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Speech by the President of the Czech Republic at the Funeral Service in St. Vitus Cathedral

English Pages, 23. 12. 2011

Dear Mr. Archbishop, Dear Mrs. Havlová, distinguished guests from the Czech Republic and from abroad,

Allow me, as the President of the Czech Republic who assumed this function immediately after Václav Havel, to render the last tribute to this great personality of our modern history, personally, as well as on behalf of the Czech Republic and its citizens.

We have suffered a great loss by his departure. A great president, politician, intellectual and artist has left us; a person who will be remembered with gratitude, reverence and respect. It almost seems as if everything has already been said and written about him in the few days since his death. To try to come up with something entirely new and original, something everybody else has forgotten to mention, would probably be an exercise in futility.

We have often heard in the recent days that he has “left” us, which to many of us served as an inevitable reminder of his last play and movie called “Leaving”.

Undoubtedly much is leaving with Václav Havel; however, at the same time, and in particular thanks to his consistent attitudes in life, there is much that is not leaving, and it is now incumbent upon us not to let it go. I would therefore like to recall that which is not leaving, or more precisely must not leave, with Václav Havel.

What is not leaving is the idea that freedom is a value worth sacrificing for and that it is meaningful to engage in a struggle for truth, when one is convinced of it, even if it includes personal risks.

What is not leaving is the idea that it is easy to lose freedom, if we care little about it and do not protect it, and that only democracy allows life in freedom, both for the individual and the state, as well as material and spiritual prosperity.

What is not leaving is the idea that human existence extends into the transcendental realm, of which we should be aware.

What is not leaving is the idea that freedom is a universal principle and if it is being taken away from anybody anywhere, it threatens our freedom too.

What is not leaving is the idea that there is tremendous power in a word; it can kill and it can heal, it can hurt and it can help. It is able to change the world.

What is not leaving is the idea that the truth should be said, even if it is uncomfortable.

What is not leaving is the idea that minority opinion is not necessarily wrong and that we ought to think about it and discuss it.

What is not leaving is the idea that our republic is our own creation and that it will be just the way we make it.

Some mortals are given the privilege to raise and seize ideas of such magnitude and make them their life. Václav Havel was one of those people who enjoyed this privilege.

The man whom we bid farewell to today has bequeathed much to us. We are not a big nation and that is why we do not have too many great personalities to give away. Still, their work and legacy has often been subject to simplification or deformation and, therefore, depreciation. I believe that Václav Havel will not meet such fate. This, however, depends entirely on us.

Václav Klaus, Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert, Prague Castle, 23 December 2011


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