Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko to Receive 2005 Philadelphia Liberty Medal

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine, whose courageous fight for free and fair elections inspired millions in his country and around the world and led to the end of a corrupt government, has been named the recipient of the 2005 Philadelphia Liberty Medal by its distinguished International Selection Commission. President Yushchenko will accept the Medal and its accompanying $100,000 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on September 17, America’s Constitution Day.

The Philadelphia Liberty Medal, established in 1988 to heighten recognition of the principles that founded this nation and to serve as a lasting legacy to the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, honors an individual or an organization from anywhere in the world that has “demonstrated leadership and vision in the pursuit of liberty of conscience or freedom from oppression, ignorance, or deprivation.” It is administered by the non-profit, non-political, Philadelphia Foundation, the region’s foremost community foundation.

Professor Martin Meyerson, Chairman, since the Medal’s inception, of its International Selection Commission and President Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, said, “President Yushchenko’s courageous leadership in guiding the “Orange Revolution” is reminiscent of the heroism of Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and is likely to inspire other freedom-seeking, democracy-loving people. Now, as a charismatic political leader, he is transforming his country into a modern civil society. As a shaper of a new nation, he merits being seen as the Ukraine’s George Washington.”

H. Craig Lewis, Chairman of The Philadelphia Foundation, commented, “We are delighted to make the announcement of President Yushchenko’s selection on June 28, Ukraine’s Constitution Day, and will welcome him to Philadelphia on our national Constitution Day, September 17. The National Constitution Center is an ideal venue and partner for this year’s presentation because it so ably teaches the same values of freedom and democracy that President Yushchenko stands for.”

Viktor Yushchenko was born in 1954 in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine. After studying economics at the University he began a financial career, starting as a rural accountant and progressing in 1993 to head the national bank of the newly independent Ukraine. There he played an important role in overcoming hyperinflation in the country and establishing a stable national currency. His success led to his appointment as prime minister in December 1999 by President Leonid Kuchma. Dismissed by Kuchma in 2001 because of his rising popularity, Yushchenko became head of the Our Ukraine opposition bloc, and, as Kuchma’s term ended in 2004, he announced his independent candidacy for president.

The presidential campaign was contentious. Yushchenko had great popular support, but the state-run television channels and Russian President Vladimir Putin continually touted his major rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Among the “dirty tricks” was dioxin poisoning of Yushchenko, allegedly by government officials, which left his face disfigured and pockmarked just weeks before the election. The official tally awarded a narrow victory to Yanukovych, but allegations of widespread fraud prompted Yushchenko and his supporters to refuse to recognize the results. There were massive popular protests around the country, and thousands camped out in the main square of Kiev in bitter winter weather while wearing orange as a sign of solidarity. Finally the Supreme Court overturned the election results, and Yushchenko won the repeat ballot.

As President he has begun to expose the massive corruption of Kuchma’s regime, replacing thousands of bureaucrats, and pledging financial reforms, new jobs, and a higher standard of living. He is also aggressively pursuing membership in the European Union.

Mayor John F. Street will present the 2005 Liberty Medal on Saturday, September 17 at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Mayor Street said, “Viktor Yushchenko is an inspiration to people all over the world because of his brave and powerful reform movement in Ukraine, leading to his election as President in 2004. I salute the Liberty Medal Commission on his selection as the winner of the Liberty Medal for 2005, and look forward to welcoming President Yushchenko to our city in September for the presentation ceremony.”

Past recipients of the Philadelphia Liberty Medal are: Polish Solidarity founder--and then President--Lech Walesa in 1989; former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1990; former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the French medical and human rights organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in 1991; the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1992, South African Presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in 1993; Czech President Václav Havel in 1994; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, in 1995; former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1996; the global news network CNN International in 1997; Irish Peace Negotiator Senator George Mitchell in 1998; South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 1999; Doctors James Watson and Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, in 2000; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001; United States Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2003; and, in 2004, Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

Six former recipients of the Liberty Medal have subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Source: PR Newswire

Comments

Anonymous said…
Yushcenko - dioxin. Hard to find a single case where dioxin is an immediate cause of death. Did Russia really want to wait for him to die in 20-30 years? Sounds fishy. If Russia wanted to kill him waiting for 20 years probably wouldn't be of much use to them. Check out his supporters - the poison got him elected didn't it.
tbraveheart said…
Just to update you on the effects of dioxin poisoning - in high amounts, dioxin has been known to be the cause of certain hallucinogenic episodes and this is what may have been the ultimate reasoning behind the Yushchenko poisoning. If he committed suicide because of these effects, the Russian Government would not have had to wait for the requisite 20-30 year period. In my mind the poisoning is not what got Yuschenko elected. It was his political stand against tyranny in his country and the people knew this!
Svetlana said…
Yushcenko is a wrong person to be the president of Ukraine. He is corrupt now as he was corrupt when he was the head of the National Bank of Ukraine. His popularity rating is low. He has to go away. Sooner he goes, better it is for the country. He is not able to unite the country; he is not a good neighbor to the neighboring countries. He kisses America's bottom. He suppresses civil rights of Russian speaking citizens of Ukraine: he does not allow them to speak, study and watch movies and news in Russian language. This is ridiculous not to be able to send your child to Russian/Ukrainian school or watch Russian program on TV. There are millions of us Russian speaking citizens who live in Ukraine.
SHAME on Yushcenko!