The month of December annually marks a time when most of us reflect on our many blessings, including, of course, the birth of Jesus Christ and the freedom we have in America to worship as we choose. We pause in December to consider ourselves thankful to live in the United States of America, the bastion of free people and ideas, the "shining city on a hill" that has shone the path to freedom and hope for billions of people around the world. In recent years most of us have also included in our prayers and our generosity the members of our armed services and their families. They are truly the greatest among us, for they fight and sacrifice every day so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms and rights endowed by our Creator, and pursue our own individual dreams and happiness.
This month, on December 15, 2005, the people of Iraq will go to the polls for the third time this year to exercise their newly acquired right to vote. In January 2005, 8.5 million Iraqis voted to choose representatives for the newly formed Iraqi National Assembly. The purple-stained index fingers of Iraqis voting for the first time showed the world that the price of freedom is worth paying, and that those who have paid the ultimate price did not do so in vain.
The loud roar of a few left-leaning politicians and media outlets in the U.S. and abroad who take their freedoms for granted will not silence the smiles and raised index fingers of millions of Iraqis tasting freedom for the first time.
December also marks numerous milestones which remind us of our nation's unique role in establishing and preserving the cause of freedom throughout the world.
On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom was placed atop the dome of the U.S. Capitol, where she stands today upon a globe encircled with our national motto, E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One. The plaster model of Freedom arrived in the U.S. from Rome in 1860, and was sent to the Mills Foundry in Bladensburg, Maryland to be cast in bronze.
The foundry's foreman went on strike before the casting was finished but Clark Mills, the foundry's owner, rejected the foreman's demand for higher wages. Mills turned to Philip Reid, a former slave who had been working on the project, to complete the bronze casting of Freedom. Reid completed the project and, with the help of other former slaves freed under the District of Columbia Emancipation Act of 1862, assembled Freedom's five one-ton sections on the Capitol grounds.
On December 22, 1989, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate was reopened twenty-eight years after Soviet-controlled East Germany closed it and built the now-tumbled Wall around free West Berlin. Ironically, the Gate was commissioned in 1788 by King Friedrich Wilhelm II as a sign of peace.
The Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall behind it were perhaps the most recognizable symbols of the decades of evil wrought by the Communist Soviet empire. The leaders of the Soviet Union and the nations they controlled despised freedom and individual liberty. They sentenced tens of millions of their own citizens to death and torture for daring to seek freedom, question the Communist Party's policies or even worship openly.
In June, 1987, two years prior to the the reopening, President Ronald Reagan delivered his visionary speech to the people of West Berlin. Standing before the Gate on Berlin's 750th anniversary he demanded that Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev finally bring an end to the Soviets' ruthless tyranny.
Reagan's speech, followed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Brandenburg Gate two years later, inspired millions across the globe to not give up hope that they could achieve freedom. The Wall's collapse showed the world that oppression and tyranny do not have to be permanent conditions. Reagan's foresight and resolve reminded Americans that we have a charge to secure for others the freedoms we enjoy within our own borders. Our freedoms, bestowed upon us by our Creator, come with a price. We must fight to protect them at home, and we must fight evil throughout the world so all men, women and children may be free.
This December, I urge those who question the need to wage war against freedom-loathing terrorists in Iraq and throughout the world to visit Washington, D.C. and consider the former slaves who raised Freedom high above Capitol Hill.
Or visit Berlin and reflect upon the Quadriga, a statue standing tall above the Brandenburg Gate depicting an triumphant woman driving a chariot led by four horses, representing victory. While there, remember this passage from President Reagan's speech that same day in 1987: "Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor."
This December, remember that the birth of freedom is often a long struggle, but well worth the effort, no matter where in the world we must fight for it.