“Your discussions [at the Forum 2000 Conference] are even more relevant in the context of the recent controversy about the caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed.”
Kofi A. Annan, United Nations Secretary General, 2006
HomepageAboutNews ArchivePast Participants in the Forum 2000 Conferences Shared Their Memories on Václav Havel

Past Participants in the Forum 2000 Conferences Shared Their Memories on Václav Havel

Added 24th January 2012

We would like to share with you selected excerpts of condolences and articles honoring Václav Havel that we have received from many of past participants in the Forum 2000 conferences and other distinguished personalities.
 
 
Michael Novak, Theologian and Political Scientist, USA

Václav Havel was the hero that when we were boys we would have all longed to be: a world-significant artist, the dissident who suffered for his bravery during four years of imprisonment, the wise and eloquent president of his newly liberated nation, a man as patently honest as all those who ‘refused to live by the Lie.’ …
 
He invited me to visit him in Prague. Several times I took him at his word. On these occasions I was nearly speechless; he did the talking – with his famous mixture of passion and detachment, long perspective and close engagement. There are few people in this world in whose presence one felt such quiet and tested greatness. And a burning fire of truthfulness.”
 
The whole article “Confronting Truth” by Michael Novak, which was published in National Review Online, is available here.
 
 
Jacques Rupnik, Political Scientist, France
 
The following essay is based on the laudatio given by Jacques Rupnik in October 2009, on the occasion of the awarding to Václav Havel of an honorary doctorate from Sciences Po.
 
It is a great honor and deeply gratifying to be speaking here in praise of President Václav Havel. It is a privilege that is not without hidden difficulties, however. It is not easy to praise a man who is world famous as the symbol of the ‘velvet revolutions’ of 1989, the miraculous year that began with his imprisonment and ended with his election as president of the Republic in Prague Castle. Like Thomas Masaryk, his 1918 predecessor as president of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel embodies both in the eyes of his fellow citizens and in international opinion the figure of the philosopher-king, of the dissident intellectual confronted with the test of power, between the reinvention of democracy and of a new European order. Hence the tendency to interpret his biography as an illustration of the classic dilemma, in the quest for the common good, between the vita activa and the vita contemplative – between the politician grappling with the constraints and trappings of power and the intellectual whose role is precisely to question power.”
 
The whole article “In Praise of Václav Havel” by Jacques Rupnik, which was published in The New Republic, is available here.
 
 
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, USA/South Korea
 
Václav Havel was the moral voice of his country and his era. He lived in truth – his credo – as few in his place and times dared to do. His humanity, humility and decency were an example for us all. In the face of the great challenges today that shall test a newer generation, let his profile in courage be our inspiration.
 
 
Yang Jianli, Dissident, President and Founder, Initiatives for China, USA/China
 
What a loss for the world on this day – yet we cannot mourn too heavily, for his life was a gift to all of us in its richness and accomplishments. To many, he was a national hero and a global advocate extraordinaire for human rights and civil liberties. … He has been an inspiration to so many and he will continue to inspire future generations of writers, thinkers, politicians, activists and all of those who believe in the rights of every citizen to dignity, self-esteem and the fundamental freedoms upon which principled societies and governments are based.
 
 
Grigory Yavlinsky, Economist and Politician, Russia
 
Václav Havel was the most advanced politician because his guidance in his work and life was always a moral imperative, rather than narrowly understood political viability. The fact that the people of Czechoslovakia elected Václav Havel in 1989 as their president characterizes first of all the thinking of the people and their realization that such a person should head the country in the moment of such abrupt changes. Such a coincidence is rare in history, which is why the example of Václav Havel is most valuable for the world. His performance on the historic stage does not end today, on the very day when his death has become another cause for the reassertion of his principles.
 
 
Mary Robinson, Former President, Ireland
 
“Havel was the first recipient of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2003. I know that this award meant a lot to him – and it was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s poem The Republic of Conscience’. The following extract from the poem is so apt, at this tragic time, as we mourn the loss of a remarkable man.
 
‘At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky-god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless’”
 
 
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President, Brazil
 
“Playwright, human rights activist, political prisoner, lover of jazz, hero of the Velvet Revolution, democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia and later of the Czech Republic, no man personifies the peaceful liberation of Eastern Europe from communist oppression as Václav Havel.
 
Havel’s life was dedicated to the cause of freedom. The power of the powerless, he often said, is to speak truth to power. His voice was never silenced by repression and at the right time galvanized his whole people to overthrow the communist regime.
 
I pay tribute to this brave public intellectual and statesman. His courage and moral resiliency proved once more that the power of the human spirit is stronger than walls and armies.” 
 
 
Philip Dimitrov, Former Prime Minister, Bulgaria
 
“The loss of Václav Havel is a loss for all good people on earth. He was an example of a political thinker and freedom fighter, of a writer and man of action, of an intellectual and a man of amazing common sense, of modesty person and a keen sense of honor all in one. As a statesman and writer he gave us a lot. Even more as a man we would wish to resemble at least a little.”
 
 
Rexhep Meidani, Former President, Albania
 
“For any worlds’ citizen President Vaclav Havel has been not only the symbol of 1989, but also the incarnation of a humanist personality and a world-class statesman, who brought to politics and governance both moral authority and prestige, human love and justice. He fought courageously for democratization and human rights, particularly freedom from fear and showed the power of people and politics to change the world.”
 
 
Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President, Nigeria
 
I knew and visited Václav when he was President of Czechoslovakia and an acclaimed dissident for democracy and good governance. Again, as President of Nigeria, I visited him when he became the first President of the Czech Republic. We struck up a close relationship and friendship. I was not a free man when, in 1996, Václav Havel, Yohei Sasakawa and Elie Wiesel organized the first Forum 2000, as I was incarcerated for the same cause for which Václav had been incarcerated in the past. It is note-worthy to state that Václav was one of those who fought and struggled against my incarceration and subsequent release. I remain grateful to him and many others like him.
 
 
William Cook, Professor of History and Religion, State University of New York, USA
 
Last week, humanity lost one of its greatest champions, former Czech President Václav Havel. In October, I was a delegate to Forum 2000, an institution he founded to promote freedom and democracy. His keynote speech reminded us that the desire for freedom is at the core of every person but that unscrupulous leaders try to distort our judgment and lead us down inhumane paths.
 
The whole article “Memories of Václav Havel's Passion” by William Cook, which was published in Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, is available here.
 
 
Hazel Henderson, Author and Futurist, USA
 
President Havel was a unique figure in 20th century events and broke new ground in human understanding through his plays, poetry and his memoir “To the Castle and Back”. The world has lost this beautiful, decent, humble man. His life was well-lived – an example to us all. His compassionate, brilliant legacy now belongs to all the human family. He can now rest in peace.
 
The whole article “Honoring President Václav Havel” by Hazel Henderson, which was published on EthicalMarkets.com, is available here.
 

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