Speech delivered by Mikheil Saakashvili at John Hopkins University

"Georgia is a Breath of Fresh Air for All Freedom Loving People"


Thank you all for coming tonight - I see many familiar faces here. Those familiar faces remind me the time that I have spent in Washington.

Thanks also to the organizers of this event - School For International Research is a global leader and institution that provides comprehensive education. It has a proud tradition of excellence in international scholarship, globally, and in our region of the world. I am honored to speak here.

I am very thankful to Dr. Brezinski who, as I perceive, has set the standard for excellence in public service, leadership and international thought.

I'd also like to extend special thanks to the National Democratic Institute. NDI has been active in Georgia for more than 10 years and has done tremendously important work.


By now, everyone in this room is familiar with the dramatic events that took place in Georgia during the month of November. Those events so eloquently labeled as the Revolution of Roses...

Revolutions are strange in a way - when the processes that contribute to their creation are underway one becomes consumed by a special energy - an energy that in our case was underlined by both hope and apprehension.

I hope that we managed to reverse Georgia's tragic decline and build a better future. Three months have passed since the Revolution.

What have we learned?

I think we have learned three important lessons. Lessons that only now are becoming obvious as my government and me set the task to re-building Georgia.

The first lesson is that we could survive the succession of challenges.

What is one of the greatest challenges to any transitional nation and in particular to former Soviet Union countries?

Many countries of our neighborhood seem to have trouble with this issue - with Presidents not knowing when to step down from the presidency.

In Georgia - we proved that succession could be peaceful. It occurred in a dramatic way but within the framework of the Constitution.

It occurred under the banner of a united opposition.

And most importantly, it can occur with the strong and genuine support of the people.

Passing the succession test, we have showed at home and abroad, that Georgia has matured and the State weakened during the previous era, does not exists.

For anyone who ever thought, or hoped, that Georgia was a failed State, our Revolution and our people, proved them forever wrong.

Emerging from the Rose Revolution Georgia is stronger than ever, more united than ever and more resolute in its commitment to build a stabile and prosperous State than ever.

The second lesson of the Rose Revolution is that Georgians have become full members of Europe and the European family.

In reflecting on this point, I am not simply looking to geography, but rather, to national identity.

What we saw in November was a population mobilized in defense of the principles of liberal democracy.

What we saw was a population that refused to have their voice, their choice and their future stolen from them by a corrupt and incompetent government.

The Revolution was not a protest against low wages or electricity shortages, or the lack of basic security guarantees.

Nor was it about people coming out to support me.

Rather, our Revolution was about people fighting for their freedom and their desire to live in a democratic society.

A society that respects human rights, freedom of speech, the rule of law and the belief that citizens and citizens alone, have the right to choose their leaders and their destiny.

What the former government never understood, never grasped, and never believed in was true democracy, which implies that the government should take care of its people and be accountable to them.

Otherwise it will not be a true democracy.

The Georgian people proved that they have the courage, wisdom, and universal desire to live in democracy.

I am extremely proud of my people today and deeply honored to be their President.

I am the President of democracy!

This is a democracy whose national identity and destiny is rooted in Europe as a full and contributing Member to Euro-Atlantic institutions, to regional security, and economic development.

The third lesson of the Revolution is that Georgia has a special relationship with the United States of America.

I make this claim that this evaluation is based on the realization that Georgians and Americans share a common set of values.

We share common beliefs and common aspirations to make our societies more free and more prosperous.

We believe in government that serves people.

We believe in the sacred principle that the power of the State derives from its citizens and that no man is above the law.

These values, which were at the very core of the Revolution, have served to re-enforce the bonds that unites our countries and our peoples!

During this trip to Washington my goal is to strengthen those bonds...

To those who believe that our Revolution was somehow covertly supported by special American interests, I can only say that they fail to understand our culture and our values.

The values of freedom and democracy are not established through grants or loans.

