- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

Former dissidents from around the world feted the fall of communism in their countries amid a vivid display of American patriotism Tuesday night.

The Victims of Communism Foundation held the star-spangled gala at the JW Marriott Hotel to celebrate the dedication of its new memorial near the U.S. Capitol.

Red, white and blue tablecloths and napkins festooned the ballroom, where 350 guests — many of whom were former victims of communism — ate, drank and mingled. A roving band of five violinists, an accordion player and a double bass violinist played classical ethnic pieces.

The circular tables were arranged to represent the more than 12 former and current communist countries: Vietnam was near Poland and the Czech Republic, and “Cuba Libre” flanked Slovenia.

The gala served as the finale for a daylong celebration of the unveiling of the 10-foot bronze “Goddess of Democracy” statue on Capitol Hill.

William F. Buckley Jr. was the favorite honored guest of the night, drawing multiple standing ovations from the audience as he recognized the fight of communist dissidents in the room, including some who had served much of their adult lives in a gulag.

Mr. Buckley received one of the two Truman-Reagan Medals of Freedom for his decades-long struggle against communism on the pages of the National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, jumped up to help Mr. Buckley down from the stage and later presented the second golden medal to Anna Marie Laurence, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson.

Mr. Lieberman, nicknamed a “Scoop Jackson Democrat” for his hawkish foreign policy, reminded the audience that “petty partisanship has no place when it comes to the defense of liberty around the world.”

The gala marked a turning point for the foundation, which had lobbied for the memorial since 1993.

Conservative historian Lee Edwards, chairman of the foundation, thanked his “extraordinary coalition” of donors and discussed future plans to build a $50 million virtual archive and brick-and-mortar museum to document the struggle against communism.

“We cannot, we will not, and we must not forget the people that died and are still dying from communism,” Mr. Edwards said.

Human rights activist Elena Bonner, wife of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, gave the keynote address through a translator with personal stories of the terror under Stalin’s regime. She then critiqued U.S. policy in the Middle East for more than 10 minutes.

Also spotted among the revelers: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican; National Review Editor at Large John O’Sullivan; Alfred S. Regnery, publisher of American Spectator magazine; Richard Viguerie, chairman of Conservativehq.com; former Rep. Jack F. Kemp Jr.; former Attorney General Edwin A. Meese III; Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation; and Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

International dignitaries included former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, Lithuanian Ambassador Audrius Bruzga and Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s top representative in Washington.

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