Speech ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
June 28, 2019
Contact Info: 
Annaliese Davis 202-226-1290
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered a speech today in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on the threats and challenges facing democracies. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
 
“Good afternoon.  Thank you to former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for hosting this important and timely gathering.  And thank you to the Royal Danish Playhouse for providing a venue that recalls this city’s proud history while projecting Denmark’s bold, forward vision. 
 
“Last month, world leaders gathered in Normandy to mark seventy-five years since D-Day, when freedom and self-government returned to Europe’s shores.  We are also celebrating thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 
 
“The return of independence, democracy, and individual freedom to Eastern Europe in 1989 occurred while I was serving as Co-Chair of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  At that time, I crossed the Atlantic to visit the newly free countries and saw firsthand the joy of their liberty and a future of endless possibility. 
 
“But, as I arrive from across the Atlantic this week, I do so at a time when the global project of democracy faces its greatest test in generations.  On the ascendance in the twentieth century, democracy is now on the defensive in the twenty-first. It is under assault from without and from within. 
 
“Beyond the borders of the democratic world those who fear the spread of democracy counter it with propaganda and efforts to hack our elections.  They employ new technologies to engage in old tricks.  The Berlin Wall is being rebuilt – not with bricks but with bots.  
 
“Meanwhile, from within, the ability of democratic institutions to deliver for our people is being undermined by doubt and division.  Economic strain and uncertainty provide an opening for leaders who promise easy fixes – if only they are allowed a greater share of power and, at times, held above the law.  Additionally, the internet and social media have made it harder for voters to discern between truth and fiction. 
 
“None of us are immune.  America, too, faces these challenges.  We have seen in Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines, and other places voters placing their faith in leaders unfaithful to democratic norms and the rule of law.  Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, and Germany, parties and leaders who praise autocrats and disparage democratic ideals are gaining ground.  Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and homophobia have been unleashed to rally the fearful behind those who offer some ‘other’ to blame for a lack of progress or opportunity. 
 
“Our democracies are premised on the idea that all are created equal, and, as America’s Founders so eloquently stated, ‘that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’  And that we are stronger when our citizens work together than when they stand apart.  The forces now arrayed against democracy reject all of these principles. 
 
“Our challenge is to remind our neighbors and fellow citizens of the fundamental truths upon which our democracies were founded.  And we must ensure that our democratic institutions are able to deliver on the promise of justice, equality, and opportunity that democracy makes possible. 
 
“To meet this challenge, we need to bring together all those who are concerned about democratic backsliding and the erosion of our norms.  Not only within our democratic societies but among the family of democratic states.  Only through unity can we overcome those who thrive on division. 
 
“For Americans, this means embracing our differences and diversity.  It means refusing to allow anyone to redefine America as anything other than ‘indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’  It means embracing and celebrating the civic patriotism that calls us to a common American identity.
 
“For Europeans, this means strengthening the institutions of the European Union, not weakening them.  And it means not allowing old dangers like xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and nationalism to return. 
 
“For NATO, it means reaffirming our commitment to stand together in common defense, which has protected our countries for seven decades. 
 
“And for people throughout the democratic world, it means we must embrace pluralism and human rights.  Because when we reaffirm the humanity of our neighbor, we undermine the false arguments by which our opponents seek to dehumanize those who are different. 
 
“All of us are here in Copenhagen because we recognize that we cannot win this battle alone.  As President Abraham Lincoln taught us a long time ago: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ 
 
“In 1982, when the world hung in uncertain balance between free and unfree, democratic and totalitarian, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the British Parliament and said: 'Our sister democracies have proved that, even in a time of severe economic strain, free peoples can work together freely and voluntarily to address problems as serious as inflation, unemployment, trade, and economic development in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.' That must be also our charge in 2019. 
 
“In a few days I will travel with some of my colleagues to Kiev to lay a wreath in the Maidan Square, five years after the Ukrainian people rose up peacefully to hold their leaders accountable and demand free and fair elections.  Today, they live on the dangerous front line of the democratic world, parts of their country invaded and occupied by those who would not accept a free Ukraine.  We will reassure them they are not alone. 
 
“We will then go to Hungary, where the democracy that was won in 1989 is under assault and risks being lost.  There, we will meet with some of the courageous activists and opposition leaders who are working to promote human rights, restore a free press, and unite the people of their country behind democratic ideals once more. 
 
“The enemies of democracy may test us, our institutions, and our ideas.  But in doing so they will learn the resilience of democracy.  They must come to know our resolve. 
 
“And it will be the people in this room who lead this charge.  Each of us is here at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit because we believe democracy has proven itself to be the best way for men and women to govern themselves in a free and open society and secure a better future for all.  We are called again to prove that so. Thank you.”