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Homage to the playwright and first President of the Czech Republic with Martin PALOUS, President of the Václav Havel Library Foundation.
Václav Havel was born in Prague, on October 5, 1936. He was a writer and dramatist and one of the first spokesmen for Charter 77. Imprisoned several times under the Communist regime in the early 80’s (he spent almost 5 years in jail), he became a leading figure of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The social upheaval came to a climax on December 29th, 1989, when Havel, as the candidate of Civic Forum, was elected President by the Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia. In his inaugural address, he promised to lead the nation to free elections, which he fulfilled in the summer of 1990.
On February 2, 1990, only two months after his election, he gave a speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress. He concluded his speech with these words:
“We too can offer something to you: our experience and the knowledge that has come from it. This is a subject for books, many of which have already been written and many of which have yet to be written. I shall therefore limit myself to a single idea. The specific experience I'm talking about has given me one great certainty: […] the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human humbleness and in human responsibility. We are still a long way from that "family of man;" in fact, we seem to be receding from the ideal rather than drawing closer to it. Interests of all kinds: personal, selfish, state, national, group and, if you like, company interests still considerably outweigh genuinely common and global interests. [...] In other words, we still don't know how to put morality ahead of politics, science and economics. We are still incapable of understanding that the only genuine backbone of all our actions if they are to be moral is responsibility. Responsibility to something higher than my family, my country, my firm, my success. Responsibility to the order of Being, where all our actions are indelibly recorded and where, and only where, they will be properly judged. The interpreter or mediator between us and this higher authority is what is traditionally referred to as human conscience. If I subordinate my political behavior to this imperative, I can't go far wrong. If on the contrary I were not guided by this voice, not even ten presidential schools with 2,000 of the best political scientists in the world could help me. This is why I ultimately decided after resisting for a long time to accept the burden of political responsibility. “