Speech by SEC Chairman:
Remarks on the Occasion of the Visit Of President George W. Bush to the National Endowment for Democracy
Chairman Christopher Cox
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
October 6, 2005
I may not be able to take your breath away with my brief remarks today. But if I could, it would illustrate in seconds the absolutely vital importance of the National Endowment for Democracy. That's because democracy is like oxygen. You might not think of it at all … until you're deprived of it.
At that point it suddenly becomes the most important thing in your life, and you will do anything to obtain it.
Every one of you who works at the NED knows the joy, and the importance, of helping people the world over who are gasping for the life-giving air of freedom. You have done more than anyone could have ever imagined in bringing freedom to others … and I want to thank you for that.
The work of the National Endowment for Democracy is a constant battle, but there are many milestones along the way. It's worth remembering that the NED contributed to victory over one of the greatest evils of the 20th century. It was by no means a coincidence that a mere six years after this institution was founded, the Berlin Wall came down, and one of the most repressive empires in all of history crumbled.
The Soviet Union fell because America and its leaders instinctively trusted the power of freedom. And it was for that same reason that our nation first created this unique institution, as President Reagan put it, to "foster the infrastructure of democracy." The work of the NED, and of so many of the people in this room, to help the captive peoples of Russia and Eastern Europe regain their voices was crucial.
Today, as we fight for democracy against dictatorships and totalitarian regimes around the world, we also face a new evil -- the evil of international terrorism. But in this fight, too, our arsenal must be the same.
Providence has seen to it that we have again, at this historic juncture, another American leader who intuitively appreciates the power of freedom that animates the NED. To President Bush, who will shortly join us, thank you for your steadfastness and your leadership.
There are undoubtedly people who scoff at the thought that promoting democracy can defeat terrorism. It may seem too dangerous, too risky, too hopeless, or simply none of our business. Some of these people counsel that we simply ignore the terrorists. Others want to negotiate and compromise.
But the more than eight million Iraqis who put their lives on the line to cast their ballots for a president on January 30 know that taking risks for democracy is exactly the way to fight the terrorists. And so do the millions of Iraqis who later this month will willingly risk their lives to vote for a new constitution.
The terrorists know this, too. They fully appreciate the threat they face from democracy. Otherwise they wouldn't be working so hard to defeat democracy in Iraq. This past weekend, they wouldn't have launched their barbarous attack in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim democracy.
Democracy is the antithesis of what the terrorists want. No free people will ever consent to the premeditated murder of innocents.
Democracy, moreover, nurtures the virtues that can defeat terrorism. Democracy requires open debate, civility, and a solid understanding of your opponent's point of view-if only to defeat him or her through the force of reason. Terrorists, on the other hand, know that the resentments upon which they depend can only be fed under cover of darkness.
Democracy requires humility. When the debate is ended, the political contestants submit to the wisdom of the people. Democracy demands the peaceful acceptance of your opponent's victory.
Where democracy calls the people out to the marketplace of ideas, terrorists seek to paralyze the population by sowing panic. They seek to violently impose their views over all of society. Not only figuratively, but literally, they must destroy the public square where ideas and goods are exchanged.
As one of the NED's directors, Frank Fukuyama, has so eloquently written, any marketplace - whether it's the marketplace of ideas, of goods, or of stocks and bonds - entails trust. It isn't a coincidence that societies with thriving stock exchanges nearly always have thriving democracies. Nor is it a coincidence that trust in civil institutions is the first thing that terrorists try to destroy.
As the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the Congress, I learned that no matter how much we do here at home to protect ourselves, it will never be enough without the work you do to expand democracy abroad. The challenge of preserving liberty in America, and the challenge of extending liberty throughout the world, are as one. That is your mission. And your country is counting on you.
Thank you, all of you, for what you do.