreements and they are embedded in an understanding that the governments have with their own people. They’re there to serve the people and they have to respect the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and so forth.

TUTU ALICANTE, Equatorial Guinea: In the case of a nation, laws are quintessential in guiding the powers of the state, the powers of agents of the state, and the powers of the people who are ruled or governed by the government.

BERTA SOLER, Cuba: I want people to be able to move freely, where people can have their own businesses, where there can be exchanges between countries, and where people with values can exist.

HIS HOLINESS, THE XIVTH DALAI LAMA, Tibet: In order to, sort of, carry the responsibility about your own country, by the people, then the best system is through elections; elected leadership.

HAN NAM-SU, North Korea: I think that a democratic government is the only form of government that strives to secure people’s freedom.

FRENE GINWALA, South Africa: Too often, democracy is seen as an event which happens once in five years; you go and vote. But, it’s much more than that. It has to be.

AMMAR ABDULHAMID, Syria: It’s the people have to take charge of their destiny. If you really believe in democracy, this is how it works.

ARMANDO VALLADARES, Cuba: Democracy is the future of mankind, as the physical and spiritual fulfillment of human beings comes through freedom. There is no democracy without freedom.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe that freedom is a gift from god and in the hope of every human heart. Freedom inspired our founders and preserved our union through civil war and secured the promise of civil rights. Freedom sustains dissidents bound by chains, believers huddled in underground churches, and voters who risk their lives to cast their ballots. Freedom unleashes creativity, rewards innovation, and replaces poverty with prosperity, and ultimately freedom lights the path to peace.