From Prague to Washington, 25 Years After the Velvet Revolution

So here I am – a Czech diplomat working at the United States Department of State. For almost a year, I will be able to watch firsthand how American foreign policy is conducted and communicated thanks to an exchange program for diplomats called the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship (TDF). And yet only three decades ago, nobody in then communist-ruled Czechoslovakia could have even imagined that such an exchange would ever be possible.

Fortunately, many things have changed since then. Twenty-five years ago, on November 17, 1989, the Velvet Revolution began with a peaceful student march in Prague that led to the re-establishment of democracy in my country. The courageous dissident, prisoner of conscience, and talented playwright Václav Havel became the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and later the first President of the Czech Republic. Next week, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C. will co-host a week-long celebration of this anniversary, and I would like to invite my American colleagues as well as you, DipNote’s readers, to join the celebration.

One of the highlights of the week will be a concert performed by the Czech Philharmonic at the Washington National Cathedral on November 17.  Then, on November 18, the Lion and Eagle Symposium will bring together current and former Czech and American ambassadors together for a discussion. On November 19, “Vaclav Havel’s Legacy Today” conference features remarks by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Senator John McCain, among others, and will be followed by a ceremony in which the U.S. House of Representatives will unveil and dedicate a bust of Václav Havel in the Capitol. Havel will join an exclusive number of non-Americans – among them, Winston Churchill – to be honored in this way.

On November 20, you can listen to Secretary Albright speak about the development of democracy in Europe with the Chairman of the Foreign Relation Committee in the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic Karel Schwarzenberg, and other guests during a Panel Discussion on Human Rights. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Jan Hamáček will participate in most of the events. If you want to learn more about the Velvet Revolution and next week’s events, visit the website: www.25yearsofdemocracy.org.

I am really excited about being able to celebrate this occasion here in Washington, D.C., as well as about my assignment as one of the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellows at the State Department. I came from Prague about three weeks ago and joined the Office of Digital Engagement in the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs. Alongside my American colleagues, I will help explain U.S. foreign policy through new media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, InstagramTumblr, and Google+. And with this year’s other fellows from Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, and Turkey – all serving in other parts of the Department – I will be able to gain a better understanding of the U.S. government and its policies.

The Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship allows mid-level diplomats from EU member states and NATO allies to spend a year working at the State Department, and American diplomats to serve at foreign ministries of participating countries and institutions. Since its establishment in 1995, over 140 diplomats have participated in this exchange program that aims to strengthen transatlantic bonds.

Sharing one’s history and culture is an important part of exchange programs, and I’ve been pleased to be able to share this milestone with you.  As I prepare for my year in the United States, what do you recommend that I learn about America’s history and culture?  Where should I visit, and what should I see?  I appreciate reading your suggestions and look forward to sharing with you some of what I learn in a future entry.

About the Author: Lenka Schropferova is a diplomat from the Czech Republic participating in the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship in the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs.

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Comments

Comments

paul h.
|
Florida, USA
November 14, 2014
Vitam Vas! As the first U.S. diplomat in post-communist Slovakia, I understand the thrill you must have had for coming to the U.S. and taking part on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. A warm welcome to you and I hope you will have very useful and meaningful experiences while you are in the U.S.I hope you will also have a chance to read my memoirs, "Slovakia on the Road to Independence" (PSU Press, 2010)
Dr G.
|
United States
November 14, 2014
Fascinating story.
saif k.
|
Maryland, USA
November 17, 2014
congratulations for celebrations 25th anniversary off the velvet revolution in the world largest civilized true democracy with the discipline and human rights country on the planet United States of America 21st century world must unite and civilized by establish system Global democracy Universal Declaration of Human Rights stablished by United Nations and global constitutions by Security Council of United Nations perfect solution to maintain discipline and peace in the world for better happiest life of future generations previous world history shows very painful life God not designed this world to humans suffer pain for life creation of this world and purpose of life just happens .god bless USA .
Ann C.
|
Missouri, USA
November 17, 2014
Lenka, I met you while you were in High School in Pacific and living with my sister-in-law Alice! I am so excited to see you moving forward in your career. Alice asked me to give you my suggestions about American History (since I teach that subject to 8th graders :) I would definately recommend that you investigate America's Constitutional Convention in 1787 and the development of our Constitution. The process is fascinating. I would also recommend that you visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I loved it when I visited. Best wishes to you in your program! Let me know if I can be of any help to you. Ann
People Demonstrate for Freedom and Democracy in Czechoslovakia in 1989
Czechoslovak President Havel Waves to a Crowd From the Balcony of the Prague Castle After His Election in 1989
President Bush Walks With Czechoslovak President Havel Outside the Prague Castle in 1990
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel
November 13, 2014

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