Bill to honor Havel passes in US House of Representatives

Then-Czechoslovak President Václav Havel addressed the US Congress in 1990.
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A bust of the former Czech president would be displayed in the Capitol

Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives unanimously passed H. Res. 506, a bipartisan resolution authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which honors the life and legacy of Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic and lifelong democracy activist.  The resolution also provides authorization for a bust of Václav Havel to be displayed in the United States Capitol. 

 

On the House floor, Chairman Royce said:  “As the proud author of this resolution, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of an extraordinary man, Václav Havel.

“As we watch the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, it is important to reflect upon the life of the man who led the people of Czechoslovakia out from under the thumb of the Soviet Union, and played a key role in the founding of not one, but two vibrant European democracies: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

“As a playwright, Václav Havel revealed the absurdity of communist ideology and discredited the oppressive communist Czechoslovak regime.

“Following the brutal Soviet suppression of the 1968 Prague Spring, a movement for greater political liberalization, Havel was banned from the theater in an attempt to silence him.

“But the communists greatly underestimated his passion for freedom.

“Instead of succumbing to their intimidation, Václav Havel increased his political activity.

“Havel played a central role in drafting the now famous Charter 77 Manifesto, and was a founding member of the dissident organization based upon those principles. 

“In 1979, he founded the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted.

“These and other opposition efforts earned him multiple stays in prison as a so-called ‘guest”’ of the communist authorities.

“But Havel and the cause of freedom prevailed.  Following the successful Velvet Revolution in 1989, Václav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly, ending 41 years of repressive communist rule. 

“The following year, Czechoslovakia held its first free elections in over four decades, resulting in overwhelming support for Havel to retain the Presidency.

“As leader of an independent Czechoslovakia, Havel presided over the peaceful separation of the Czech and Slovak republics, a momentous and challenging task. As President of the Czech Republic, he paved the way for his country’s entrance into both NATO and the European Union.

“A strong supporter of Radio Free Europe, President Havel invited this U.S. international broadcaster to move to Prague, offering the former Czechoslovak parliament building as a headquarters. When some questioned the broadcaster’s role after the fall of communism, Havel stated ‘we need your professionalism and your ability to see events from a broad perspective.’

“Havel’s zeal for liberating oppressed people did not diminish in his later years, when he continued to advocate for democratic reforms in places such as Cuba, Belarus, Burma, and Iran.

“In reference to his role as a democratic activist, Havel simply wrote:

“’We never decided to become dissidents…We simply went ahead and did certain things that we felt we ought to do, that seemed decent for us to do, nothing more nor less.’

“The legacy of this freedom fighter serves as inspiration for peaceful democratic activists today.

“It is fitting therefore for us to pass this resolution today, and provide for a bust of Václav Havel to be displayed in the Capitol building, the workplace of our great democracy.

“There alongside similar images of the great champions of freedom: Winston Churchill; Luis Kossuth; and Raoul Wallenberg, his statue will remind future generations of the impact one man can have in the advancement and protection of liberty.”

The bill must also be passed in the US Senate and then be signed by the president before it can take effect.

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