Do not be afraid

Neda: the nom de guerre of the voice for the aspirations of humanity, who no doubt was greeted in heaven with standing ovations from those who carried this torch before her.

Neda: the woman who would not be silenced, the hope that will not surrender, the voice that resounds across the globe and will not yield to the bloodstained batons of those who beat up, maim, imprison and kill their mothers and wives and daughters, their brothers and sons and grandsons, to perpetuate their power and continue their corruption.

Neda: the heroine to women and men, to the dispossessed and disempowered, to victims of injustice wherever they are, to the hurting and the heartbroken whose will to hope is mightier than the largest army and more lasting than the most bloodstained baton.

Among the last words that Neda heard before leaving this earth were these:

Do not be afraid.

I was proud to march on Saturday with supporters of freedom in Iran. For those who believe in freedom, we are all Iranian today.

I generally agree with the way the president has handled this crisis and find most of the criticism from neocons and partisans to be empty words without substance or sense. They offer no serious plan except ultimately bombing the millions of people fighting for change in Iran, the inevitable consequence of what they champion.

The president’s challenge is different.

In every corner of the earth, women, inspired by the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, stand for their rightful place in a society of equals. Young people everywhere are inspired by the president.

This imposes on the president and his critics a profound duty. Their words and promises can mean life or death for those who hear them in hard and complex places. One need not agree with rightist critics to believe the president can be more forceful and creative.

Last Friday the president addressed the radio and television correspondents dinner. He told bad insider jokes about Mika, Joe and Chuck and about Brian Williams using the president’s toilet and sharing the president’s bed.

Imagine if the president had used a dinner for radio and television correspondents to forgo the trite and self-indulgent jokes to say something serious about a world where reporters are beaten, detained, deported and silenced by regimes that fear the truth.

Imagine if the president had used the occasion to praise the persecuted who risk their lives using new technology to reveal the truth and laud those, such as CNN and the BBC, who beam these truths to a truth-starved world.

Today momentous events are unfolding in Iran, and potentially throughout the Middle East, in part because of the president’s speech in Cairo, Egypt.

I don’t have easy answers, but I do know this: We should never fear to negotiate, and we should never fear to speak the truth.

Neda should inspire us all, including the president, every hour, every day, in whatever we do, foreign or domestic.

Do not be afraid. Neda is our daughter, our sister, our mother and our future. Neda is a martyr to her nation and the voice of the better angels of our nature. Change is hard. Change is coming. The whole world is watching. We should not be afraid.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at