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The President

Human Rights in the World - Human Rigts at Home (1989 - 2003) 

We have to uncover all these shows of chauvinism, racism, intolerance and fanaticism. Condemn all appeals for national sentiment which would like to see the nation become nothing more than a band of aggressive football fans. Reject the demonising of any nation or community as well as the inciting of fear or hatred of anyone. Only he who does not believe in himself fears and hates.

Václav Havel, 1992

Lecture´s Summary

The lesson aims at following the steps taken by Vaclav Havel as a human rights campaigner in his new role as President of the state. Drawing on the examples of several personalities from various parts of the world, such as the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and Salman Rushdie, it is demonstrated that Vaclav Havel never ceased to protect human rights even when he was the country’s highest-ranking statesman and politician. He continued to take an interest in the situation of countries with a totalitarian regime whose opponents fought for freedom. He tried to support them by openly meeting them and showing an interest in their destiny. There are also two examples of Havel’s interest in human rights issues on the home front. In the video lesson students also learn about the “velvet” breakup of Czechoslovakia into two sovereign states and, in contrast, of the long civil war the in former Yugoslavia, about which Vaclav Havel was also concerned. Madeleine Albright remembers Vaclav Havel as a politician who consistently advocated human rights on the international scene.

Lesson 5 - The President

Aims of the Lecture

  • Understand the type of politician that Vaclav Havel was – a politician who did not forget about his past and defended human rights even as the highest-ranking representative of the country
  • Understand that human rights are violated in various countries for various reasons, whether ethnic, religious or economic, and that it is important to be sensitive to these issues even if they do not relate to the country we live in 

Support Materials 

Photo Gallery


Timeline of the Lecture

1989 Velvet revolution
1989 Václav Havel elected president of the new democratic Czechoslovakia (29. December 1989).
1990 Vaclav Havel's first presidential visit to the United States of America
1990 Vaclav Havel invites the Dalai Lama for an official visit.
1991 The imprisoned leader of the Burmese opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (after Havel's nomination).
1993 Vaclav Havel invited the Indian-born British writer, Salman Rushdie, to Prague.
1993 Velvet divorce - Czechoslovakia breaks up to form two separate countries.
1999 NATO's military intervention in Yugoslavia’s Kosovo

All Lectures

Lesson The Young Man

The Young Man

Happy Childhood - Communist Coup - Harsh Fiftees - Golden Sixtees (1936 - 1968)

Lesson The Dissident

The Dissident

Invasion - Normalisation - Letter to Gustáv Husák - Dissent (1968 - 1976)  

Lesson The Political Prisoner

The Political Prisoner

The Plastic People Band - Charter 77 - Imprisonments (1976 - 1983)

Lesson The Revolution Leader

The Revolution Leader

Perestroika - Few Sentences - Velvet Revolution (1983 -1989)

Lesson The President

The President

Human Rights in the World - Human Rigts at Home (1989 - 2003) 

Lesson The Citizen

The Citizen

Civil Society - Civil Responsibility (1989 - 2011)

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