The 24th Anniversary of Havel’s Address to Joint Session of US Congress

Today marks the 24th Anniversary of President Havel’s historic address to a joint session of the United States Congress.

Speaking as the recently elected President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Havel began his speech:

“My advisors have advised me, on this important occasion, to speak in Czech. I don’t know why. Perhaps they wanted you to enjoy the sound of my mother tongue. 

The last time they arrested me, on October 27 of last year, I didn’t know whether it was for two days or two years. Exactly one month later, when rock musician Michael Kocab told me that I would probably be proposed as a presidential candidate, I thought it was one of his usual jokes. 

On the 10th of December 1989, when my actor friend Jiri Bartoska, in the name of the Civic Forum, nominated me as a candidate for the office of the president of the republic, I thought it was out of the question that the Parliament we had inherited from the previous regime would elect me. 

Twelve days later, when I was unanimously elected president of my country, I had no idea that in two months I would be speaking in front of this famous and powerful assembly, and that I would be heard by millions of people who have never heard of me and that hundreds of politicians and political scientists would study every word I say.”

For the full text of the speech (in English).

The Vaclav Havel Center