Desislava Taliokova: Light Should Not Blind us for a Coming Storm

Desislava Taliokova, ABF executive director

Speech by Desislava Taliokova, executive director of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, delivered at the fourth annual meeting of the ABF community, Together We Shine Brighter, June 14, 2022

The stories of our speakers today, the conversations with each of you, the energy in the hall – all of this charged me with optimism. Thank you for your wisdom, for your courage and for the light, which shone from every word you said. The light, however, should not blind us for a coming storm, a storm that with its muddy torrents can divert us from our path, wipe out our dreams, and drag us down to a point of no return.

I learned many lessons from you today, but I’d like to mention three, which at present I find most important. I’ll present them through the thoughts of three wise people. We can use these thoughts as a moral compass in moments of hardship and uncertainty.

Lesson number 1 is about freedom. It was taught by Tsvetana Dzhermanova. Her story is an embodiment of Ronald Reagan’s words: “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” By the way, exactly 35 years and two days ago, on June 12, 1987, Reagan made his defining, Berlin Wall speech in which he called on the then Soviet leader: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

The wall that divided the people from the East and the West.

Tsvetana Dzhermanova

Lesson number 2 is about neutrality. The heroes of each of the stories that our speakers presented today took a firm position: they didn’t keep quiet, they didn’t keep their heads down, they took the side of truth and justice, and they acted when it was needed, unconditionally. Their stories made me ask myself if it is morally acceptable to be neutral if that means being heartless toward the pain and suffering of others; apathetic to the problems of society; and ultimately indifferent to your own fate. I offer you the words of the 19th-century British statesman, economist, and philosopher Edmund Burke, according to whom: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That is, to remain neutral, I would add.

Lesson number 3 is about weathering the storm. In order to withstand the storm and not let it drag us and turn us off our way, I’d like to conclude with the beautiful words of Bulgarian poetess Blaga Dimitrova: “You have to break the clouds with your head, to draw the thunder onto yourself. There is no other way. There is light above the clouds. The most direct path to the light, the only one, is through the clouds.”

Thank you for the light and optimism with which you filled this day.

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