President Pavel urges young Romanies to follow their dreams and inspire others

President Petr Pavel and the First Lady received a group of Romany high school and university students at Prague Castle on Thursday. In an unprecedented gesture of support for young members of the Roma minority, he encouraged them to follow their dreams and inspire others.

Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

One of the first events the new Czech presidential couple, Petr Pavel and his wife Eva, organized at Prague Castle was a meeting with a group of talented young Romanies.  It was a message to the Roma minority that the head of state was aware of their problems and believed in their potential. President Pavel congratulated the group of students on having overcome one of the greatest threats to their personal development -prejudice.

“Prejudice often comes from a lack of information, from imbedded stereotypes and an unwillingness to listen to each other. You are bright examples that show it is possible to break out of this vicious circle.”

Fourteen young Romanies – future historians, economists and police officers - spent an hour and a half chatting with the presidential couple, talking about their problems and hopes for the future.

Štěpán who is studying at the Prague Police Academy said he had voted for Petr Pavel in the elections and was overwhelmed to be able to meet him in person.

“You can see that he really cares about our problems, he wants to be informed and he wants to take things to a new level. He wants to make this country a better place for us all –not just for us Roma, but for everyone. So that all us can really feel at home here.”

Vanessa from Prague is studying public and social policy. Her ambition is to help the Roma community out of its present problems.

“I really want to help people. I want to help them resolve their problems and achieve their goals. I think boosting financial literacy is very important.”

According to Lucie Fuková, the government’s Commissioner for Roma Affairs, meetings such as that organized by President Pavel are of great importance and can inspire other Romany youngsters to study and believe in their future.

Lucie Fuková | Photo: Rena Horvátová,  Czech Radio

"This meeting is a breakthrough in many ways. It is affirmation of the fact that the Roma are part of this society, that there is someone taking an interest in what their life here is like, someone who is encouraging them to get an education and follow their dreams. The president sees education as a priority in improving the position of Romanies in this country and generally improving their coexistence with the majority population.”

The commissioner for Roma affairs, also noted that such meetings are a signal to the majority population and expressed the hope this meeting would be the first of many such occasions.