A Passion for Freedom: My Encounters With Extraordinary People

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9781591021421: A Passion for Freedom: My Encounters With Extraordinary People
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As the executive director of Freedom House for twenty-one years and now its Senior Scholar in International Communications, Leonard R. Sussman has had the extraordinary opportunity of both leading and serving an organization that has been at the center of the struggle for freedom for more than sixty years. Founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and other visionary Americans, both Democratic and Republican, Freedom House has championed worthy causes from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, to the new democracies that have emerged around the world since the 1990s. In this engrossing memoir of his adventures with courageous men and women in fifty-nine countries, Sussman pays tribute to those mostly unsung heroes who contributed to freedom and humanistic ideals and in some cases paid the heavy price of imprisonment, torture, or death.
Among the many interesting individuals profiled are: Helen Suzman, a white parliamentarian who fought apartheid for three decades; Milovan Djilas, a leading Yugoslav anticommunist who suffered years of imprisonment; philosopher-activist Sidney Hook; Luis Muñoz Marin, Puerto Rica’s first elected native governor; Lucia Thorne, a courageous journalist who risked her life in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion; and many other journalists, politicians, activists, and intellectuals.
Also included is a never-before-published 1987 interview with civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, in which Rustin compares the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins with Martin Luther King.
This one-of-a-kind memoir, full of intriguing insights and vignettes, is a fascinating record of people, ideas, and history in the making.

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A fascinating life makes for fascinating reading - the adventures of press-freedom advocate and globe-trotter Leonard R. Sussman testify to this claim. Having traveled to fifty-nine countries over several decades, Sussman has made his life the epitome of cosmopolitanism and world citizenship, understanding the role and the responsibility of the press in the formulation of a free, democratic world order. Effortlessly moving from domestic and European think-tank forums on democracy to work in the field monitoring first-time elections in developing countries, he recounts here his dynamic travels and contributions to the fight to build a global society tolerant of diverse and sometimes contrasting viewpoints, revealing to us some of the thinkers and agents who have influenced and inspired him along his "walk in the midway."

In the first part we learn of Sussman's family and life at home, from which stem some of his earliest influences - such as his father, who "felt elitist but reveled in being a regular guy" with family connections to the infamous Tammany Hall, and his eventual sister-in-law, politically oriented poet Muriel Rukeyser, who frequently clashed with her conservative family. Additional chapters are devoted to small-town publishers Edith and Armstrong Hunter and their family, as well as a discourse on the strife in the Middle East from the perspective of Reform Judaism. The second, larger, part details the author's contact with other press- and political-freedom fighters across the globe: Luis Munoz Marin, social revolutionary in Puerto Rico; Andrei Amalrik, Soviet dissident who died tragically young; South African parliamentarian Helen Suzman, a longtime opponent of apartheid; Aristedes Katoppo, an Indonesian newspaper editor exiled and later editorially "beheaded" for publicizing issues the government disapproved of; the Rubins, a husband-and-wife radio team fighting censorship in dictatorial Paraguay; and many others. Also included are chapters on political philosophers such as Alexander Bickel, Sidney Hook, Charles Frankel, and Edward Shils. The appendices include Sussman's 1987 interview with civil rights contributions of the NAACP's Roy Wilkins with those of Martin Luther King Jr.

Leonard Sussman's lifetime of experience in world affairs has led him to the singular conclusion that only a path of give and take - a "middle way" that eschews religious and political extremes - can bring about the true freedom and tolerance that is the right of every human to enjoy. The passion he feels for this ideal is evident in his depictions of the lives that have touched him along his path.

About the Author:

Leonard R. Sussman (New York, NY) is Senior Scholar in International Communications of Freedom House and formerly its executive director (1967-1988). He is the author of ten books and numerous articles on issues of freedom and democracy.

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