Politicians and cultural figures send the Czech people greetings

US president Barack Obama, German Chacellor Angela Merkel, the Dalai Lama and the former Soviet president Michail Gorbachov sent the Czech people video-greetings screened during the concert, congratulating them on twenty years of freedom and democracy. President Obama said the Velvet Revolution was an inspiration to those who are still striving for freedom. Chancellor Merkel thanked Czechs for having helped East German refugees on their flight to freedom in 1989 and the former Soviet leader Michail Gorbachov called Václav Havel a dear friend for whom he had great respect. The Dalai Lama expressed the hope that Czechs and Slovaks would preserve their courageous spirit.

Saturday’s events commemorating the Velvet Revolution were organized by the Dagmar and Václav Havel foundation. They included a panel debate with students and VIP guests such as the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, French philosopher Andre Glucksman, British writer Tom Stoppard and Polish historian and journalist Adam Michnik. The day culminated with a concert on Saturday night to which Mr. Havel invited guest performers close to his heart – Lou Reed, Joan Baez, Suzanne Vega and Renee Fleming. The show was titled “It’s finally happening” – the slogan that tens of thousands of Czechs chanted in the streets during the Velvet Revolution. President Klaus who was sitting in the first row had high praise for the event saying it was just right – emotionally charged but not opulent.