National ‘Captive Nations’ Summit Launches on Capitol Hill

Each July, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) leads efforts to mark National Captive Nations Week, in fulfillment of the 1959 congressional resolution adopted during the Eisenhower administration to show American solidarity with nations subjugated by communism. This year, we hosted our first Captive Nations Week Summit on Capitol Hill, conferred our Human Rights Award, hosted our National Seminar for Middle and High School Educators, published op-eds in major news outlets, and welcomed President Trump’s Proclamation on Captive Nations week.

Capitol Hill Summit

On July 15, in conjunction with the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the State Department, VOC convened the first Captive Nations Week Summit on Capitol Hill, where policymakers and human rights advocates heard firsthand of human suffering under communism from witnesses of the captive nations of China, Cuba, Hong Kong, Laos, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The Summit also included a special VOC photography exhibit documenting the human cost of socialism in Venezuela.

Speakers included Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), co-chair of the Victims of Communism Congressional Caucus; Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam; Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States; Venezuelan Amb. Carlos Vecchio of the US-recognized international government of Juan Guaidó; Amb. Paula Dobriansky, VOC Trustee; Benedict Rogers, chairman of Hong Kong Watch; and exiled Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom.

Human Rights Award

This year, we gave our Victims of Communism Human Rights Award to Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, known as “Mother Mushroom,” for her brave advocacy for human rights in Vietnam. Quỳnh began blogging about social issues in Vietnam in 2006 and was soon targeted by communist authorities for exposing corruption and human rights abuses. Arrested then released in 2009, she defied the authorities and continued to write. In late 2016, she was given a 10-year jail sentence for “propagandizing against the state.” Denied legal representation, she went on a hunger strike. On October 17, 2018, after a two-year campaign of international pressure, she was released to the United States where she was reunited with her two children and elderly mother.

National Teachers Seminar

On July 13-20, VOC convened our fourth annual National Seminar for Middle and High School Educators at the Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. Our expert faculty trained 50 new teachers from 24 states on the history and legacy of communism blending scholarly lectures, peer discussions, and pedagogical sessions with our Witness Project videos and in-person testimonials from dissidents and witnesses of communism.


VOC Executive Director Marion Smith published op-eds highlighting the importance of Captive Nations Week and bringing greater public attention to nations still held captive by collectivist regimes such as Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela. Read Communism is Making a Comeback; So Should Captive Nations Week in Miami Herald and This Captive Nations Week, America Must Stand with Those Struggling for Freedom in National Review. 

Presidential Proclamation

Every year, the president is required to issue a proclamation on the third week of July to mark Captive Nations Week, a tradition dating back to 1959 under President Eisenhower.

“During Captive Nations Week, we reaffirm our Nation’s unwavering support for those who strive to be free from oppression. We condemn repressive regimes that deny people their God-given rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” — President Donald Trump