U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks earlier today at the 6th Anniversary of the dedication of the Victims of Communism Memorial, where she spoke of the evils of communism and the continuing fight against oppressive regimes throughout the world. Full text of Ros-Lehtinen's remarks below:
"I'm honored to stand here and to be part of this important occasion among so many people devoted to freedom and democracy.
It was an honor to receive the Truman - Reagan Medal of Freedom in 2011 and I want to thank the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation for its hard work and dedicated service to make this important event possible, and I want to congratulate Dr. Yang Jianli for receiving this hard-earned and prestigious award.
Just last week, we remembered the hundreds of brave Chinese students who were killed by the ruthless army on June 4th 1989 at Tiananmen Square so it is fitting that today we honor Dr. Jianli -- a survivor of this brutal massacre.
I also want to thank my friends and colleagues Congressman Bridenstine and Mrs. Annette Lantos for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us this morning.
As many of you know, the late Tom Lantos and I worked together for many years on fighting communism and his legacy reminds us all of the importance to strive for human rights and human dignity.
As a victim of communism myself, I understand the horrors that this misguided ideology has brought, and continues to bring, to billions of people around the world.
While some people demanding freedom were able to overcome communism in Germany and Poland, many regimes such as Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and China continue to oppress their people and violate human rights.
Just like so many other victims of communism, my family had to flee communist Cuba and start a new life.
Luckily for us, we came to the United States where freedom and democracy provides bottomless opportunities for people of all backgrounds to fulfill and achieve any dream.
Being the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the United States Congress is a testament to the opportunities this great nation has to offer.
The Cold War may be over but let us not forget that our fight against communism is far from over and much work still needs to be done.
Just look at the tremendous differences between countries led by communist regimes in former East Germany and current North Korea and countries of the same people living under freedom and democracy in former West Germany and current South Korea.
When comparing South Korea to North Korea, it takes less than a blink of an eye to see the stark difference between communism and freedom.
South Korea's freedom and democratic society grants its citizens limitless opportunities, but North Koreans are starving while their leaders live in luxury.
It wasn't too long ago when President Reagan said those famous words - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" - as he stood in Berlin facing that horrid wall which separated families and loved ones between the worlds of freedom and authoritarianism.
Still, even with great efforts and much money invested into East German cities, there's still a clear difference in quality of life in East Germany, causing many young people to flock to former West German cities to seek better jobs and opportunities.
Having said that, I also want to talk about the ongoing human rights violations occurring in communist regimes such as Vietnam and China.
Just last week, I had the privilege to meet with leaders of the Vietnamese-American community on Capitol Hill.
As a Cuban-American, I can relate to their concerns and sorrow.
Just like in Cuba, regime dissidents and activists routinely face harassment, intimidation and imprisonment in Vietnam.
I have continued to call on the State Department to list Vietnam as a "country of Particular Concern" for its complete disregard for human rights, and I am a proud cosponsor of a bill in this Congress, H.Res 218, that calls for that designation.
Regarding China, I hope the President took the opportunity last week to bring up the gross human rights violations committed each day under the brutal communist regime when he met with the leader of China.
Along with the numerous reports showing religious intolerance, arbitrary and unjust court procedures, I'm greatly concerned with continued forced abortions.
These abusive policies cannot go unabated or overlooked.
And while we must continue to help those living under oppressive communist regimes throughout the globe, we must not forget about the people in our own hemisphere.
As a victim of the Castro regime, I am particularly concerned about the growing number of young people walking around in Castro and Che Guevara t-shirts throughout Europe and in many other parts in the world -- including here in the United States.
It's shocking that college students will wear t-shirts with the faces and names of such mass murderers and brutal dictators simply because they think it's "cool."
Throughout the past couple of months, I have been able to meet with several pro-democracy advocates from Cuba.
They have come to Washington, with the same message: the Cuban people are striving against an oppressive regime for freedom and are no longer afraid.
These courageous individuals need our support and admiration.
We must stand in solidarity with these brave pro democracy activists in Cuba who are engaged in a daily struggle against tyranny and a brutal dictatorship that stops at nothing to hold on to power and squash any and all dissent for over half a century of dictatorship.
Not only is it our moral obligation to help all people attain freedom and democracy, so that all people can live in a free environment in which they can pursue their basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
But it is also in our national security interest to eradicate communism once and for all from the face of the earth,
As a strong supporter of human rights, individual liberties, freedoms and a fellow victim of communism, I pledge my utmost support as a Member of Congress to ensure that the freedoms and liberties granted to Americans can ultimately be spread everywhere, making all of us safer."