Monday, January 9, 2012

Vaclav Havel…

…had the misfortune to die the same weekend as North Korean leader, Kim, and Havel's death was overshadowed by that dictator’s. But I doubt if Mr. Havel would have cared. He was not one to seek the limelight. On the contrary, The New York Times describes him as “a shy yet resilient, unfailingly polite but dogged man who articulated the power of the powerless.”

Unlike the politicians we hear so much about and from, today, he quietly followed his beliefs, landing in prison several times, living under police surveillance for many years, and having his plays and essays banned in his own country. When the Communists were finally routed in the Velvet Revolution, which he played a large part in bringing about, he reluctantly became president of the new Czech Republic. Reluctantly, because seats of power were not where he felt comfortable. He was required to wear a business suit and sit behind a desk in the Hrad (castle), when he would have preferred to be in a café with his friends, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, downing coffee or a Pilsner.

Vaclav Havel was the epitome of a true statesman. He began as a dissident, working against a powerful, despotic regime, risking his life for his ideals. Gradually, with the help of others who shared his beliefs, he accomplished his goal of freeing his country from tyranny. Then, he accepted the reins of leader, despite his dislike for such a role, and guided his people back to a life of freedom with all its responsibilities and demands.

To me, Vaclav Havel is one of the great heroes of the Twentieth Century. Our present leaders should look to his example for achieving their goals.

Robin Hathaway

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