WASHINGTON, DC – Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives today dedicated a bust of former Czech president Vaclav Havel during a ceremony at the United States Capitol. The ceremony included remarks by Jan Hamáček, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and Bohuslav Sobotka, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, as well as a musical performance by Billy F Gibbons of ZZ TOP.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) presided over today’s ceremony and made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to National Statuary Hall. Today, pursuant to House Resolution 506, we will dedicate a bust of the late Vaclav Havel for permanent display here in the United States Capitol.
“It is a poetic but also paradoxical honor for a man who, in his own words, lived ‘a paradoxical life.’ Here was a writer who exposed the communists using one weapon they could not match: the truth. For this, he received three stays in prison, countless interrogations, and constant surveillance.
“But he kept on writing, hiding pages of his manuscripts throughout his home. Offered a chance to flee to the West, he’d refuse, saying, ‘I’m simply a Czech bumpkin through and through.’ Treated like a hero wherever he went, he’d beg off, saying, ‘I’m simply a playwright and it’s irrelevant whether I’m a dissident.’ When one of his friends joked that one day he’d lead a revolution and become president, he responded, ‘That would be the worst thing that could happen to me.’
“So can you imagine what Havel would have said if told his bust would not only stand in the United States Capitol, but go right alongside the likes of Lincoln, Churchill, and Washington? You just can’t write a play like this.
“Today we celebrate the struggle on the part of Havel and so many others in his time. In Poland, an electrician who climbed up on a crate in a shipyard, said to his fellow workers ‘you know me,’ and the Solidarity movement was born. And in East Germany, there was a priest who opened the doors of his 800-year old church every Monday for meetings that started out with no more than a dozen people and turned into the epicenter of a national protest.
“It takes guts to do these things. Especially when you don’t know how long it will take or how it will end. These men and women proved that the thirst for liberty never dies and that, with drive and sacrifice, it can transform the fortunes of a whole continent.
“With this ceremony, we give a curtain call to this cast of unwitting heroes and the playwright at the center of the drama. And with this bust, we pay tribute to the great things ordinary people can achieve.
“So let me thank all of you for being here, especially our honored guests from Havel’s family and native land. None of this would have been possible without the partnership between the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation and the American Friends of the Czech Republic. We’re particularly grateful to Fred Malek and Craig Stapleton, our former Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Finally, let me welcome our nation’s 64th Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Your presence means so much to us. Thank you.”