“The Liberty Medal has always been awarded to world leaders of great courage, vision and faith in the future…President Karzai is working tirelessly and skillfully to unify his country’s diverse factions, strengthen its economy and move towards democratic values and practices.”
The Liberty Medal International Selection Commission
President of Afghanistan
July 4, 2004
Mayor and Mrs. Street, honorable Governor and Mrs. Rendell, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman!
I am deeply honored to receive The Liberty Medal, on this momentous day, commemorating the Independence of America…in this great hall…which itself is a beacon, and a symbol of freedom.
I would like to thank Chairman Meyerson and the International Selection Commission for bestowing upon me this distinct honor.
I accept The Liberty Medal, with pride and a humble heart, on behalf of the Afghan people. This award is the Afghan people’s award.
The Declaration of Independence, signed in this very hall, led to the founding of this great nation…the United States of America. This historic and remarkable document…was based on basic, yet fundamental, beliefs of the founding fathers of America…that “God intended Man to be free!” That “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” were inalienable rights, granted by God to all men…rights that must not be taken away.
We, the Afghan people, have also enshrined these divine rights in our new Constitution. And we will protect and defend them.
More than a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed in this hall, the great patriot Patrick Henry made a brave speech in Richmond, Virginia. His closing remarks in particular continue to resonate and inspire us today. As every lover of freedom can recall, Patrick Henry said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Ladies and Gentleman, Patrick Henry understood the value of Liberty. He comprehended that life without Liberty is far worse than death. As did an Afghan tribal leader.
In November 2001, when I was conducting the campaign against the Taliban, a bomb hit an Afghan tribal leader’s house and killed several members of his immediate family. A few days later, I was breaking fast with some Afghan elders, including this tribal leader, and some American officers. The tribal leader told the American officers that “I HAVE LOST MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY…AND I WOULDN’T CARE IF I LOST MORE MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY…PROVIDED AFGHANISTAN IS LIBERATED.”
Ladies and gentleman! The Afghan people have sacrificed dearly to attain freedom. In the resistance against the Soviet occupation, and in the fight against terrorists and extremists, we lost nearly two million people. A quarter of our population became refugees. Our economic infrastructure was completely destroyed. We have tens of thousands of disabled men, women and children…and tens of thousands of widows and orphans. Ultimately, the Afghan people succeeded. With your help, we freed Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion…and with your support…we liberated Afghanistan from rule of terrorism and extremism.
As partners and defenders of freedom, both our nations are cognizant that liberty has its enemies. Where Liberty dies, evil grows.
We Afghans have learned from our historical experiences that liberty does not come easily. We profoundly appreciate the value of liberty…for we have paid for it with our lives. And we will defend liberty with our lives.
Here I quote the Afghan King of the early part of last century…King Amanullah Khan…His words in pursuit of independence.
“I will not stop seeking till I reach my heart’s desire. Either the life in me gets to my beloved or the life in me leaves my body.” For him beloved was liberty. And liberty is indeed BELOVED.
Thank you. God Bless you. God bless America and Afghanistan. God bless our two nations.