Past Program Faculty
Dr. Elizabeth Edwards Spalding is Senior Fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy. In addition to serving as Vice Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s (VOC) Board of Trustees, she is a core faculty member in VOC’s National Seminar for Middle and High School Educators. Spalding is the author of The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism, the co-author of A Brief History of the Cold War, and currently at work on a history of world communism. She has taught on subjects ranging from U.S. foreign policy, national security, and international relations to presidential leadership, religion, and politics at Pepperdine University, Claremont McKenna College, George Mason University, and Catholic University of America. A frequent lecturer on U.S. foreign policy, the presidency, communism, and the Cold War, Spalding holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in international politics and political theory from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in political science from Hillsdale College. A third-generation anticommunist, she lives with her family in Arlington, VA.
Sirley Ávila León, is an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa. She joined the democratic opposition after she was driven out of her position for trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her, and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security, she was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. The assailant was Osmany Carrión, who had been “sent by state-security thugs,” Ávila León explains, for an act of aggression that “was politically motivated." Threats escalated against her and her family leading to her decision to flee Cuba and seek asylum in the United States. She arrived in Miami, Florida on October 29, 2016 and continues to denounce the gross and systematic human rights violations taking place in Cuba today.
Đoàn Viết Hoạt is a journalist from the south of Vietnam. After Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, he was detained in a reeducation camp for 12 years. Upon his release, he founded Freedom Forum, a discussion group and newspaper that advocated free speech and the release of all political prisoners. Involvement in the group led to Viết Hoạt’s renewed arrest in 1990 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in March 1993, and in 1994 he was given the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. His sentence later was reduced to 15 years’ imprisonment and five years’ house arrest. He was released at the beginning of September 1998 as part of a large-scale prisoner amnesty to mark the country’s Independence Day, and he now lives in the United States.
Dolkun Isa was a student-leader of the pro-democracy demonstrations at Xinjiang University in 1988. He founded the Students’ Science and Culture Union at the university in 1987 and worked on programs to eliminate illiteracy and to promote science and to lead other students in East Turkestan. He was expelled from the university in September 1988 after four months of house arrest and a six hour-long dialogue with government officials about the students’ demands but completed his physics degree via independent study, and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Politics and Sociology from Gazi University in Turkey and a degree in Computer Science in Munich, Germany. After enduring persecution from the Chinese government, Isa fled China in 1994, sought asylum in Europe, and became a citizen of Germany in 2006. In November 1996, he played an important role in establishing the World Uyghur Youth Congress in Germany and served as Executive Chairman and President. In April 2004, he also played an important role in the establishment of the World Uyghur Congress through the merger of the East Turkestan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress and was elected General Secretary. He has since been presenting Uyghur human rights issues to the UN Human Rights Council, European Parliament, European governments and international human rights organizations. Isa is the current President of the World Uyghur Congress. In 2017, he was elected as the Vice-President of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), of which the World Uyghur Congress is a member. In this capacity, he works with other marginalized or unrepresented peoples to collectively strive for democracy, freedom and respect for basic human rights. Isa is a recipient of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Human Rights Award.
Francisco Marquez Lara is a Venezuelan lawyer and political activist. He was a political prisoner for four months and was forced into exile in the U.S by the Venezuelan Government. Before his imprisonment in June 2016, he was Chief of Staff of the Mayor of El Hatillo in Caracas starting in 2014 and worked with the Lt. Governor of the State of Miranda in 2013. He obtained his Law degree in the Catholic University Andres Bello (2009) and his master’s in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (2012). He is currently focusing on torture and human rights issues and researching on the erosion of democracy in Venezuela.
Lily Tang Williams was a Chinese lawyer and law assistant professor, who became an American businesswoman and liberty activist. Born to illiterate working-class parents in China’s western Sichuan province just before the Cultural Revolution, Williams directly witnessed Chairman Mao’s takeover and the horrors his regime inflicted, including extremely poor living conditions, food rationing, political and social chaos and, Communist indoctrination. She graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai with an undergraduate law degree. After graduation, she was selected to continue as part of the law school faculty, as well as practice corporate law in Shanghai as China began to rebuild its economy. In 1988, Williams decided to study in the U.S., leaving her position with only $100 in her pocket and $1,200 in debt to her American sponsor, a Fulbright professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Though she could not speak English fluently she was determined to achieve success in the U.S., earning a master’s degree in Administration and Planning from the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Subsequently, Williams started work for Wyoming Home Health as a medical social worker, and later she worked as an executive for corporations in both Hong Kong and the U.S. Eventually, she went into business for herself, providing consulting services in international business and buying and managing residential real estate properties. Williams became a U.S citizen and voted for the first time in her life in 2000. In 2014, she ran for Colorado State House District 44 and in 2016, Williams was the candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado. Today, Williams continues to manage her own business and travels frequently throughout the states to share the story of her American Dream, defending free speech and free enterprise, and promoting civil and economic liberties.