Patrick Henry and Mohammed Nabbous

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Liberty or Death!” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. Fortunately, Henry got the liberty he sought and lived another quarter-century to enjoy the republican government he helped to create. But last night, NPR reported on Mohammed Nabbous, a man who made a similar stand in Libya and almost immediately lost his life in the struggle for liberty.

Henry told his fellow Virginians:

If we wish to be free – if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending – if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!…

Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Mo Nabbous used modern technology to reach more listeners. NPR’s Andy Carvin called him “the face of Libyan citizen journalism” who started a one-man Internet broadcast, Libya Al-hurra or Free Libya:

The media was so tightly controlled by the Gadhafi regime. And then all of a sudden, as Benghazi was trying to free itself, you started hearing voices coming over the Internet. And one of those first voices to come out was Mo, Mohammed Nabbous.

And he was a fairly tech savvy guy, had worked in the tech industry before. And so he managed to rig together a live stream, using freely available tools and a satellite Internet access. And suddenly, he became their local equivalent of Radio Free Europe or Voice of America, where he was trying to get the world to hear their point of view of what was going on.

And then, only weeks after starting his broadcasts, at the age of 28, Nabbous was killed – on the air, as he broadcast from a firefight in Benghazi. Interviewer Melissa Block recalled that he had been known to say, in words that echo Patrick Henry,

I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid to lose the battle.

Freedom is won by people like Patrick Henry and Mohammed Nabbous. We should remember both of them today, and take inspiration from their example.