“We are capable of unleashing our imagination and creativity, of rising spiritually and morally to unexpected heights, of fighting for the truth and sacrificing ourselves for others.”
With those words, the writer and dissident Václav Havel gave voice to his belief in the power of culture and expression to forge a genuinely free society and called on the Communist regime to pursue new policies supportive of “society’s true interests and prospects.” His April 8, 1975 letter to Dr. Gustav Husák, general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, marked the beginning of a path of resistance to the communist regime that would lead to the Charter 77 movement, the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and even to Havel’s election as the first president of postcommunist Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic.
September 28 is the anniversary of Czech statehood, coinciding with the feast of St. Wenceslas, the martyred Duke of Bohemia and patron saint of the Czech Republic. It is fitting, therefore, that New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio has also declared the day Václav Havel Day in celebration of the literary and political contributions of this latter-day Czech patron and leader. A leader in the effort to achieve a peaceful, free, and democratic society, Havel channeled his dissent through the arts and then became a pioneering political leader. His accomplishments merit recognition during this celebration of Czech statehood.
In 2003, we recognized Mr. Havel and his work with a Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. In the same year, Mr. Havel received a Presidential Medal of Freedom. We continue to be inspired by Mr. Havel, whose words and actions prove that all human beings are capable of unleashing their imaginations, rising above apathy, and fighting for truth and a better future for all.