Past Participants in the Forum 2000 Conferences Shared Their Memories on Václav Havel

The Forum 2000 Foundation would like to share with you selected excerpts of condolences and articles honoring Václav Havel that the foundation has received from many of past participants in the Forum 2000 conferences and other distinguished personalities.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Spiritual Leader, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Tibet

With the death of my dear friend Václav Havel, the world has lost a great leader, whose steadfast and unflinching determination played a key role in establishing freedom and democracy in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Gentle, honest, humble and full of humor, he was motivated by the idea that truth must ultimately prevail. It was this insistence on the truth that got him into trouble with the authorities when he was young. The same quality inspired his people to choose him to be the President when they threw off totalitarianism during the Velvet Revolution, which Havel led with an extraordinary display of people power.

The whole message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama is available here.


Yohei Sasakawa, Co-founder, Forum 2000 Foundation, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation, Japan

I would like to express my sincerest sorrow over the passing of Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, and heroic leader of the Velvet Revolution, and one of the architects of Czechoslovakia’s transition to democracy.

Former President Havel was a dissident playwright who led his countrymen in overcoming their country’s totalitarian regime, in spite of repeated imprisonment; an intellectual who brought unswerving conscientiousness and idealism into both his words and actions; and an indomitable leader who changed society.

The whole message from Yohei Sasakawa is available here.


Michael Novak, Theologian and Political Scientist, USA

Václav Havel was the hero that when we were boys we would have all longed to be: a world-significant artist, the dissident who suffered for his bravery during four years of imprisonment, the wise and eloquent president of his newly liberated nation, a man as patently honest as all those who ‘refused to live by the Lie.’ …

He invited me to visit him in Prague. Several times I took him at his word. On these occasions I was nearly speechless; he did the talking – with his famous mixture of passion and detachment, long perspective and close engagement. There are few people in this world in whose presence one felt such quiet and tested greatness. And a burning fire of truthfulness.”

The whole article “Confronting Truth” by Michael Novak, which was published in National Review Online, is available here.


Jacques Rupnik, Political Scientist, France

The following essay is based on the laudatio given by Jacques Rupnik in October 2009, on the occasion of the awarding to Václav Havel of an honorary doctorate from Sciences Po.

It is a great honor and deeply gratifying to be speaking here in praise of President Václav Havel. It is a privilege that is not without hidden difficulties, however. It is not easy to praise a man who is world famous as the symbol of the ‘velvet revolutions’ of 1989, the miraculous year that began with his imprisonment and ended with his election as president of the Republic in Prague Castle. Like Thomas Masaryk, his 1918 predecessor as president of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel embodies both in the eyes of his fellow citizens and in international opinion the figure of the philosopher-king, of the dissident intellectual confronted with the test of power, between the reinvention of democracy and of a new European order. Hence the tendency to interpret his biography as an illustration of the classic dilemma, in the quest for the common good, between the vita activa and the vita contemplative – between the politician grappling with the constraints and trappings of power and the intellectual whose role is precisely to question power.

The whole article “In Praise of Václav Havel” by Jacques Rupnik, which was published in The New Republic, is available here.


Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations, USA/South Korea

Václav Havel was the moral voice of his country and his era. He lived in truth – his credo – as few in his place and times dared to do. His humanity, humility and decency were an example for us all. In the face of the great challenges today that shall test a newer generation, let his profile in courage be our inspiration.


Mary Robinson, Former President, Ireland

Havel was the first recipient of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2003. I know that this award meant a lot to him – and it was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘The Republic of Conscience. The following extract from the poem is so apt, at this tragic time, as we mourn the loss of a remarkable man.

At their inauguration, public leaders

must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep

to atone for their presumption to hold office

and to affirm their faith that all life sprang

from salt in tears which the sky-god wept

after he dreamt his solitude was endless’


Excerpts of condolences and articles from other personalities is available at: