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Herta Müller is no idiot

Herta Müller, certainly no idiot.
Herta Müller, certainly no idiot.
"I listened to Radio Free Europe several times a day, and those who did not do so were idiots."

So says Herta Müller, acclaimed author and winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. Müller grew up in Romania under the repressive dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu and his feared secret police, the Securitate. In 1979, Müller refused to work as a Securitate agent and was subsequently fired from her job, thus launching her writing career during which she went on to expose countless acts of abuse by the Ceausescu regime.

Müller offered the pithy statement at a book fair in Frankfurt, Germany last week, prompting us to draw up a list of the top five things that dignitaries and world leaders have said about RFE/RL's impact in their countries.

1) "The degree of [Radio Free Europe's influence on our movement] cannot even be described. Would there be an earth without the sun?" - Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity movement and President of Poland (1990-1995)

2) "All through the long years of communism, the Radio provided the only avenue for free exchange of information, for free journalism and also the main source for communication between the opposition at home with the public, the general society, and the nation. I believe that our society owes Radio Free Europe immense gratitude for the role it has played in the past." - Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic (1993-1999)

3) "RFE/RL is smart power. Smart power takes smart people, people who are dedicated, who understand the mission of communication and free expression and reaching out to the rest of the world. You really do represent everything that we are trying to achieve." - Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State (2009)

4) "It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of your contribution to the destruction of the totalitarian [Soviet] regime." - Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation (1991-1999)

5) "Once we were driving from Kabul to Kandahar, and the only station we could hear at that hour, at that time, was Radio Free Afghanistan. We stopped at an oasis just outside of Moqor, and I noticed two elderly gentleman and one young person were listening to a radio. I also noticed the cover was of an ornate design that they had lovingly built for this radio, and I asked them what they were doing. And they said: 'Well, sir, we are listening to the news.' And I said: 'Is this battery operated or electrical?' And they said: 'Well, we don't have electricity here. We have to buy batteries for it. And we will forgo three or four or five days of wages, but we would rather buy those batteries and not eat for a day or two, but we have to have the flow of free information coming in about our country.'" - Mostafa Zahir, Afghan Ambassador to Italy and former Crown Prince of Afghanistan

More testimonials are available here.