Throughout the world, countless violations of basic human rights occur every day, but, as Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA) quoted Simon and Garfunkel, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

On January 12, The Heritage Foundation hosted Wolf, a champion of human and religious rights around the world, for the presentation of his book, Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights.

Leaders in the Administration, media, and society at large appear to have lost passion for standing for the Tibetans, supporting persecuted Christian and Jewish minorities across the Middle East, or rebuking those who warmly welcome genocidal leaders like Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. An example of the many human rights abuses seemingly ignored by our leaders is the persecution of Coptic Christians and the Egyptian military’s raiding of important international institutions such as Freedom House and the International Republican Institute in Egypt. The U.S. gives Egypt more than $1 billion in aid every year.

Wolf said that Ronald Reagan showed how the U.S. could interact with other nations while still publicly standing against their despicable violations of human and religious rights. Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev and negotiated nuclear treaties but still declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The United States, he said, can stand with the oppressed and remain that shining “city on a hill” for those who live in fear and persecution. We can and must publicly denounce violations of human rights and back up those words with the appropriate actions.

Though many important issues clamor for our attention, we should ask more of our leaders in this area. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it is a human issue. As Heritage’s Kim Holmes wrote,

The United States is uniquely situated to be the global leader on behalf of fundamental and traditional freedoms because it is the only nation of the world explicitly founded on the creed of individual liberty, natural rights, and constitutional government. It is an exceptional nation. But it will remain so only if succeeding generations are committed to this creed.

We need leaders with a passion for translating those fundamental values into actions.