“Voices for Freedom” Event Brings Together Witnesses and Friends of VOC

On February 8, VOC hosted an exclusive event entitled “Voices for Freedom” which featured nearly a dozen witnesses of communism, including a keynote by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares. He spoke about the stark differences between free countries and those under communist rule. He talked about the lack of education for young people today and the importance of VOC’s mission.

“What communism does, and what makes it so insidious, is it robs you of your own dreams in the need of the so-called state, which is always constantly re-defining its needs.”

—Jason Miyares, Virginia Attorney General

Witnesses shared their personal stories during small group roundtable discussions. In addition to Attorney General Miyares, we were honored to have eight other witnesses join us for this important discussion: Maximo Alvarez (Cuba), Vi Kha Hoang (Vietnam), Boris Hoffman (Lithuania), Anna Kwok (Hong Kong), Merita McCormack (Albania), Miriam Miyares (Cuba), David Smolansky (Venezuela), and Bhuchung Tsering (Tibet). The evening concluded with a mixology class by Gio Gutierrez of Bacardi’s “The Real Havana Club,” during which Gio shared the history of the Bacardi family’s opposition to communism in Cuba.

Read the full remarks from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares below:

“It is absolutely one of the great honors to be with you tonight because what everybody in this room in many ways symbolizes is your part of a brotherhood that many people wish they weren’t part of in many ways. It’s a brotherhood of people from different races, different continents, different countries, who all experienced perhaps the worst ideology in human history.

C.S. Lewis said that of all the tyrannies, the worst tyrannies are the ones done for your own good—and that is part of the problem of communism. It is something that on paper sounds sweet to the ear, but the reality is drenched with blood and heartache and tears.

It is interesting being the Attorney General of Virginia. We don’t have a large population of Cuban Americans, if you don’t know that, so particularly when I go down to the southside or the Shenandoah Valley or southwest Virginia, people ask me, “Well what kind of name is Miyares?” And I say, “Well, it’s southern. Deep, deep south.”

But whether you’re from Cuba, or Taiwan, or Hong Kong, of Korea or Vietnam, or Nicaragua, what you do have, that binds you in this brotherhood, is this incredible appreciation for freedom.

You have those memories as a child that stick with you. And for me, it was my mother coming in our kitchen and asking me to teach her the Pledge of Allegiance because she had to learn it for her U.S. citizenship. And so, at a very early age, at age 6, I got to see her take that oath of allegiance. I know that for everybody who has either witnessed it or been there, it is one of the most moving moments of your life. I got to speak one earlier today in Alexandria. It remains my favorite thing to do. I love to ask the questions, whether I’m on a college campus or a naturalization ceremony: Why did my mother come here? What was so unique to this country?

She had originally gone to Spain, and she was desperate to come to the United States because it was a society that recognized that her rights didn’t come from government or a dictator, but they came from God.

I’ve said before that what separates freedom-loving countries from so many countries on the planet—some of which even today—is this right here…[knocking]. As Americans when you hear that [knocking], your heart doesn’t race. You don’t get nervous. For me, it’s probably Amazon Prime dropping something off or my golden retriever. Somebody delivering something to the home.

But in so many areas of the world today, right now, whether it’s in Beijing, Havana, or in North Korea, if somebody hears this [knocking], that means something very different. That means they’re there to take you away. Perhaps you worship God in a manner they disagree with, because communism does not allow you to worship anything other than the state, or you’ve spoken up for freedom or dignity in human rights.

My uncle Angel Miyares heard that knock at Bay of Pigs. He was rounded up in the middle of the night. Castro’s security forces showed up to my mother’s home, shoved a machine gun in her face, and asked her where her brother was. See, his crime, was handing out anti-Castro leaflets as a student at University of Havana. They took him to an empty baseball stadium, and he suffered the humiliation of a mock execution.

What communism does, and what makes it so insidious, is it robs you of your own dreams in the need of the so-called state, which is always constantly re-defining its needs.

My mother’s dream was to become a doctor—the first female doctor of her family—in Cuba. She enrolled in University of Havana to take classes in biology, chemistry, and all the pre-med classes. When she tried to enroll in that gymnasium hall, the communists that had taken over (it’s always amazing how quickly the communists take over academia, right?) told her, “We don’t need you to be a doctor. We don’t need you to take classes in biology and chemistry. We need you to take classes in Marxist-Leninism.”

You’re denied your ability to chase your own dreams by the need of the state. It is something that is utterly remarkable at this time, because so many young people are flirting with this siren call of communism and socialism.

There’s a lot of things that come across my desk as the Attorney General because of the nature of the number of defense insulations in this state. I’ve had to get a security clearance. And so, there are a lot of bad actors who want to do a lot of harm to Virginians and Americans. But people ask me at times, “Well is there anything that keeps you up at night?” We have a lot of problems to be clear, from a security standpoint, particularly at our Southern border, but I will say this: What keeps me up at night is the fact that we have an entire generation of Americans who have no concept of what has made this country the last best hope on earth.

Fifty-one percent of young people ages 18-29 say that they prefer socialism over free market capitalism. Sixty-four percent of that same age group sided with Hamas after the October 7th attacks over Israel. I went to Israel in November after the attacks, and you could still smell the death when you visited the massacre sites. Only 1/3 of young people in America today say they have a love of America.

There’s a saying out in Oregon: You don’t know how tall a tree is until it has been cut down. I pray nobody ever asks that, and says that, about this country.

