Vaclav Havel honoured by US Congress


On Tuesday the United States Congress adopted a resolution in which it paid tribute to the former Czech president Vaclav Havel. This was the result of an initiative led by one American congressman who was honoured to meet Mr Havel at a rock concert in the 1980s - and then wanted to honour the former Czech president in the United States Congress.

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel was honoured by the United States Congress on Tuesday in a resolution which recognises Mr Havel's achievements as a dissident, playwright and president. The resolution begins by stating that "Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, is widely respected throughout the world as a proponent of democratic principles." It goes on to state that Mr Havel was a champion of democracy from his years as a dissident in communist Czechoslovakia, to his time as president of the Czech Republic, when his country became a respected member of the international community.

The night before the resolution was adopted by the United States Congress, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - who was herself born in the Czech Republic - joined American, Czech and Slovak political figures in Washington, DC at a conference dedicated to Mr Havel's moral and political legacy. She cited some of the reasons why Vaclav Havel deserved to be honoured by Congress:

"He showed that a small country can change a lot of things when it has the right moral leader. And I hope that when the Czech people go over all of that, they will realise that they had such a fantastic president who led them through the stage immediately after the Velvet Revolution, and he was the one who took over the reins."

The resolution honouring Vaclav Havel was a bipartisan effort initiated by Ron Kind, a Democrat from the state of Wisconsin, who introduced the resolution with three Republican colleagues. Mr Kind first met Mr Havel at a rock concert in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s, when the twenty-something American was travelling around Central Europe. The two exchanged some words at the time, and Mr Kind was impressed by the courage and passion that Mr Havel displayed when he spoke of democratic principles and individual freedoms.

While Mr Havel is the first Czech to individually be accorded this honour, the United States Congress has also paid tribute to one other Czech - and another Vaclav -in this way. That's Vaclav Vojtech, who was honoured for his part in an expedition to Antarctica in 1928 and 1929 that was led by Richard Byrd; this also made Vaclav Vojtech the first Czech ever to reach that continent.