Twenty-five years ago, on November 17th, the Velvet Revolution began with a peaceful student march that ultimately paved the way for the remarkable transformation from communism to democracy in Czechoslovakia (presently Czech Republic and Slovakia). Following the end of the Velvet Revolution, Václav Havel (1936-2011) became the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia. Havel, a playwright, essayist, poet, dissident, and statesman was one of the original signatories of Charter 77, a document that criticized the communist government of Czechoslovakia for failing to implement human rights provisions. As a champion of human rights and freedom, Havel deeply impacted the world by leaving behind a transformational legacy that inspires those individuals today fighting for justice and democracy.
This month, the Václav Havel Initiative for Human Rights & Diplomacy at Florida International University, had the pleasure of collaborating with a number of organizations for a week-long celebration in Washington, DC, commemorating Havel’s legacy and the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The Václav Havel Initiative participated in a variety of events alongside the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, DC, the Václav Havel Library Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Prague Freedom Foundation and the American Friends of the Czech Republic. The Václav Havel Initiative is very grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to this important commemoration and it is especially thankful to the Cuban American National Foundation and Carlos Saladrigas for their generous support.
The events consisted of:
A Concert by the Czech Philharmonic
On November 17th, the Czech Philharmonic performed in the Washington National Cathedral for a memorable musical experience that was open to the public. The orchestra performed Vltava (the Moldau), from Ma Vlast (My country) by Bedrich Smetana and Symphony No. 9 in E minor of “From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak.
On November 18th, a gala dinner organized by the Václav Havel Library Foundation and the American Friends of the Czech Republic, took place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The Master of Ceremonies for this event was the Hon. Madeleine K. Albright, former US Secretary of State.
Conference – Václav Havel’s Legacy Today
On November 19th, distinguished Czech and US panelists, including former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and President of Florida International University, Mark B. Rosenberg, along with other distinguished panelists, highlighted the importance of Václav Havel in helping to transform Eastern Europe and why it is crucial to preserve his legacy. The panels were moderated by former Czech Ambassadors to the U.S., Michael Zantovsky and Martin Palous (who currently serves as the director of the Václav Havel Initiative at FIU).
Unveiling and Dedication of the Václav Havel Bust
On November 19th, a bust of Václav Havel was unveiled and dedicated at the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The bust of Havel joins those of such distinguished statesman as Winston Churchill, Lajos Kossuth, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. The dedication of the Václav Havel bust was hosted by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Boehner. Honorary Chairmen for the event included President George H. W. Bush, President William J. Clinton, and President George W. Bush.
To view pictures of the event, click here