Press Advisories

19. 11. 201419:48

Greeting prior to the unveiling of a bust of VH in the Capitol

Ladies and Gentlemen,

President Václav Havel delivered the most fitting words for this occasion in his first New Year’s address to the nation on 1 January 1990: “No one who paid for our present freedom in one way or another should be forgotten.”

Thus, by unveiling this bust of Václav Havel – in his own words – we are not honouring him alone, but each and every one of those who, refusing to capitulate in the face of oppression and servitude, defended themselves, even on pain of imprisonment, suffering or death. They spoke out, like the writer and playwright Václav Havel.

Prior to November 1989, he was the natural leader of the dissident movement, which I consider to be a continuation of Masaryk’s humanism, threading its way through Czech history, and which, through my own politics, I endorse. I appreciate the civil courage exhibited by Havel and other signatories of Charter 77, which encompassed the most diverse currents of opinion, from the democratic left to the conservative right. Having had the dexterity to unite these streams, Václav Havel was able to figure as their credible mouthpiece.

Yet his celebrity extended far beyond the borders of his homeland. Not only was his a voice a heard at home, but he was well respected throughout the world. Despite lacking practical experience of foreign policy, he was acutely aware of global conflicts and endeavoured to find new ways of addressing them, though we may sometimes have thought him a naive dreamer from a small country stolidly trying to make the world a better place to live. However, he was inwardly convinced that the higher ideals of humanity and morality could guide – not only his own country – towards correct choices and positive change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Shortly after being elected president, Václav Havel – one of only a handful of non-Americans – delivered a historical address right here. And, having opened with his words, please allow me to end with them, too. It was here in Congress that he said: “We share a common destiny. Events in Europe affect the fate of the United States and vice versa; the Old Continent is directly dependent on the American continent. With the support of your President Wilson, our first president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, was able to establish our modern state on the principles on which the United States was founded.”

Principles of freedom and democracy which, I would add, continue to unite us today. Thank you for your attention.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the CR