Vaclav Havel, 1936-201112-19-2011
We were saddened to learn of the passing of Václav Havel yesterday.
Havel, the Czech writer, intellectual, and former dissident, was a founder of human rights movements, Chapter 77 and Vons. His outspoken support of these organizations resulted in a decade spent in and out of prison.
He was the chief negotiator and instigator in peacefully ending more than forty years of Communist rule in his country, a feat which became known as the Velvet Revolution. He then led his nation after the collapse of Communism, becoming the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993-2003.
The great thinker retained his strong sense of morality until the end, making him one of the world's most revered leaders. His eloquence, optimism and sense of fair play inspired not only a nation, but the world.
"Let us teach ourselves and others that politics should be an expression of a desire to contribute to the happiness of the community," he said. "Let us teach ourselves and others that politics can be not simply the art of the possible, especially if this means the art of speculation, calculation, intrigue, secret deals and pragmatic maneuvering, but that it can also be the art of the impossible, that is, the art of improving ourselves and the world."
Click here to read Timothy Garten Ash's memories of Václav Havel.
Click here to read Havel's obituary in the New York Times.