The poet politician, Vaclav Havel, understood the power of words. I celebrate his life and mourn his death with his words, shared from another wordsmith, Parker Palmer, in a lecture given by Palmer for Campus Ministers in 1990, "Leading from Within: Reflections on Spirituality and Leadership."
Palmer writes, "Tonight I want to begin with the words of one of those people, whose credentials for leadership are far more authentic than mine. I want to quote some remarks that Vaclav Havel (playwright, dissident, prisoner, and now president of Czechoslovakia, made to the U.S. Congress just a few weeks ago. It was surely one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered on the floor of our national legislative body":
As long as people are people, democracy, in the full sense of the word, will always be no more than an ideal. In this sense, you too are merely approaching democracy uninterruptedly for more than 200 years, and your journey toward the horizon has neven been disrupted by a totalitarian system.
The communist type of totalitarianism system has left both our nations, Czechs and Slovaks, as it has all the nations of the Soviet Union subjugated in its time, a legacy of countless dead, an infinite spectrum of human suffering, profound economic decline, and above all, enormous human humiliation. It has brought us horrors that fortunately you have not known.
It has given us something positive, a special capacity to look from time to time somewhat further than someone who has not undergone this bitter experience. A person who cannot move and lead a somewhat normal life because he is pinned under a boulder has more time to think about his hopes than someone is not trapped that way.
What I am trying to say is this: we must all learn many things from you, from how to educate our offspring, how to elect our representatives, all the way to how to organize our economic life so that it will lead to prosperity and not to poverty. But it doesn't have to be merely assistance from the well-educated, powerful and wealthy to someone who has nothing and therefore has nothing to offer in return.
We too can offer something to you: our experience and the knowledge that has come from it. The specific experience I'm talking about has given me one certainty: consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim. For this reason, the salvation of the human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility (emphasis mine). Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed--be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization--will be unavoidable."
Thank you, Vaclav Havel for your words and a life well lived. Thank you, thank you!