Thank you President Havel
The Czech Republic lost today what George Washington was to the United States and Nelson Mandela to South Africa.
Vaclav Havel died this morning at the age of 75 in Prague, Czech Republic. He served as President of the Czech Republic for over 10 years, and prior to that he was responsible for the dissident movement that caused the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia and the development of both the Czech and Slovakia Republic as separate countries.
In November 2002, I worked on the NATO Prague Summit where I coordinated several events surrounding the Summit. President Havel was of course the host of the Summit and this was the perfect end to a momentous career. At the Summit’s end, the Baltic and Balkan countries would be invited to join NATO. With memories of the Warsaw Pact fresh in everyone’s memory, this was truly an historic occasion.
Our first event to start the Summit was on the top floor of the Kampa Museum where President Havel was our keynote speaker. We had initially set it up for him to walk up the stairs to the top floor of the event. Back then his health was not great and we were told that an alternate solution needed to be arranged as it was too many flight of stairs. So we had a broken elevator fixed and everything was in place.
When President Havel arrived, he had a small motorcade with a tight knit team of security and staff. He got into the elevator, the staff rushed up the stairs to meet him, the elevator did not break down and the doors opened at the top. He got out.
Then suddenly there was pandemonium. He was rushed back onto the elevator and off it went, with his staff and security running back down the stairs.
Turns out the staff did not realize there was no bathroom on the top floor.
Due to the confusion of restroom locations, he ended up starting about ten minutes late. Regardless, it was a memorable speech. Very long, detailed, and passionate. I was very lucky to be there and to hear such a legend speak so brilliantly.
The world has lost a great man. While we mourn his loss, we celebrate the freedom, the culture, and overall the legacy he leaves behind.
Thank you President Havel.