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Honoring Václav Havel

This week, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Speaker John Boehner welcomed guest to the U.S. House of Representatives to honor a true hero, Czech President Václav Havel.

Throughout his life, Havel stood against Communism and the repression of the totalitarian system.  Prevented from studying the liberal arts and humanities, he was forced into an apprenticeship in a chemical laboratory and later, after his works were banned, he was forced to take a job in a brewery.  Throughout this, he remained committed to his writing, and became the leading Czech voice of dissent against the regime.

In his essay 1978 essay, The Power of the Powerless, Havel expressed the struggle of the ordinary citizen in a totalitarian regime:

“Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the [Communist] slogans merely to ingratiate himself.  He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce.  He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings.  And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support.  In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie.  He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game.  He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity.  He gives his freedom a concrete significance.  His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth…”

As IRI said at the time of Havel’s passing, “Revolutions are almost never the work of a single person, but it is surely impossible to imagine the wave of revolutionary change that swept Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 without Václav Havel.”

In paying tribute to Havel, Speaker Boehner said, “Here was a writer who exposed the communists using one weapon they could not match: the truth.  For this, he received three stays in prison, countless interrogations, and constant surveillance.”

The ceremony, which dedicated a bust of Havel, featured Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Czech Speaker Jan Hamáček, Chairman Ed Royce and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  Havel’s widow, Dagmar Veškrnová, also participated in the unveiling.

Posted by

Lisa Gates

Director of Communications