Twenty years ago, the people of Czechoslovakia carried forward the wave of freedom that began in the Polish shipyards, surged over the Wall in Berlin, and ultimately liberated millions of people across Europe. Americans prayed for the students in Prague who faced down an oppressive regime and propelled a dissident playwright from prison to the presidency. We cheered for a nation that had grasped for liberty in the spring of 1968 and seen its dreams deferred for decades. And when democracy finally came, we welcomed new partners committed to building a free and unified Europe and a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Today we celebrate the vibrant democracies of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and salute those who worked to bring freedom to their land -- the dissidents and activists who risked all they had to demand a free and better life, the mothers and fathers, workers and students who never lost faith that a system built on tyranny and oppression could and would be overcome. Thanks to their sacrifice, Tomas Masaryk’s vision of a democratic society thrives today in Middle Europe.
On this historic occasion, I congratulate the Czech Republic and Slovakia on twenty years of democracy and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to our strong alliance as we work together to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century.