TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dozens of survivors of communist regimes flocked to the State Capitol on Thursday in a show of support for a bill that would bring stories like theirs into the classroom.
Supporters expressed concerns that younger generations don’t understand the history of America’s founding principles and how they differ from communist ideology.
For many Floridians, communism is thought of as a relic of the Cold War. But for dozens of survivors of communist regimes who brought their stories to the State Capitol, it’s personal.
“We have lost our families, brothers, some of us friends, mom and dads,” said Maximo Alvarez, who escaped from Cuba at the age of 13.
Alvarez and the other survivors are backing a bill that would require courses on the U.S. government to include a comparative discussion of political ideologies, like communism, that conflict with the nation’s founding principles.
The legislation would also direct the Florida Department of Education to curate an oral history collection from those who have seen both forms of government in practice.
“We need our children in Florida’s classrooms to realize that there are some places in the world where freedom is a luxury and liberty is just a dream,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who is backing the legislation, said.
A survey by The Victims of Communism Foundation found one in three millennials have a favorable view of communism.
“Clearly, the textbook isn’t enough, the instruction in the classroom isn’t enough,” Sprowls said. “What our children need to understand what happens with victims of communism, what happened in the Holocaust, is to hear it from survivors — from people who were there in their own voice, from their own experience.”
Alvarez worries without hearing it from those who lived through it, the same ideology that deprived his countrymen of human rights and left others in graves, could take root here in the U.S. He hopes this bill will help ensure that never happens.
“I have a thriving business, but if I give everything that I have today, it wouldn’t be 1 percent of what I was given when I came to this country,” Alvarez said.
The bill sailed through its first committee with unanimous bipartisan support.
A separate bill has been filed that would establish Victims of Communism Day as an official state holiday to commemorate the 100 million victims killed under communist regimes.
The holiday would be observed on Nov. 7, the anniversary of the first day of the communist regime in Russia.