It was 1994. I was a high school teacher instructing young people that there must be a source of authority outside of ourselves. Then I read a speech that the president of The Czech Republic had given at Stanford University. In essence, Vaclav Havel said
“Democracy must rediscover and renew its own transcendent origins. Democracy must renew its respect for an external order. This order is above us but also in us and among us. Transcendence is the only possible and reliable source of human respect, political order, and all authority.”
After I read his speech, the Czech president Vaclav Havel became my favorite politician. Havel was jailed for standing against the Communist regime in the 1970’s and 80’s. For instance, Havel angered his Communist oppressors by signing a human rights manifesto during The Cold War. Havel and 200 other signers were protesting the imprisonment of a rock and roll band. Havel was known as a poet-playwright. Often his plays would subtlety poke fun at his dictatorial oppressors. He referred to the now defunct Soviet Union as ‘absurd.’ When the Soviet system died and the Berlin Wall fell, Vaclav Havel was moved from prison to the presidency. For a dozen years Havel enacted the epitome of his poet-playwright roots as president. He asked the big questions of life—Why are we here? What is real? Whence comes knowledge? But Havel focused principally on one question: What is my responsibility? At times he sounded like a preacher,
“When we lose God in the modern world, we lose meaning, purpose, accountability, and responsibility.”
Vaclav Havel is my favorite politician for many reasons. Havel stood for his beliefs in the face of jail time. Havel believed Communism and all other totalitarian viewpoints were bankrupt. Havel invited the Dali Lama to his nation 2 days after he became president: a symbolic gesture against the tyranny of Red China. Havel stood with President George W. Bush against Saddam Hussein in 2003. Havel referred to the Iraqi dictator’s actions as “a threat against world security.” Havel was a man of the Czech people; he cared for them and they cared for him. But I will miss Havel most for his view of God and man. As he insisted in his Stanford speech, a source of truth must exist outside of humanity. Havel believed that human responsibility only makes sense if divine authority exists. I wish every politician would practice Vaclav Havel’s belief. Vaclav Havel died this past December. May he have the peace in the afterlife which he fought so hard to secure for people in this life. For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.
Vaclav Havel followed other Czech heroes such as Jon Huss and Jon Comenius, other men Mark emulates. This post will be aired on Moody Radio sometime April-June 2012.