Monday, December 19, 2011

The Man Who Brought Down The Berlin Wall

If you ever doubted the power of the written word, study the life and times (and writing) of Vaclav Havel.
Havel, former Czech president and popular dissident (not in that order) died this week at the age of 75 after a life spent mostly in pursuit of freedom for himself and his countrymen.

Havel spent decades dissecting the Communist rule which all but enslaved his people. His writings earned him much esteem abroad and imprisonment in his homeland. In 1989 Havel was at the center of street protests in Prague and worked behind the scenes to bring about the end of Communist rule.

Long before he freed his country, Havel worked with pen and ink to express ideas which were both intuitive, insightful and courageous; he braved arrest, surveillance, detention and the possibility of death at the hands of a government which was no doubt feeling the pressure building long before the protests in Prague.

Havel proved that the good fight could be fought not with bullets, but with words. Not only could the good fight be fought with words, it could be won with them as well.

Havel was known as a gentleman and a scholar; a learned man ho stood by his convictions, whatever the cost. Ultimately he will be remembered as not only the hero of the Czech people, but as a writer who wielded his power for good and won the day against overwhelming odds.

He was chosen as post-communist Czechoslovakia's first president, and after the country split in January 1993, he became president of the Czech Republic. He linked the country firmly to the West, clearing the way for the Czech Republic to join NATO in 1999 and the European Union five years later.

Both as a dissident and as a national leader, Mr. Havel impressed the West as one of the most important political thinkers in Central Europe. He rejected the notion, posited by reform-minded Communist leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, that Communist rule could be made more humane.

It was as a dissident that Mr. Havel most clearly championed the ideals of a civil society. He helped found Charter 77, the longest enduring human rights movement in the former Soviet bloc, and keenly articulated the lasting humiliations that Communism imposed on the individual.

Click here to read more about Vaclav Havel.

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