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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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Presidential Center launches Freedom Collection

Former President George W. Bush addresses attendees at the Bush Center Freedom Collection Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House.
Sidney Hollingsworth/The Daily Campus
Former President George W. Bush addresses attendees at the Bush Center Freedom Collection Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House.

Former President George W. Bush addresses attendees at the Bush Center Freedom Collection Wednesday at the Winspear Opera House. (Sidney Hollingsworth/The Daily Campus)

Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, introduced the online collection of interviews that tell the stories of those who have fought for freedom during an event Wednesday evening.

The former president said he hopes the Freedom Collection, which is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, will inspire those who are in the same struggle by promoting democracy, political freedom and human rights.

“The Freedom Collection honors courage. It reminds us of our duty to be always on the side of human rights and human dignity and the right for people to live in a free society,” he said to approximately 200 people at the Winspear Opera House.

The collection is comprised of online archives of various interviews from those who have fought again oppressive regimes from the 20th and 21st centuries.

“We believe that freedom yields peace and therefore we believe it’s in our nation’s interest to stand side by side with dissidents, political prisoners, courageous folks who demand their God-given right,” Bush said.

Currently, the collection contains 56 interviews, but it will continue to grow. During his presidency, Bush met with more than 100 dissidents from all over the world, including the Dalai Lama, Xiqui Fu, Ammar Abdulhamid and Vaclav Havel, who died in December.

Bush also met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also spoke at the event via video teleconference.

After spending time in prison for defending democracy and human rights, Sirleaf said she became a stronger because she realized people take freedom for granted. Thus, she said she worked harder to bring freedom, equity and equality for all.

“There’s no quick fix – no magic wand,” she said. “We need to communicate to people, to allow them to be a part as much as possible.”

Sirleaf knows that the full objectives have not been achieved; yet, the transition to democracy is underway.

“We need to share with the dissidents, stay the course, remain courageous, try new voices, join arms in working for those objectives,” she said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Kristen Silverberg said she hopes the collection will be a resource to people globally.

“The goal is to advance democracy and freedom around the world,” she said. “We need to remind them that they aren’t alone in their endeavor.”

During the event, artifacts, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, were donated on behalf of Dr. Oscar Elisas Biscet Gonzalez. Because he made a stance for democracy and is a human rights advocate, Gonzales was imprisoned for 12 years in Cuba.

Former Pres. Bush said he hopes that, in part, the Freedom Collection will impact SMU students.

“I hope the students at SMU will dedicate their lives to making sure people like Biscet can live their lives,” he said. “Courage is not in short supply. We must never forget that.”

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