Dr. Manny: Remember the Cuban heroes who fought for this day

To say that I am shocked that the Obama administration is moving to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and is planning to open a U.S. embassy in Havana would be an understatement – but I would also be remiss if I did not share with you that before this announcement, this process was already in the making.

For weeks now, multiple newspapers around the country have expressed editorial opinions about normalizing relations with communist Cuba, and with each story I read, I knew that negotiations between the two countries were on the horizon.

I am eagerly welcoming this news, but with a heeded caution. Certainly the world has changed during the decades of animosity between our two countries, and we have more important and prevalent issues to deal with than a tiny communist island nation that, over the years, has gone through rapid changes.

But it is imperative to remember the changes that we have seen in Cuba have come from the people themselves -- not from the government which is still dictated by the hard line old bureaucrats who stand firm in their beliefs about communism. The pressure that has been mounting by the young Cuban generations over years of persistence has led to this fateful day.

I am glad that diplomatic relations are being restored, and I do hope and pray that the trade embargo and travel restrictions that prevent most Americans from visiting the island are lifted. Cubans are hardworking, ethical people who deserve a better future than what they are currently facing. They deserve the chance to build their country and economy back up again.

However, I still caution President Obama to verify that these normalizations of relations between our two countries will create opportunity for change, so that the Cuban people may enjoy a constitutional protection of human rights, and a protected freedom of speech.

I knew this day would come, as Cuba has, in many ways, been intertwined with the history of America dating back to the days of Christopher Columbus. The political history of Cuba has become intertwined in America’s DNA. I knew that we would reach this point, but I am also stopping to reflect on the many Cuban lives which have been lost not knowing that this day might come -- those who died only dreaming of one day returning to a liberated, democratic nation.

We must not let the memory of those who gave their lives working to bring the world’s attention to their country’s plight fade into the distant past. We must work together with the motivated and eager young people of Cuba to honor their predecessors’ fight and preserve their memory by bringing democracy to this oppressed country.

Mr. President, don’t let the memories of those Cubans that fought so hard to bring freedom and democracy to their nation be lost in time. I congratulate you on your vision, but may it be guided on principles of fairness and transparency.