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2011 press releases

Statement of President Obama on the Death of Vaclav Havel

Washington, The White House, December 18, 2011
President Obama meets Vaclav Havel, April 6, 2009.

President Obama meets Vaclav Havel, April 6, 2009.

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing today of Vaclav Havel, a playwright and prisoner of conscience who became President of Czechoslovakia and of the Czech Republic. Having encountered many setbacks, Havel lived with a spirit of hope, which he defined as “the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon. He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world. He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.

Like millions around the world, I was inspired by his words and leadership, and was humbled to stand with the Czech people in a free and vibrant Hradcany Square as President. We extend our condolences to President Havel’s family and all those in the Czech Republic and around the world who remain inspired by his example. Vaclav Havel was a friend to America and to all who strive for freedom and dignity, and his words will echo through the ages.

Statement of Hillary Rodham Clinton on Passing of Vaclav Havel

Washington, DC
December 18, 2011

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic’s first democratically elected president and leader of the Velvet Revolution. His death is a loss for the Czech Republic and for human rights defenders around the world. He was an inspiration to me and I was proud to call him a friend.

He once said that his hope was for history to remember him as having done something useful. President Havel spent his life removing chains of oppression, standing up for the downtrodden, and advancing the tenets of democracy and freedom. When communism threatened the peace and prosperity of our world and covered Eastern Europe in a cloud of hopelessness, he wrote plays so powerful they changed the course of history and created new democratic opportunities for millions. And when the people of the Czech Republic were finally allowed to express themselves freely, they overwhelmingly chose a man who never wanted to be in politics.

He did something more than useful – he did something extraordinary, and history will remember it. Today, a black flag hangs over the Prague castle in honor of his life and commitment to a better world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, the people of the Czech Republic, and all those who are committed to advancing human rights.

Statement of U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen

December 18, 2011

Like so many others throughout the world, I first came to know President Havel through his plays, writings, and speeches, and as a public figure.  As Ambassador, I was privileged to get to know him personally and to benefit from his moral clarity, his sense of humor and his example.  President Havel had a special fondness for the United States, a sentiment we reciprocated.  All Americans loved him, regardless of party or creed, because of his courage and his extraordinary commitment to the values he exemplified and that we share with the Czech nation. We will miss him greatly. But I am comforted with the knowledge that the spirit, ideals, and wit of this great statesman and man of letters will live on in his writings, in the memory of all who knew him, and in the thriving democracies which he helped nourish.