When I speak on college campuses, I point out that we are very unique in this country. 99% of every human being who has ever walked on this earth did not have freedom of speech. 99% of every human being who has ever lived on this planet did not have freedom of worship or the ability to pick their own leaders at the ballot box. We think what we have is as normal as breathing. The reality is, it is unique, and it is precious. And time and time again, countries fall not from without, but from within. People forget who they are. That is beyond concerning.

Plato said that the two most important questions for a civilization are this: Who teaches the children? And, What do they teach them?

I cannot tell you how unsettling it is that when I go on a college campus and I talk to these young people, they have a view of this country that we’re irretrievably broken. I’ve told educators before—I’ve told college presidents before—if your young people do not view the hammer and sickle with the same revulsion as they view the swastika, then we have failed in an education system. It is the greatest totalitarian butcher of an ideology that the world has ever seen. And that is concerning.

I love to ask young people, When you look at this country, the question is, compared to what? If you compare us to perfection, we have failed every time. But the reality is you have to compare is to what? If you compare the United States to every other country that has ever existed, we’ve given more second chances to more people from different backgrounds, faiths, and creeds than any country on earth, and it’s not even close.

Margaret Thatcher said in Europe, “All the countries emerged out of history, but America is the only country that emerged out of a philosophy.” Or as G.K. Chesterton said, “America is the only country to be founded on a common creed.”

What is that creed? It was written by a very quiet, unassuming lawyer from Charlottesville, who was not a great speaker, but he was a brilliant thinker. And now if you were to say his name on most college campuses, it would be considered controversial: Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the birth certificate for our nation.

The idea that we have this crisis of confidence as a people is I think one of the most troubling trends that you can imagine in both America’s education system and the long-term future of who we are. Freedom of religion is unique and special, and it is the American miracle. Freedom of press is unique and special, and it is the American miracle. Freedom to choose your leaders is special and unique, it is the American miracle. Everything I described: communism destroys and grinds into the dust.

The reality is that we [America] did do it differently, and it is important for us to always recognize to be ever vigilant.

I was one time speaking to a high school class at one of these private academies where the tuition costs more than my car, and a young man stood up and challenged my notions that America was in any way an exceptional country. And I said, “I never said that we were a perfect country, but we are a noble one.” This young man said, “Prove it.” Now, the easy answer would have been to go to Arlington National Cemetery and walk along those crosses and those Stars of David, but I realized that we live in a generation where everybody lives on this device [cell phones]. So, I told the class to take out their phones. I’ll give special dispensation, I won’t be offended, if you want to join me in this exercise. I want you to search three words: “Korea at night.”

If you’ve ever done it, that is what pops up. It’s the Korean peninsula at night.

It’s amazing, you see a peninsula of the same people, same culture, they speak the same language. One is a first world country, people can open their own business, they can speak out against their own government, they can choose their own leaders, they can watch whatever movie they want to watch, and it’s in light. And the other one, of the same people, is in utter darkness. Utter, complete darkness. I asked this young man: “Why? Why is half the country in light and half the country in darkness?” And this very self-assured young man, who seemed to have all the answers, didn’t even know that it had happened.

I said it’s because 40,000 Americans crossed an ocean, went to a land where they didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the people, and they fought and they bled, and they died, defending a people they didn’t even know from one of the worst tyrannies the world had ever seen: communism. He had no idea that that had ever happened at all. And they didn’t ask for glory, they didn’t ask for power. They only thing they ever asked for was a land to bury their dead. If that’s not an example of nobility, I don’t know what is.

So, we are called again as Americans to remember those who have fallen, the silent victims. The ones who have been taken out in the middle of the night; mothers don’t even know where they’re buried. Those who say the wrong words to the wrong person at the wrong time, and they’re stripped of their job or their dignity. The priests who weren’t even allowed to give sacraments to those who were dying and sick. The young women who had dreams dashed because the state robbed them of it.

And to this day, we have so many young people, like this young man who challenged me in this class, who don’t even know that it happened.

The mission of this organization, to remember those that have fallen, to remember their voices that echo through the decades, it is one of the most important missions that you’ll ever find in this town, because it you’ve ever talked to anyone who has been in a gulag, whose been a political prisoner of conscience, they will tell you it is not the beatings, it is not the starvation at times, their greatest fear above all else, is this fear that they’re going to be forgotten.

That is upon every single person in this room. Both preserving this amazing country that we have, but also being a voice for those who have no voice. And so, for those who support this amazing Foundation and Museum: thank you.

I tell my daughters all the time that gratitude is the most underrated of human traits, and ingratitude is the ugliest.

I’m reminded of what an Italian immigrant noted the first time they ever laid eyes on the statue of liberty. They said that is the greatest sight the world has ever seen since the Star of Bethlehem. So many who came to this country from communism know that is absolutely the truth.

My favorite president, not surprising as a child of the 80s, is Ronald Reagan. Not surprising, that was also my mother’s favorite President. He was the first President she ever got to vote for. I remember in 1984, her taking me with her, the pride she had to cast her ballot for her “beloved Ronald,” as she called him. Ronald Reagan noted that of all the countries in the world, our country, the United States, is the only country in which our national anthem actually ended with a question: Are we still the land of the free and the home of the brave? I think that’s a question for every generation. I think that’s a question for everybody in this room. I know the answer would be yes.

It’s an honor to be here with you as we discuss these issues. It’s an honor to both remember those who have come before and the mission of what lies ahead. God bless each one of you.

Thank you.”