"A minor miracle occurred yesterday," wrote Frank Fischer in an email on November 17th, "(it) marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania's long march from the end of the Communist regime."
Attila Ledenyi was one of the early shapers of Fidesz. He was in charge of international relations in the organization's early years. He's quick to remind me, when we met last May after 23 years, that Fidesz wasn't a political party in those early years.
There is a party that supports the transformation of the government into a constitutional monarchy, but it has been described as "one of the parties that could fit in an elevator." But the principle of monarchy has appeal beyond the programs of specific parties.
Snopko is now the Slovak culture ambassador in the Czech Republic. We talked about Slovak-Czech relations, the different culture of dissent in Slovakia during the Communist period, and his own love of Prague.
When Communism collapsed in 1989 in East-Central Europe, many industries collapsed with it. Factories closed, workers were out of jobs, and economies shrank. But one sector of the economy grew: the media.
The Velvet Revolution began in the cities of Czechoslovakia, but what made the revolution irreversible were the efforts of mainly young people to spread the message of the revolution beyond the cities. Michaela Novotna was one of the young people to go to the countryside.
The Czech Republic is one of the most successful members of the former Soviet Empire. Yet Czechs with whom I recently spoke fear liberty is in retreat. Indeed, the former Communist Party might reenter government after elections last weekend.
In order to craft a developmental path that is inclusive and effective, more voices need to be heard. We need to give our youth an opportunity to have their voices heard and give women equal opportunity to craft this pathway.
In explaining the fall of Communism, most analysts talk about pressure from the inside (dissidents) coupled with pressure from the outside (Gorbachev, Reagan). But equally important were the inside-outsiders.
I am also facing many people who have encouraged, pushed and personified the desire for change in their respective societies. Because the search for horizons of greater freedom is an essential part of human nature.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia currently enjoy a relationship that should be the envy of any two neighboring countries. The prime ministers maintain good contact. The two countries engage in joint infrastructure projects and provide joint military units for NATO operations.
Vaclav Havel left an indelible imprint on the conscience of the entire world. His 1978 essay The Power of the Powerless, has lost none of its relevance, particularly in the wake of the stormy year that the Middle East experienced.
The notion that social change can be sparked by an inner revolution is not only realistic. It also gives us a gift that conventional "realism" withholds -- a chance to do something that might make a difference.