LAWRENCE — Dole Institute of Politics will present the 2011 Dole Leadership Prize to former Ukrainian president and Orange Revolution leader, Viktor Yushchenko. The prize will be given at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19 at the Dole Institute. The program is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
"We are honored to give the Dole Leadership Prize to such a great cultural and revolutionary icon," said Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute. "Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution ignited a fire for the people of Ukraine, and his victory was a landmark for all of post-communist Eastern Europe."
The 2011 Dole Leadership Prize is part of the Dole Institute’s fall series, "The Fall of the Soviet Union: 20 Years Later." This four-part series also will include expert KU faculty, an international blogger and a documentary on the Orange Revolution. A supporting exhibit will feature elections in the former Soviet Union. All events are co-sponsored by the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies.
Yushchenko served as prime minister of Ukraine from 1999 to 2001. During that time, he addressed economic and social problems by lowering inflation, advancing privatization and challenging corrupt practices. Although he was a popular prime minister, Yushchenko was forced out of office by higher ranking government officials.
Yushchenko responded by forming a broad-based democratic coalition called Our Ukraine, which was victorious in the parliamentary elections in 2002. The newly organized opposition gave him a platform from which to mount a credible challenge to President Leonid Kuchma, who had been accused of overseeing an increasingly corrupt administration.
During his campaign for the presidency in 2004, Yushchenko became seriously ill from dioxin poisoning in an apparent assassination attempt; his face was left permanently disfigured. Mass protests, which became known as the Orange Revolution, followed a fraudulent election in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had been declared the winner. Thousands of Ukrainian citizens, inspired by Yushchenko's candidacy and their desire for democracy, occupied the center of the capital city for weeks. The Supreme Court invalidated the falsified election result and ordered a second runoff to be held in December 2004. Yushchenko was officially confirmed as the winner the following month.
Yushchenko's victory was proof that a powerful civic movement, committed opposition politicians, and a resolute, rising middle class had come together to stop the ruling elite from rigging an election and stealing Ukraine’s presidency. The Orange Revolution was a groundbreaking milestone in the history of Eastern Europe and inspired pro-democracy movements all over the world.
The Dole Leadership Prize is awarded annually to an individual or group whose public service leadership inspires others. The award comes with a $25,000 prize. Typically, the Leadership Prize is awarded during a public event in the fall. Former Dole Leadership Prize recipients include George H.W. Bush, Lech Walesa and John Lewis.