This Captive Nations Week, America Must Stand with Those Struggling for Freedom around the World
This week was once a fixture of American public life, especially in urban areas with refugee populations. It was created through an act of Congress signed by President Eisenhower in 1959, decreeing that the third week of July would be a time for Americans to show solidarity with all the nations dominated by Communism. In the words of the authorizing legislation, the people of the United States share with the people of these countries “their aspirations for the recovery of their freedom and independence.”
The original law listed by name 22 Captive Nations, most of which had substantial communities in the United States. After the law’s passage, these communities began to hold massive parades and rallies during the annual week, while establishing local committees to coordinate year-long activities. Armenians in Los Angeles, Polish in Chicago, Ukrainians in New York, and many others joined with American citizens to highlight their unique cultures — often suppressed by Soviet or Chinese tyrants — while demanding the release of their countries from Communist captivity.
Sixty years after its establishment, Captive Nations Week offers an important moment to focus on the continued global struggle for freedom. We can show the world that America proudly stands with those who yearn to be free against their oppressors. Just as important, we can awaken new generations of American citizens to the necessity of defending freedom, at home and abroad.
Marion Smith is president and C.E.O. of Common Sense Society.
Originally published in National Review.