NARRATOR: THIS EXCERPT IS FROM A SPEECH DELIVERED BY NATAN SHARANSKY IN 2008 WHEN HE RECEIVED THE RONALD REAGAN FREEDOM AWARD.
Excerpt of a speech delivered by Natan Sharansky in 2008 when he received the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award:
Natan Sharansky: We were permitted in Soviet prison, if you not in a punishing cell, to read Pravda newspaper. And there was a big article condemning President Reagan who dared to call the Soviet Union an evil empire. And we were absolutely bewildered. We ... you know ... it is not permitted in prison, in Soviet prison, to communicate between the cells. And there are different ways to communicate. Less risky is through more ... morse ... a little bit more risky but more effective by talking through the tubes. But by far more risky but most effective to talk through the toilets. At that moment, you forgot about all the precautions. We jumped on the toilets. We spoke through morse we tried to communicate to all our friends who were in punishing cells that could not read Soviet newspaper Pravda. We tried to inform them that finally the leader of the free world called a spade a spade, said the Soviet Union an evil empire, and it means, we believed, it means the days of the Soviet Union are numbered. The problem is, that we dissidents knew that through all our struggle, we knew that Soviet society looks powerful, ugly, aggressive, but it's extremely weak from inside. we were predicting the Soviet Union will fall and will fall very quickly if only the free world will realize how weak it is . ... how weak is a society which is keeping its own people in prison? Which is not permitting freedom of word and expression. And that's why that when finally, not another politician, but the leader of the free world, called Soviet Union an evil empire and says that communism will end up on the dust bin of history, we knew that now, that will really happen. But what was needed .... the strong leadership of the leader who believes that it is morally wrong to support soviet union while soviet union is violating human rights and also who also understood that it is very important for the security of the free world. Because in the end, what is important for the stability and the security of the world, is how the governments are treating their own people. And those who don't respect the rights of their own people, will never respect the rights of the neighbors. And that was the power of President Reagan. That he understood that there is no difference between moral principles and our interests, the interests of the security of the world. And he linked it together. And he did it with consistency. He did it very firmly. You understand? That was the greatness of the president. He could be engaged, he could be very friendly, he could be very charming but he was not ready to sacrifice the sacred principles and he understood that on standing on these principles, you could make the world more secure.