Tribute via the BBC World Service to Vaclav Havel, Czech Poet, playwright, dissident and first President of the reformed Czechoslovakia in 1989.
December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel - Ushered in the Velvet Revolution.

The name Vaclav Havel brings up a flood of memories of 1989. The year of tremendous upheaval in the former Iron Curtain countries. Maybe overshadowed by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany but no less important were the sweeping changes taking over Czechoslovakia at the same time.

And at the forefront of that was Vaclav Havel. Certainly a renaissance man - he was a poet, playwright, essayist, dissident and politician. He became Czechoslovakia's last President and he became The Czech Republic's First President.

So when I heard the news this morning that he had passed away at the age of 75, I was reminded of all that and reminded how he embodied the spirit of change that was unsuccessfully attempted in 1968, but in 1989 all fell into place. How, by way of his artistic and intellectual gifts, he seemed an almost awkward choice for President, but rose to the occasion and led the country into a new democracy with grace and dignity.

Here is a BBC World Service tribute via the Newshour Program which ran just after news of his death was learned.

Some people (at least ones I've spoken to) forgot who he was or what he stood for. If that's the case, I would strongly suggest you give this obituary a listen and hear what all the fuss was about.

His example will be missed, as will the man himself.

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