They are not the product of assistance programs or negotiations.

While that assistance was absolutely crucial in building our skills and capacities we were supported and it was used extremely well...

It was our values, which are a reflection of our culture and our identity and have allowed us to succeed.

That we share common values is why I believe programs like Georgian Train and Equip Program have proved to be so incredibly successful.

Georgia contributes to the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and is ready to contribute even more.

To be Georgian is to be part of the family of democratic nations composed of our European brothers and our American friends and partners.


Looking at Georgia today it is easy to see that we are located on the frontlines of some of the most pressing challenges facing Europe and our increasingly inter-connected world.

We live in a neighborhood that contains numerous geo-political and geo-strategic threats.

We live in a country where reconstruction and reform is a national security imperative.

We also stand on the edge of enormous opportunities, opportunities to help the world fight global terrorism, increase its energy security and open new and untapped markets.

Under my leadership during my Presidency I intend to realize these opportunities, to take advantage of those opportunities so that Georgia will re-gain its rightful place in the democratic community of nations.

So that Georgia will prosper.

So that Georgia will always be welcomed in Washington with the words told to me this morning at the US Senate by Senator Nelson - That Georgia is a Breath of Fresh Air for All Freedom Loving People....


Georgia nevertheless faces some very specific challenges. These challenges are in:

Governance reform;

Security reform; and Economic reform.

The first step is governance reform. Setting the example for Georgia and the region:

We must eliminate corruption...

We must make government more efficient and responsive. But how?

By reducing bureaucracy and cutting red tape.

By downsizing government and enhancing professionalism and transparency.

By reforming our civil service.

By providing real salaries, establishing new standards and enforcing the rule of law.

All of these steps will require courage and strong political will.

We must move forward swiftly to take advantage of public support.

The whole region is watching us and I hope that we would successfully attain our goals.

As Georgia succeeds in strengthening its governance, in establishing a model of good governance we have the ability to bring positive change to an entire region.

Not through exporting revolution because revolutions don't work that way.

But rather, by providing an example of democracy and stability. Prosperity and respect for human dignity are quite possible in this region of the world, in that interconnected space linking Europe with the Middle East.

When Georgia succeeds, the region succeeds.

In that respect, what is acceptable for Georgia is acceptable for Europe, the US and more than 400 million inhabitants of the region.

The second step is security reform. What keeps Georgia strong and stable?

Internally we plan to introduce civilian control over all power Ministries.

To bring lasting stability we must and we will restore Georgia's full territorial integrity using peaceful means. I think the Revolution proved that we could implement great changes without violence.

That means taking the necessary steps and creating the right conditions to peacefully return Abkhazia.

Returning Abkhazia and restoring Georgia's territorial integrity will take time and great effort. My government and I view this effort as one of our top priorities...

We must make Georgia a country that all citizens will want to be a part of and live in.

Here I want to emphasize how important it is for Georgia to restore good relations with our neighbors - in particular with Russia.

Russia is a special case due to our historic ties and the last decade of less than perfect relations.

Russia is a special case because of its vast markets and the role that Russia can play in promoting or reducing regional stability.

After my trip to Moscow I have hope that a new era in our relations is emerging - one that is based on pragmatism and the mutual recognition of shared common interests.

While I have no illusions that our relationship will be transformed overnight, I do see that the door is open for new and more positive relations.

Georgia is ready to cooperate with Russia and is ready to meet the Russians halfway on many issues.

Just as Georgia has legitimate interests in the region - so too does Russia (i.e. border security, fighting terrorism, economic growth).

As long as Russia remembers and respects our national sovereignty. As long as Russia abides by its international commitments to remove its bases. As long as Russia realizes that we cannot and will not become a battlefield between two super powers.

I am ready for a new era.

I believe Mr. Putin understands this and is prepared to continue the good start that we began a few weeks ago in Moscow.

I intend to continue down the path of new and improved relations with Moscow.

