- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld has had a rough couple of weeks, but Tuesday the outgoing defense secretary took solace from a man who has lived through far worse circumstances.

Former Soviet political prisoner Michail Makarenko gave Mr. Rumsfeld a hearty handshake at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s annual benefit and awards ceremony at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Northwest, an event celebrating those who have inspired others to battle totalitarian regimes.

Mr. Rumsfeld was on hand to honor Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner with the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. Jana Kansky accepted another on behalf of her mother, Milada Horakova, a popular Czech heroine killed by communists during the 1950s for speaking out on behalf of freedom.

They were in distinguished company. Previous award recipients include Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent.

Mr. Rumsfeld said Mr. Feulner, a personal friend since the 1960s, was an ideal choice for an award named for two major American freedom fighters.

“Few in Washington have worked harder to defend their ideals,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that the Heritage Foundation is “respected in some quarters and feared in others.”

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was founded in 1994 with the goal of creating a memorial in the District to honor those whose bodies and spirits were crushed by communist rule throughout the world. In September, the foundation finally broke ground on the memorial, a 10-foot replica of the Goddess of Democracy that was torn down by Chinese tanks during the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. The bronze sculpture is tentatively slated to be unveiled June 12, 2007 — the 20th anniversary of President Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in Berlin.

Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican, took a moment to thank Mr. Rumsfeld for the “modernization and transformation” of the U.S. armed forces.

In between tributes, Czech violinist Jitka Hosprova delighted the crowd with three challenging musical numbers, including a Bach prelude.

After the program, the evening’s co-host, Czech Ambassador Petr Kolar, said it would be a grave mistake to give up on countries where communism’s cold grip lingers.

“People living in tyranny could be free. It’s doable. We’re a living example of that,” Mr. Kolar said.

Foundation Chairman Lee Edwards said he hopes the memorial will be followed by a virtual museum, if not a brick and mortar version, to honor communism’s victims.

“What I want to do is to keep reminding people so it never happens again, Mr. Edwards said. “You have to educate each new generation.”

Christian Toto

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