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.
The loss was more than that of a past president, but of a man who had provided hope and moral leadership. A man who was so much more than a political leader; he was a philosopher, a dissident, a playwright and a man who stood by his convictions.
Last weekend Vaclav Havel died, just at the time when he was most read in Cuba. He left and we can't hear his voice in a classroom of our University, nor listen to his extensive collection of anecdotes about the years of Soviet control.