OPINION: World Freedom Day

: Lindsey Elliott, Herald Contributor

On Thursday, Nov. 9, the United States will observe a holiday called World Freedom Day for the 16th year. Established in 2001 by President George W. Bush, World Freedom Day is a way of commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany and the end of communist rule throughout Central and Eastern Europe. In order to better understand the significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall and why it is celebrated today, some historical background information is necessary.

After thier defeat in World War II, Germany had been divided up into four separate zones controlled by the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. East Berlin was controlled by the Soviet Union and ruled under a communist authoritarian system. West Berlin was democratically governed and held by the United States, France, and Britain. When the Soviet Union realized that thousands of East Germans were fleeing to West Berlin to escape the communist government, the Berlin wall was erected as a barrier between the two sides that completely cut the city in half. The wall cut many citizens off from their jobs on the other side of the city and even divided families.

On Nov. 9, 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the fall of the oppressive communist regime that had controlled parts of Europe for so many years. In a proclamation written by President Barack Obama regarding the holiday, he explains that the holiday is observed in order to pay tribute to the determination of those who chose unity over division and fought hard for their values. World Freedom Day also serves as a reminder that not all people have the freedom and liberties that we do as American citizens.

As students at Roger Williams University, many of us have lived in the United States for our entire lives. Under our democratic government, we are all guaranteed certain political rights and civil liberties such as our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. United States citizens are given the political right to vote for their elected officials and to protest social and political issues they disagree with. There are also laws that protect our citizens from being treated unequally in the workplace or elsewhere based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Living with these rights and liberties often may cause us to forget that there are still millions of people in the world living under authoritarian regimes and being denied the rights we so often take for granted today in our country.

As we observe World Freedom Day this week, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how living in a free country has impacted your life and to recognize and support those who are still fighting for freedom around the world.