My husband, Gao Zhisheng, is a lawyer who has always fought for the rights of the vulnerable social groups in China including working pro bono for poor people. In China, the abused party is usually vulnerable social groups and the abusing party is usually the one with power. In this context, lawyers defending the abused party come under huge pressure and face threats from the powerful. Gao Zhisheng doesn’t fear the powerful. He spreads righteousness and human rights by taking advantage of his capacity as a lawyer. His familiarity with the law and his eloquence have allowed him to win justice for many victims. Because of his work, he has also won his reputation and the love of the people. He was even praised by the official media and has won numerous prizes.
The start of President Obama’s second term is an excellent time to reinvigorate and reimagine America’s foreign policy agenda in the area of human rights and economic development. We need a new approach, and we need to do a better job of explaining to the American people the critical importance of an activist and engaged foreign policy.
A thick skin is a necessary prerequisite for every successful politician, at least in democratic societies. Love them or hate them, political satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are symbols of the deep-seated respect for freedom of opinion in the United States (as well as Americans’ love of a public roasting). In nondemocratic parts of the world, however, politicians are much less willing to become the butt of the joke.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.