"His words will echo through the ages," says President Obama...
President Obama issued a statment today saying he is "deeply saddened" at the death of Vaclav Havel, a dissident playwright who led the peaceful "Velvet Revolution" in the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which toppled four decades of Communist repression in 1989. Havel, who died early on Sunday at 75, afterwards became his country's first democratically elected president. President Obama today hailed Havel as an "inspiration" to himself and millions around the world. He met with Havel during a trip to Prague in 2009, where they stood together in Hradcany Square, a flashpoint for the Velvet Revolution. (President Obama and Havel during a bilateral at the European Union Summit in Prague in 2009)
President Obama said Havel, who led hundreds of thousands of Czechs in peaceful protest, helped "unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe." During the revolution, Havel's slogan was "truth and love will overcome lies and hatred."
"Vaclav Havel was a friend to America and to all who strive for freedom and dignity, and his words will echo through the ages," President Obama said.
Havel died at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic with his wife Dagmar and a nun who cared for him, according to a spokesman. He had long suffered from respiratory illness, and had battled cancer.
President Obama's statement:
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.
Photo by Pete Souza/White House, taken at a bilateral meeting April 5, 2009, with Havel during the European Union Summit at the Prague Congress Center in Prague, Czech Republic.