Even in the midst of the partisan squabbling for which Washington, D.C., has always been noted, some issues strongly unite the major parties. One of these is the promotion of democracy around the world.
Twenty-five years ago, on June 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan delivered a major foreign policy address in which he proposed an initiative "to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means." Delivered to a packed parliament in England's Westminster Palace, the Reagan speech contributed to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States.
To mark the anniversary of the Westminster Address and the founding of the organization, NED President Carl Gershman donated the group's founding papers to the Library of Congress at a ceremony on June 7. John Haynes of the Library's Manuscript Division accepted the papers on behalf of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
"We appreciate the decision of NED to convey these records to the Library for preservation and historical research," said Haynes, who presented Gershman with the formal contract that binds the Library to preserve the papers and make them available.
The NED collection joins more than 60,000 other collections housed in the Library's Manuscript Division, including the papers of 23 U.S. presidents; many Supreme Court justices and other government officials; noted individuals such as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Sanger, Samuel F. B. Morse, Benjamin Franklin, Groucho Marx, Sigmund Freud and Walt Whitman; and organizations such as the NAACP, National Urban League and the League of Women Voters.
The celebratory event was strictly bipartisan, with remarks by Elliott Abrams on behalf of the Bush administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, Rep. Donald M. Payne, Rep. David Dreier, former senator and labor secretary Bill Brock and former senator Tom Daschle, among others.
"NED has a special place in our appropriations bill, because of its mission, the talents of its leaders and the impact it has had," said Pelosi. "How exciting that your good work will be memorialized and accessible here at the Library of Congress. I look forward to reading them myself."
About the National Endowment for Democracy
The National Endowment for Democracy was founded in 1983 as a private, nonprofit organization to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernment efforts. It is governed by an independent, bipartisan board of directors. With an annual congressional appropriation, the organization makes nearly 1,000 grants each year to support pro-democracy groups in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
The NED papers constitute a rich historical record chronicling the bipartisan effort to create the flagship institution of America's democracy-assistance work, with a focus on its early years of supporting grassroots democratic initiatives abroad. The materials comprise thousands of documents, speeches, correspondence and photos. For 20 years (until 2027), access to the papers will require permission from the endowment.