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Dear Friends of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture,
I write to seek your support for the Woodrow Wilson Center's Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture.
The 2008 Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture took place on December 4, 2008 and was a resounding success. This year's Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture was given by Ms. Eleonora Cercavschi, a young Moldovan democracy activist and principal of Stefan the Great High School in Grigoriopol, Moldova. Leading public figures, such as former ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson as well as U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky highlighted her accomplishments.
Eleonora Cercavschi has devoted her career to defending children's right to be educated in their own language. During the last 15 years the children in Romanian-language schools in Transnistria have faced discrimination and persecution. Transnistrian authorities insist that public education for ethnic Moldovans in their mother tongue be accomplished using the Soviet-originated Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet. The separatist regime, supported by Moscow, has restricted the usage of the Latin script (the norm) for the Romanian language to six schools which did not want to comply with this rule. In 2002, under pressure from Transnistrian authorities, the high school was shut down and relocated to Dorotcaia, Dubasari district, an area controlled by the central authorities of the Republic of Moldova, some 13 miles away.
The annual Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture Prize was established in 2006 through a small seed grant from the Ion Ratiu Family Foundation based in London, U.K. The purpose of Lecture is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The event expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician, as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.
I hope that you will be able to contribute to the Ratiu Lecture to ensure that this important work can be continued. The Lecture series has been off to a phenomenal start. Within a short period of time, the Ion Ratiu Lecture has become one of the focal points of thinking and debating about issues of democracy and democratization in the United States. The 2006 Lecture Prize was awarded to Dr. Saad al-Din Ibrahim, professor of Political Sociology at the American University in Cairo, chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, and Egypt's leading human rights activist. Dr. Ibrahim, who is now in exile in this country, gave a brilliant talk entitled Are there Democracy Lessons Arabs Can Learn from Eastern Europe? in front of a standing-room only audience of nearly 200 representatives from the Washington diplomatic, public policy and scholarly community. The 2007 Lecture on Democracy as a Challenge by Anatoli Mikhailov, president of the Belarusian university-in-exile European Humanities University, was a similarly successful event.
The Ratiu Democracy Lecture aims to replicate for campaigning democrats today, whether in exile from repressive regimes or representative of today's emerging democracies, the life-changing experience in Washington, D.C., of the then young Romanian democrat, Ion Ratiu, during the 1970s and 80s. Ion Augustin Nicolae Ratiu, businessman and politician, was born in Turda in Transylvania on June 6, 1917. A political refugee in the United Kingdom in 1940, he returned to Romania in 1990, served as vice president of Christian-Democratic National Peasant's Party (PNT-CD) and ran for President of Romania in May 1990. He then rose to become a vice president of the Chamber of Deputies in the Parliament of Romania. He died in London on 17 January 2000, at the age of 82.
Though London was his home in exile, it was in Washington, D.C., where Ion Ratiu was to find essential encouragement and support for his work and beliefs. His Washington experience inspired him to launch the World Union of Free Romanians in 1984 and eventually led him back to post-1989 Romania to found the leading daily newspaper Cotidianul, to lobby successfully for Romania's entry into NATO, and to stand as the democratic opposition's candidate for the Romanian Presidency.
Ion Ratiu believed passionately that democracy is more than a political philosophy or system of government. He considered democracy to be above all a way of life: a set of attitudes and values that should determine our everyday thinking and behavior if we are to have any real hope of living in healthy, functioning democracies ourselves - rather than in dictatorships or regimes that are democratic in name only. It is when we attempt to live out democratic attitudes and values in our own lives, he believed, that we truly fulfill ourselves as builders of democracy rather than obstacles to it.
The Ion Ratiu Lecture strives to enrich the intellectual environment in which ideas about democracy and democratic change circulate, both within and beyond Washington. It seeks to make available for students, scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers the experience and insights of individuals whose work and commitment on behalf of democracy are broadly in keeping with those of Ion Ratiu; to provide opportunities to engage a wide range of Washington-based and international audiences to increase their appreciation of the contribution that individuals can make in advancing democratic change.
We hope that you will be able to support the Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture, and in this manner partake in the international dialogue on democracy, which the Ion Ratiu Lecture invariably enables and diversifies through the rich background of the selected awardees. You may make your tax-deductible donation to the Ion Ratiu Lecture future today through our secure online donation form or by sending a check to: Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture, Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; Washington, D.C. 2004-3027. Please don't hesitate to call us at (202) 691-4322 if you have questions; you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We greatly appreciate your support!
Dr. Christian Ostermann
Chair, Ion Ratiu Democracy Lecture
Woodrow Wilson Center