I suppose its says volumes about the times we live in, and the tone our media and political leaders have smothered on our nation, that a true giant, a symbol of freedom for all the peoples of the once-oppressed Eastern Bloc of the Soviet Empire, should find his obituary moved to Page 10 while the world headlined the death of North Korea’s pot-bellied little master of starvation, Kim Jung Il.
While his own countryman, Madelaine Albright, waxed poetic about the cute and quaint little proclivities of Kim, who liked to swill his Hennessy’s and smoke his Cuban cigars while watching his country starve, it was hard to find much mention of one of the architects of east European freedom from communism. (Albright later did an interview.)
I worked in the post-USSR eastern Europe, having passed through Prague twice. Most of my work was in other places.
I was in college during the Czech uprising of 1968, and first became interested in eastern Europe when I saw those Soviet tanks roll in to put the uprising down. No one in the West knew who Vaclav Havel was at the time, a poet, playwright and intellectual dissident, but everyone, I later learned, in Poland, in Hungary, even in far-off Russia along their samizdat network, knew the name of Vaclav Havel.
When he became Czechoslovakia’s president when the Communists fell, he carried into that office the same sort of moral power George Washington did in America in 1787. A true giant.
He will be greatly missed, but let’s hope his kind will live on. We could even use finding one or two of his caliber here.
We need to see more men like him on the front page.