Mikheil Saakashvili, President of the Republic of Georgia

Taking Power Peacefully: Reflections on the Post-Communist Revolutions of 20002004

September 14, 2005 04:00 PM


by Lisa Anderson, Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs

Lisa Anderson: Mr. President, distinguished members of the diplomatic corps,
friends and colleagues. It's a delight to be able to have a university alumnus
here at the World Leaders Forum. I'd like to welcome back to his Alma Mater His
Excellency, Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of the Republic of Georgia.
Perhaps one of the most promising phenomena of this new millennium has been
the emergence and spread of peaceful, nonviolent revolutions throughout the
post communist world. From Belgrade to Blesi to Kiev, huge numbers or
ordinary people have taken to the streets and squares of their cities and towns
for days and weeks at a time to protest against stolen elections, to overthrow
corrupt regimes and to try and reform their societies anew. Our speaker today is
one of the architects of just such a movement in his own country of Georgia.

Born in 1967, the President graduated from Kiev University in 1992 specializing
in International Law. He then came to Columbia as a Muskie Fellow, entering the
law school and receiving a law degree in 1994. And actually his faculty
remembers him and have his records of his grades and I can tell you he did very
well. After graduating from Columbia he then went to George Washington
University and got a Doctorate in Juridical Science and briefly practiced
commercial law here in New York City before returning home to enter politics. In
December of 1995 he won a seat in the Georgian Parliament as a member of
then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's Union of Citizens of Georgia
Party. In the Georgian Parliament his major achievements focused on
developing a new electoral system, reforming the police forces and creating an
independent judiciary. In 1997 he was voted Man of the Year by a panel of
journalists and human rights advocates in Georgia.

In October 2000, he became Minister of Justice in the government but resigned
his position in September of 2001 to protest the extent of corruption in the
Georgian government. In October of that year he founded the United National
Movement, a left-of-center social democratic party. And in June 2002, he was
elected chairman of the Tbilisi City Assembly. After Georgian parliamentary
elections held in November of 2003 were widely denounced by domestic and
foreign observers as being rigged, he claimed that his party had been robbed of
a victory and he and his supporters then organized a countrywide campaign of
civil disobedience. Massive demonstrations held throughout November of 2003
drawing tens of thousands of people quickly became known as the Rose
Revolution and forced the Georgian president to resign. On January 4, 2004, he
was elected president of Georgia, making him the youngest elected head of state
in Europe. It's now my pleasure to welcome to the podium the President of the
Republic of Georgia and our fellow Columbian, his Excellency, Mr. Mikheil
Saakashvili. Thank you.

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