Dinner April 14 2018
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, WASHINGTON, D.C.
5:45 PM - Receiving Line Assembles
5:45 PM - 7:00 PM - Reception
7:00 P.M. - Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America – Mrs. Patricia Allen, Natl. Herald
- Tribute to the Magna Charta Banner - Mrs. Annette Smith, Regent Alabama
- Invocation – Rev. Dr. Jack E. Early, Chaplain
8:15 P.M.- Greetings from the National Society – Mrs. Lewis L. Neilson, Jr., Vice President
- Presentation of the Purposes of the National Society
- Introduction of Head Table, Honored Guests - Mr. Lewis L. Neilson Jr., National Chancellor
- Remarks of Chancellor and Perspectives on our Society
- Presentation “Magna Charta as it Transforms Democracy through USAID – Honorable Brock D. Bierman
9:30 P.M - Benediction – Rev. Dr. Jack E. Early, Chaplain
Brock D. Bierman of Virginia is Assistant Administrator, Europe and Eurasia, United States Agency of International Development. Mr. Bierman is a small business owner and has served as CEO of Civic Ancestry since 2010. Before Civic Ancestry, Bierman worked within the George W. Bush Administration. Designated by President Bush in 2007, he was sworn in as the first small state and rural advocate at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), while also serving as the agency’s director of community preparedness. Before joining FEMA, Bierman served as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor for the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Agency for International Development. While at USAID, Bierman was recognized with several honor awards and the Medal of Civic Merit by the President of the Republic of Moldova. A native Rhode Islander, Bierman served six years in the State House of Representatives. After graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1986, Bierman married Lisa Anne Gardner. They have two children, Allison (22) and Robert (20).
THE HONORABLE BROCK D. BIERMAN
ADDRESS BEFORE THE NATIONAL SOCIETY MAGNA CHARTA DAMES AND BARONS
APRIL 14, 2018
Signed over 800 years ago, the Magna Carta marked a critical early chapter in a centuries long epic challenge that continues today -- the challenge of limiting and checking executive authority through the law-based provision of rights and freedoms. It is a testament to the power and influence of this document that despite the passing of 8 centuries we find ourselves here today to celebrate and study this historic charter.
What can we learn from the resolution of a dispute between a 13th century English King and his rebellious barons? How can this document still be relevant to our world in the year 2018?
I think the answer is that; history is always with us, speaking to us and in a way, David McCullough said it best in his recent book, The American Spirit. To quote him, “History, I like to think, is a larger way of looking at life. It is a source of strength, of inspiration. It is about who we are, and what we stand for, and it is essential to our understanding of what our role should be in our time. History, as can’t be said too often, is human. It is about people and they speak to us across the years.”
Now, as we look back on the Magna Carta, we can clearly see that it was a key step away from unfettered executive authority of monarchies and a step towards constitutional, limited, law-based government that respects the rights and freedoms of other institutions and people in society.
It is also worth noting that the full name of the Magna Carta was Magna Carta Liberatum, or the Great Charter of Liberties.
The Magna Carta provided for the protection for the Church.
It provided for access to justice.
It stipulated the rights for both barons and serfs.
And It limited the Crown's abilities to tax.
These provisions provided essential safeguards against the monarch’s unrestrained use of executive authority. Those crafting this document understood the importance of delineating and limiting political power.
They understood how independent civil and political institutions could mitigate abuses of power. Considering these elements of the 'Great Charter of Liberties,' I am struck by how we at USAID, some eight centuries later, are confronting the very same issues, as we seek to build strong, market based democracies across Europe and Eurasia.
Allow me to take this opportunity to speak more broadly about the priority that USAID and the US government place on democracy in this region and around the world;
First and foremost, we promote the spread of democracy because it is the right thing to do. As President Trump stated last July in Warsaw,
“Above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are.”
Democracy and freedom play an important role in the US Government’s national security strategy. The resilience and stability that are associated with democracies enhance our security and potential for constructive partnerships.
Advancing American values such as equality under the law, free and fair elections, and individual rights is inseparable from the promotion of democracy.
As USAID Administrator Mark Green often states, we believe that the objective of foreign aid is to end the need for its existence. A vital basis for a country’s ability to be self-reliant is the strength and resilience of its democratic institutions.
We should recognize that democratization is a long-term project that will require long term engagement on the part of the US Government and multi-lateral and bilateral donors, on the part of USAID, and on the part of our implementing partners.
This long-term engagement requires a steadfast commitment, even when clear progress seems unlikely in the near term. The ultimate goal, however, must be for these countries to realize their own ability to democratically govern and provide for the well-being of their citizens.
