They Call It Freedom!

I have a new name for you. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. Mr. Elbegdorj is the president of Mongolia, a nation of 2.89 million people that lies between Russia and China. Mongolian people are known for their independence and their fierceness. For the most part, they have been a nomadic people, herding cattle, sheep, and goats and making their livings off of the land.

Their history is one of conquest and conquered. Before the Middle Ages, Genghis Khan, who conquered much of Asia and Europe, was from Mongolia. More recently, Russia, China, and Japan have all conquered Mongolia, but never completely and never for very long. If, as a people, they have an ideology, it might be the same as the New Hampshire motto, “Live Free or Die.”

Into this land of nomads 50 years ago, there was born a man child into a family of nomads. He was educated through the third grade, and then later he attended high school. Much later, he completed his studies for his master’s degree in Public Administration at Harvard University in the United States. But unlike so many recent graduates from that once great institution, Mr. Elbegdorj thinks for himself.

Elbegdorj has served in the military and as a civil servant. He received training for administration while working as a minor diplomat in Russia. Still later, he ran for and was elected Prime Minister of Mongolia on two different occasions. At this point, he began his quest for democracy for Mongolia. He gathered around himself a group of loyal friends and an equally loyal group of adversaries against his actions and philosophies. It took many years of struggle, but the battle was always bloodless.

His biography reads like he’s a cross between Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, canny in his business perceptions and egalitarian in his approach to political philosophies. Among his beliefs, he espouses environmental causes, not as a “tree hugger” but as a conservationist. He believes in capitalism and upholds the ideals of true entrepreneurship. For a man who has lived most of his life under the tyranny of one form of Marxist doctrine or another, he is surprisingly untouched and unmoved by Communist philosophy.

Largely through his efforts as Prime Minister and now President of Mongolia, he has moved that country from 70 years of communist rule (mainly by foreign countries–Russia and China) to a true democracy where every person’s ballot has the same value as each other person’s ballot.

His decency as a man of his word is so demanding of his personal conduct that when he became Prime Minister, he asked his brother to give up a government position to go into private business so that there would be no conflict of interest nor even any appearance of a conflict of interest between himself, as president, and the government department for which his brother worked. His brother wasn’t keen on giving up a 20 year job, but did so out of family loyalty.

Above all of his beliefs, he holds highest regard to the notion of personal freedom and liberty. He seems to be fearless. In October of this year, he spent 4 days in North Korea visiting with the dictator of that country, Kim Jong-un. The visit climaxed with a public speech to an audience that included Kim as well as the faculty and students at the Kim Jong-il university. According to the English translation of that speech, President Elbegdorj made remarks that might have landed a lesser person in prison indefinitely. At one point in the speech, he turned to Kim and said, “Young man, I hope you and the students of this university have what it takes to lead the (North) Korean people to a happy and prosperous future.”

President_Tsakhia_Elbegdorj_of_Mongolia_with_President_Barack_Obama_of_the_USThe future he was referring to was a future that included a freedom that has been seldom found anywhere in the world, much less than a freedom found in North Korea since the beginning of the twentieth century. Elbegdorj said to them: “I believe in the power of freedom. Freedom is an asset bestowed upon every single man and woman. Freedom enables every human to discover and realize his or her opportunities and chances for development. Free people look for solutions in themselves.”

He warned them that “Strengthening a free society and transitioning to it is not easy. It is a daily task, a grueling mundane routine to clean our free society from ills and dirt, just like parents change the diapers of their babies every morning.”

He assured them that “No tyranny lasts forever. It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power.”

His speech ended with a standing ovation from the faculty and students that lasted until Mr. Elbegdorj left the stage.

And, Oh, yes, he is a fan of and was inspired by President Ronald Reagan even though the two never met. He should inspire us all, and most of all, he should inspire our Federal leadership.

Read more about this remarkable man in Wikipedia and in other biographies.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Harry Livermore

Harry Livermore spent a lifetime teaching English in high schools and junior colleges in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. He now writes for and is editor of the Valdosta Magazine. Harry and his wife Janice live in Valdosta, GA. They are members of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Valdosta. Harry has two sons, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren who live in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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