Freedom Has Lost A Passionate Champion

Ed Feulner /

Candles illuminate a portrait of former Czech President Vaclav Havel displayed on Tomas Garrique Masaryks statue on December 19, 2011 in Prague. Havel, a dissident and playwright who was the hero of the 1989 Velvet Revolution against communist rule and became his country's first post-independence president, died on December 19 aged 75. AFP PHOTO/ STR

The cause of freedom lost a passionate advocate with the death of former Czech president, dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel. President Havel inspired freedom-loving peoples throughout Europe in 1989, the “year of miracles.”  Defying one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in history, Havel led Czechoslovakia from the darkness of Soviet totalitarianism to the light of democracy.

Small wonder that he was one of the first recipients of the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, awarded by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

In the years that followed, Mr. Havel became a beacon of hope for oppressed people from Cuba to China. The United States also had a strong friend in the dissident-turned-leader.  In 2003 he was one of the signatories of the Letter of Eight—the eight European leaders who supported George W. Bush’s bid to liberate Iraq.

Mr. Havel once said that he believed in “the power of words to change history.”  But he knew that changing history required more than mere words.  It requires men and women with the courage to risk everything to make their ideas, expressed in words, a reality.  Vaclav Havel had the words—and the will—to make freedom a reality for millions of his countrymen.  May he rest in peace.

Edwin J. Feulner
President, The Heritage Foundation