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.