The U.S. House of Representatives will honor the late Czech leader Václav Havel Wednesday with a bipartisan ceremony featuring a musical tribute performed by ZZ TOP bandleader and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Billy F Gibbons, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced today.
“America admired Václav Havel, and he admired America – and his affection wasn’t limited to his appreciation of our country’s system of government. He was also a fan of American music, including the blues – and nobody does the blues quite like Mr. Billy Gibbons,” said Speaker Boehner. “We’re honored Billy will join us later this week as we unveil a bust of President Havel that will reside permanently in the United States Capitol.”
The Havel bust dedication ceremony will be held at 1:00pm ET on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 in National Statuary Hall, and can be seen live at speaker.gov/live. The event coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which led to Havel’s election as president of the new – and free – Czech Republic. A short time after the dedication, the bust will be added to the Capitol’s Freedom Foyer, joining Winston Churchill, Lajos Kossuth, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington.
Throughout the year, Speaker Boehner has been highlighting the freedom fighters whose sacrifices brought down the Iron Curtain. Perhaps the most unlikely of all those heroes was Havel, the Czech playwright who was imprisoned three times for promoting democracy in defiance of the communist regime that ruled his country.
“President Havel was fond of blues and rock music, and there is a very close relationship between Texas and my country,” said Ambassador Petr Gandalovič, the Czech ambassador to the United States. “More than one million U.S. citizens claim their ancestry as being Czech or Czechoslovak. Prime Minister Sobotka this week will travel to West, Texas, where a gift from the Czech Republic is helping to rebuild the community. And the Czech Center Museum Houston is located in the same neighborhood Mr. Gibbons comes from. I think President Havel would have appreciated Mr. Gibbons performing at this event.”
Billy Gibbons commented: “It’s quite an honor to have been called upon to participate in this tribute to a world leader who had an enduring affinity for the American art form known as the blues. We’ve always found audiences at our performance dates in the Czech Republic to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very much ‘down with the sound.’ We can only conclude that this is a continuing reflection of President Havel’s leadership, good nature and enduring spirit.”
Also performing at the ceremony will be the United States Army Band and Chorus and the United States Armed Forces Color Guard, Speaker Boehner announced.
On March 11, 2014, the House unanimously approved H. Res. 506, which states “that to honor the life and legacy of Václav Havel, the House of Representatives Fine Arts Board shall provide for the display of an appropriate bust of Václav Havel in the House of Representatives wing of the United States Capitol.”
A preview of the ceremony, featuring a clip from Havel’s address to a joint meeting of Congress on February 21, 1990, can be seen here.