But the valor of the Hungarians who fought in the streets gave courage to other countries. The dream was rekindled all over Eastern Europe that the day would come when they, too, might have the opportunity to throw off their captors. The effect of the Hungarian revolution in the United States was dramatic: It changed the debate about communism and punctured the communist lie of peaceful coexistence. Americans stopped believing that the Soviet empire was a permanent fact of life.
Grass-roots Americans got off the defensive and began to be pro-active.
Congress soon passed a resolution calling on our president to proclaim the third week of July as Captive Nations Week, manifesting our national belief that communist tyranny was not permanent or inevitable, and that we should keep alive the hope of freedom among the peoples in communist captivity.
Every July, Americans held public ceremonies and parades to show our solidarity with the captive nations. People everywhere began to hope - and to believe - that some day the captive nations would be free.
Then in 1980 we elected a president who had told his radio audience in 1978 of his hope to free the "millions of people in bondage," and that America did not have to accept a future of coexistence with the evil empire. Ronald Reagan believed that we must work for victory over communism so that "The march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history."
Reagan dared to demand freedom for the captive nations on June 12, 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, when he flung down the gauntlet to the Soviet dictator and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!" When the Berlin Wall started to crumble in 1989, the most exciting images Americans saw on television were the young people running to freedom through Hungary.
The Hungarian freedom fighters stood up in 1956 against a superpower, cracked the Soviet empire, lit the lamp of freedom, and gave us an example of courage that will live forever in the history of free men.
Monuments are good reminders of history's heroes. In September 2006, Americans at last broke ground for a monument in Washington, D.C., to the victims of communism. Also in September, the Hungarian people erected a statue of their friend, Ronald Reagan, in Budapest City Park.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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