Vīķe-Freiberga to receive Medal of Freedom in Washington ceremony

Former Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga will be one of two recipients of this year’s Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has announced.

Vīķe-Freiberga is scheduled to receive the honor Sept. 8 during a ceremony in the Latvian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The other recipient, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, will be attending a joint session of Congress and will receive her medal at a later date.

The medal is awarded each year to individuals and institutions that have demonstrated a life-long commitment to freedom and democracy and opposition to communism and all other forms of tyranny, according to a press release from the foundation.

Vīķe-Freiberga served as Latvia’s head of state from 1999-2007 and was the first woman president in post-communist Eastern Europe. Born in Latvia in 1937, she and her family fled to the West during the Second World War. Vīķe-Freiberga is a professor emerita of psychology from the University of Montreal in Canada. With her husband Imants she now runs the Rīga-based VVF Consulting, a firm that specializes in international relations, diplomacy, science, politics and negotiations.

Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in 1989 became the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress. She fled her native Cuba as a child. According to the foundation’s announcement, “During her two decades of Congressional service, she has been a staunch defender of human rights around the world and a sharp critic of Fidel Castro’s dictatorial regime.”

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was established by Congress in 1993 to build a memorial in Washington to commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communism. The memorial was dedicated in 2007. Two years later, the foundation launched the online Global Museum on Communism.

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