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"The first head of state to address USF", Fox 13, 21 April 2008


TAMPA -- In the late 1980's and early 90's, a small part of the USSR was pleading for freedom.

They joined hands and sang.

It was called "The Singing Revolution," and it worked.

"It's as if everyone went to Woodstock," said Estonian President Toomas Ilves, "but this was a patriotic Woodstock."

President Ilves is proud to say they soon found themselves at the forefront of another revolution: a country embracing the internet in ways the rest of the world might one day.

"If you want to look at the future you can see a lot of it in Estonia," President Ilves told FOX 13.

They are the only country to do all their government transactions online. They have a knack for the internet.

A group of Estonians created the now-defunct MP3 file-sharing site Kazaa, then Skype.

"It's the kind of county where the spirit of creativity is rewarded and people come up with good ideas, we have electronic voting government on line. You can take your mobile phone go to a coke machine, point to it and have it taken off your phone bill," said President Ilves.

He's at the University of South Florida talking about Estonia's success, their universal income tax, and other controversial policies.

Monika Orumaa came just to see President Ilves speak. She's here with her stepfather who came to the U.S. to escape communism.

"I'm hoping today people will know more about Estonia. How progressive they are," said Orumaa, "Had they not been oppressed for 50 years, they would've been a lot further ahead."

USF is the last stop for President Ilves.

Late last week, he met with Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Rice about the uprising in Georgia and Ukraine.

"We don't want to see a liberal democracy that embraces freedom of speech and freedom of the press bullied," he said.

He says he hopes Estonia's story will inspire others. "If you do what you think is a good idea and you risk, then you can do really a fantastic thing."

President Ilves spent a lot of time in New Jersey. He went to school at Columbia, and then got his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

For a short time, he was a journalist for Radio Free Europe, and then he began his life of politics. 


Link to the original article on the homepage of www.myfoxtampabay.com