Within our work at USAID and specifically within my region, our central challenge to promote democracy and good governance, is limiting and checking executive authority, which remains highly consolidated in many countries.
In a sense you can say that across Europe and Eurasia we have many modern incarnations of King John. Many countries in our region feature a highly entrenched political elite whose control of their respective countries extends far beyond politics.
These leaders often exert an enormous economic influence, dominate the media, and repress an independent civil society. They also exhibit a flagrant disregard for the rule of law.
The flip side of this is the challenge of strengthening those institutions and processes that can serve as checks and counterweights to executive authority.
USAID's programs also work to enhance citizen access to justice and to strengthen the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedom and human rights.
But just as the signing of the Magna Carta was not enough in and by itself to make those freedoms and rights real, today in Europe and Eurasia we see that constitutional reform and the passage of new laws is not sufficient for real change.
Instead, this ability to bring about real freedoms, rights, and accountable, limited government, requires the building of institutions -- such as political parties, judiciaries, civic organizations, and independent media outlets -- and the strengthening of processes -- such as elections, legislative procedures, civic advocacy and engagement, and judicial due process.
We are also continuing to think – together with our partners – about how we can continue to promote democratization effectively even in these difficult environments.
In broad terms, this means: supporting human rights groups who speak out for basic democratic rights and values; Assisting national and local governments in the “everyday” aspects of governance, from trash collection to good roads and schools; and encouraging broader access to objective, locally-sourced information for citizens.
Unfortunately, we also face new challenges from those who have not accepted the virtues of limited government, separation of powers, and empowered citizens. More specifically, Vladimir Putin and his Government.
The Kremlin seems to see alternative centers of power domestically as a threat, and seeks to undermine democracies in its neighborhood. We recognize that this malign influence, based on a fundamentally different set of understandings about the role of executive authority than that enshrined in the Magna Carta -- is a threat and a hindrance to our development goals to support real democracy. We have all seen the actions taken by the government of Russia to undermine democratic progress in this region and beyond.
The United States Government, both the Administration and Congressional leaders like Senator Cardin and his counterpart across the aisle Senator Corker, have been leaning in to this problem and directing strong action on many fronts.
I share their belief that countering this Kremlin influence and its proxies across the region is the central challenge of the day.
Therefore USAID is placing countering the Kremlin’s negative influence as the centerpiece of our strategy and our E&E programs going forward. And please note that I use the word “Kremlin,” and that is because I want to underscore that we do not see the people of Russia as the source of the problem. In fact, we wish to continue to help the people of Russia achieve their aspirations for better lives, with more freedom, prosperity, and accountability from their government.
Since my first visit to Russia 20 years ago, I have had the opportunity to meet with many Russian citizens and talk openly about their hopes and dreams.
It never ceases to amaze me how similar we all are on so many levels.
I know that, on a personal level, many Russians share our vision for open democracy, fair and free elections, and a future in which all citizens have a chance for a better life.
I believe we must remember that it is the Government of Vladimir Putin, rather than the people of Russia, that is trying to undermine our work with democracy and governance in the region.
While the Magna Carta has served as a foundational and guiding document for the development of open and democratic societies for much of the world, its principles are sorely lacking throughout much of our region. Many regions and nations in Eastern Europe and Eurasia have seen a succession of absolute monarchs, communist dictatorships, and modern autocracies.
We should remain committed to democratic principles as the guiding ‘compass’ of our work.
We should respectfully but firmly reject attempts to redefine or qualify democracy by adding adjectives like ‘managed,’ or ‘sovereign,’– as some leaders of the region have attempted to do.
Our standards and models for democracy must be rooted in the principles, values and ideals of representative government founded on the consent of the governed. The Magna Carta was the first step in exactly that.
The recognition of the rights of the people to have a government that acts in their interest and remains accountable to them was first put forth in that precious document. And while the number of classes and people represented in and by government has greatly expanded since the 13th century, the Magna Carta represented a radical departure from the notion that the monarch ruled alone and for their benefit.
Today, as we enjoy the freedoms and liberties of our great country and as we seek to help those around in the world in their pursuit of those same rights, we remember the debt we owe, in no small way, to the ideals first enshrined in the Magna Carta.
I would like to finish by once again quoting from David McCullough’s book, the American Spirit. In which he actually quoted the late Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, who said:
“Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plan cut flowers”
Cut flowers have no foundation, they may look good for a few days but they never last. The Magna Carta gave us the roots we needed for Democracy to grow and flourish.
Thank you for your continued efforts to recognize the Magna Carta Liberatum as the foundational document that helps me do my job.