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Remarks on Signing a Resolution and a Proclamation Declaring National Andrei Sakharov Day

May 18, 1983

A brilliant scientist, dissenter, and defender of human rights, Andrei Sakharov, has been called by the Nobel Committee "the conscience of mankind." Andrei Sakharov has chosen a life of conscience, explaining why with these simple words: "I felt that I did not have the right to keep silent."

The bold and penetrating voice of Andrei Sakharov is now in danger of being stilled. Not only is he denied his freedom but his health is in danger, jeopardized by constant harassment and by the lack of decent medical attention. That's why we've gathered here to honor him, to acknowledge the world's debt to him, and to do all in our power to prevent him from being silenced.

Members of the Congress who passed this resolution, like all of you who are here, are individuals of greatly differing backgrounds and persuasions. We're especially pleased to have with us today Mr. Sakharov's daughter, Tatiana, and his son-in-law, Efrem, as well as the congressional sponsors of this resolution, Senators Dole and Moynihan and Representative Kemp. Unfortunately, Representative Solarz couldn't be here with us. But other Members of the Congress are here as supporters of this proclamation.

The diversity of this distinguished group is testimony to the appeal of Andrei Sakharov's life. It's also a tribute to the majesty of his principles, the principles he stands for. But Andrei Sakharov's voice is not just the solitary voice of principle of one man with courage; it is also the free voice of his people—a great, good, and noble people who long for freedom and just rule.

Andrei Sakharov speaks for those in the Soviet Union and elsewhere who yearn for fulfillment of their human rights. No one knows this better than those who now attempt to stifle his spirit, to silence him. Rulers of totalitarian states, however great the danger that they pose to the rest of mankind, are aware of the shakiness of their rule and the fragility of their claims of legitimacy. And that's why they seek to stifle dissent. And that's why we must never stand by in silence as they do.

The words of Andrei Sakharov that I quoted earlier remind us that speaking the truth is more than a right or privilege—it's an obligation and a duty. In this, we must follow his lead. So, today we bear witness to these truths: that Andrei Sakharov is a man of uncommon courage and decency and that all who value freedom and human dignity must speak out now in his defense and in his behalf.

Today, we call upon the Soviet leaders to give Andrei Sakharov his freedom. The world needs his learning, his wisdom, his nobility. In observing National Andrei Sakharov Day, May 21st, we urge the American people and all the peoples of the world to speak for him, for in doing so we speak for ourselves, for all mankind, and for all that is good and noble in the human spirit.

And I will now sign this proclamation with great pleasure.

Note: The President spoke at 10:48 a.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, S.J. Res. 51 is Public Law 9830, approved May 18.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Signing a Resolution and a Proclamation Declaring National Andrei Sakharov Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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