April 4

2024 Heroes of Democracy Gala

In-Person Event

2024 Heroes of Democracy Gala

RDI hosted its second annual Heroes of Democracy Awards Gala, celebrating those who have fought tirelessly to protect democracy, both at home and abroad. RDI’s honorees included Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Senator John Fetterman and former Representative Adam Kinzinger. The event brought together RDI’s community of democracy defenders—including dissidents, business leaders, journalists, and public servants to celebrate these champions of democratic values and highlight the ongoing commitment to defending and advancing democracy around the globe.

With freedom on the line at the ballot box and on the battlefield, we must approach our work with the seriousness it demands. But it is just as important that we feel pride in our vision of democracy and take time to celebrate those who are striving to realize this noble goal, whether in the halls of Congress or the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe; on NATO’s eastern flank or in Fulton County, Georgia. RDI’s leadership and honorees embodied this ethos in their inspiring remarks.

RDI’s Chairman and Chess World Champion Garry Kasparov

“The right to choose your leaders is not just part of your birthright, it is a hard-won privilege you must fight constantly to protect. It’s on us to put these words into action.”

RDI’s Chief Executive Officer Uriel Epshtein

“Now it’s up to all of us to pick up the baton and take up the fight. All of us […]. In all the ways we can. Let’s get to it.”

RDI’s Frontlines of Freedom Director Evan Pastor Mawarire shared his incredible story fighting against Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe:

Tyranny always thrives when people like you and me hope that someone, somewhere, other than us will do something about the problem.”

Each of the honorees echoed this spirit, appealing to Americans and supporters of freedom worldwide. While Prime Minister Kallas was not able to join us in person, she sent us an important video message that we are excited to share with you:

We are now living in a historical moment where more people around the free world are waking up to the fact that freedom and democracy are not a given.” 

-Prime Minister Kaja Kallas

(RDI Chairman Garry Kasparov with Estonian Ambassador to the UN Rein Tammsaar, accepting the Heroes of Democracy award on behalf of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas)

In Estonia, we are fully committed to supporting Ukraine as long as it takes by all means at our disposal. But to win this war, we need the same spirit across the entire Free World.

– H.E. Mr. Rein Tammsaar, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN

Senator Fetterman highlighted the struggles of democratic allies like Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, each facing down authoritarian enemies, and criticized the politicization of US foreign policy:

When I grew up, we all agreed that Russia was the evil empire and now we’re arguing about if we are going to stand with Ukraine. Ukraine is not asking for American blood. All they want and what they deserve are the tools to beat, humiliate, and break Russia. And we need to deliver that.” 

– Senator John Fetterman

Senator Fetterman also received a special gift of a hoodie from RDI, capturing his unique fashion style and our shared belief that “democracy has no dress code.” 

Former Representative Kinzinger praised the alliance between moderates on the right and left against the political extremes:

“I have come to realize that there are no Republicans and Democrats anymore. It’s really just people who love democracy and people who don’t.” 

– Representative Adam Kinzinger

RDI CEO Uriel Epshtein with Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) and Former US Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

Election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss spoke about how democracy requires collective, community-wide involvement:

The enemies of democracy are trying hard to divide us, working to undo all that we’ve worked so hard for. But you know what? They won’t win. We won’t let them.

– Ruby Freeman

Democracy is the system that says that we all matter and we all have a say. And powerful people don’t just get to treat us like pawns in their game

– Shaye Moss

Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shay Moss alongside RDI Board Member Linda Chavez and former White House national security official Olivia Troye