The John S. McCain Freedom Dinner and Award Ceremony was traditionally organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI) which Senator John McCain has chaired for 25 years.
“I am honoured to be here today, as the UDAR party has a long history of fruitful cooperation with IRI that has done much to help shape and develop our political party. IRI backed us and other democratic forces of Ukraine during the toughest period of our history when we, Ukrainians fought for our right for free and democratic society,” underlined Klitschko in his speech.
He remarked that John McCain visited Kyiv during the Revolution of Dignity in December 2013. “It was one of the hardest times of our struggle. I will never forget his speech when Senator addressed hundreds of thousands of people on Maidan in Ukrainian ‘America is with you!’ It was a powerful message that people and leaders of the United States support our pursuit of freedom. At the same time John McCain has always emphasized that it is up to us, Ukrainians to shape our own future,” said Klitschko.
He stressed that McCain was a great friend of Ukraine who always believed in our country and backed us also in our fighting against Russian aggression. He led the U.S. Senate to reinforce support for Kyiv and to impose sanctions against Russia.
“My friendship with John, our numerous conversations, his wisdom and determination meant a lot for me. I learnt a lot from him as a politician,” said Klitschko. “Sport is much like politics, one has to fight to win, for one’s principles and goals, no matter how difficult it might be. One should never surrender!” emphasized Klitschko.
At the Freedom Dinner and Award Ceremony the Republican Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader and Cindy McCain, a wife of Senator McCain and a philanthropist who chairs many non-profit organizations in the USA and overseas were also honoured with an IRI’s Freedom Award. At this year’s ceremony the International Republican Institute gave a special recognition to the people of Venezuela striving for freedom and democracy.
The Freedom Award was established by IRI in 1995. Over the years, honorees have included President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Senator John McCain (in 2017). Posthumous award has been given to Borys Nemtsov.
While in Washington Klitschko held also meetings with the US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, the U.S. Agency for International Development chief Mark Green, senior executives and experts of the Atlantic Council and other prominent U.S. politicians.