Ten years after Douglas’s book, President Ronald Reagan gave the new thinking real political impetus when he addressed the British House of Commons in historic Westminster Hall. There, on June 8, 1982, Reagan declared his belief, not only in the superiority of democracy, but in the historical likelihood of tyranny’s collapse and democracy’s victory in the Cold War. The passion to participate in the grand experiment of self-governance was not, Reagan argued, a private preserve of North Americans and western Europeans; it animated brave spirits throughout the world, even where tyrants had worked their hardest to extinguish the flame of freedom.
But President Reagan did more than wax eloquent about the glories of ordered liberty under the rule of law. In Westminster Hall, in front of the world’s oldest deliberative national assembly, Reagan challenged the West to come to the aid of fellow democrats in foreign lands: not just as Cold War strategy, but because it was the right thing to do—for freedom, for peace, for others, and for ourselves.
Both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, welcomed Reagan’s challenge. The result was the National Endowment for Democracy, which opened for business in 1984.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.