Our challenge, Georgia's challenge, is to work cooperatively with all our partners to advance lasting security and stability.

The next step is economic reform. What will re-build Georgia:

We need to strengthen and improve the investment climate in Georgia. How?

By means of tax liberalization. Elimination of corruption and harassment by State officials. Provision of greater personal security for investors and businessmen. Development of natural comparative advantage: Agriculture, trade, transport, wine, tourism, light manufacturing, etc.

We need to ensure access to regional markets.

We need to find new sources of financing for entrepreneurs.

We need to develop new public/private partnerships.

We need to strengthen infrastructure.

In Particular - we need to do all we can to build the energy corridor of which Georgia is such an important participant.

This means fulfilling our obligations for the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan and South Caucasus pipelines - pipelines of stability, prosperity and security.

Energy projects in our region are not just about economics - rather they represent concrete vehicles for promoting human development, regional integration and lasting peace.

Georgia is proud and I am proud to contribute to this process.

It is clear to me, that the investments we make in Georgia's economic development are actually investments in Georgia's future.

Improving Georgia's economic strength will improve Georgia's governance. It will give real and powerful reasons for separatists to seek a joint future inside Georgia.

Improvements in governance will in turn strengthen stability and lasting security.

This is an inter-connected, inter-dependent cycle.

We see and recognize these critical relationships and plan to take advantage of them.


I have always believed that actions speak louder than words.

That deeds and results are the only way to judge and evaluate progress.

After only 100 days we have succeeded in delivering some impressive results - defying the skeptics.

Increased tax revenues.

Arrests of some of the most corrupt officials and a visible crackdown on smuggling.

Renewed relations with the International Monetary Fund.

The most competent and progressive government in Eastern Europe has been established.

We also know that expectations are very high.

We also know that we will make mistakes from time to time.

And we also know that we will learn from any mistakes we might make.

What is important in this respect is maintaining the pace of change and providing for the first time in a decade leadership that sets an example.

The Georgia of the past was a nation where neither the leaders nor the people could believe in the future.

I believe we have succeeded in changing that perception.

I believe we have succeeded in offering hope.

I believe we have succeeded in showing strength in the face of enormous challenges.

And I believe that we have a vision that can transform a nation and an entire region!


Tomorrow morning I will be meeting with President Bush and his team.

I look forward to meeting the President and letting him know how serious Georgia is about fighting corruption.

Just how committed Georgia is in reforming defense and security structures.

Just how serious Georgia is about entering NATO and the EU.

Just how serious Georgia is about reviving its economy.

And just how serious Georgia is in fulfilling its responsibility to spread peace and stability in the region.

We know that many challenges lie waiting in the future, we know that re-building our State will not be romantic and that it will take very hard work, sacrifice, focus and commitment.

We know that we have to deliver with concrete actions and measurable results.

I believe that we won't disappoint the expectations. I believe that step-by-step we will succeed.

Today there is a special window of opportunity in Georgia.

This is a unique time.

Georgians and people all around the world have been energized by our positive example.

While this special window of opportunity is open we will need to rely on the collective efforts of all of us. Here I mean the international community in general, and America in particular in order to succeed.

Let none of us in this room underestimate just how much we can achieve when we work together when we continue to deepen and expand our cooperation.

Tonight I wish to issue an appeal to all of you to help us take advantage of this historic opportunity.

That together we can advance stability and democracy in one of the world's most complex and important geo-strategic regions.

Georgia has benefited greatly from its partnership with the United States in the past - and I have argued and I believe that this success is due to our shared system of values and beliefs.

I am sure that our cooperation in the future will be even more robust, even closer and even more fruitful for the very same reasons.

Georgia and the United States are partners. We are allies and we are friends....

By working together honestly and openly, For Georgia, for Europe and for the entire Region we can build a brighter, safer and more prosperous future.

Thank You

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia

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