After the proclamation in support of Cuba passed in Marathon, citizens filed out of city hall to wave signs on the side of Overseas Highway. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

On July 19, Monroe County School Board Chairman John Dick made a speech in advance of a proclamation signed by the Marathon City Council in support of Cuban people. Dick, an Army veteran, compared the recent events in Cuba to what is happening in Venezuela now, and what happened in Vietnam many years ago. Below are excerpts from his speech:

The rallies on U.S. 1 and in the rest of Florida and all around the country are a testament to how strong people believe in liberty and freedom for all. What is taking place here this evening is not only important for the people suffering in Cuba, but also to show those misguided Americans that mistakenly believe it’s best to move our country toward socialism/communism. They need to hear and witness the videos with their own eyes that show the oppression, poverty, and despair; along with the human rights violations that socialism/communism breeds in Cuba and other unfortunate countries around the world. 

Monroe County School Board Chairman John Dick

I have never been to Cuba and therefore I cannot give you an eyewitness account of the numerous atrocities taking place there. As a “gringo,” I can say that I do have knowledge of the Hispanic culture’s exceptionally strong passion for the freedoms and family values that come with a democracy. I learned that throughout the 51 years and still counting, of being married to my lovely wife Lourdes, who was born in Puerto Rico … 

But I can give an eyewitness account of people living in the fear of socialism/communism. Long ago when I was 20 years old and a member of the United States Army, I was sent to help in the fight against communism in the country of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam were living in fear of communism and were fighting to keep their way of life free with the help of U.S. forces against the communists backed by Russians. We could have easily won that war, but for weak American politicians that put in rules of engagement that made victory impossible. Then, in 1975, when the Americans abandoned the country and the communists took over, it was the start of a 25-year exodus of people fleeing that country, and just like Cuba they did it by boat in extremely dangerous waters with overcrowded boats. Over 1.2 million of them fled the country of Vietnam and it’s estimated that nearly 400,000 lost their lives at sea. 

We know that over 1.4 million people have fled Cuba in the same manner on overcrowded boats in dangerous waters, and it’s estimated that nearly 100,000 lost their lives in the Florida Straits. 

Those Americans today that think socialism/communism is the direction America should be headed have to ask themselves why millions of Vietnamese and Cubans risked their lives to escape that form of government. Why have nearly 3.5 million people walked out of Venezuela into their neighboring countries?  …As a 3rd generation American I am always proud when I see video of people rising up against an oppressive form of government and waving the American flag. You see that American flag in videos coming out of Cuba, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Iran and other anti-democratic countries. The American flag is a symbol of freedom wherever it is flown, and I am proud to see it flying next to the Cuban Flag by those calling for a free Cuba …

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