Prime Minister Topolánek Commemorates Masaryk Birthday - PDF

Spring, 2008 NEWSLETTER Volume XIV, Number 1 Prime Minister Topolánek Commemorates Masaryk Birthday Topolánek at Masaryk Memorial Ceremony Photos by Lillis Werder Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek included

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Spring, 2008 NEWSLETTER Volume XIV, Number 1 Prime Minister Topolánek Commemorates Masaryk Birthday Topolánek at Masaryk Memorial Ceremony Photos by Lillis Werder Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek included time in his full schedule on February 27 th, to pay his respects at the Masaryk Memorial. Accompanied by Czech Ambassador Petr Kolář, Topolánek offered remarks to a dedicated group of wellwishers on a blustery day. He noted that 2008 marks the 158 th anniversary of the birthday of the liberator and first president of Czechoslovakia, and emphasized the significance of Masaryk in creating the independent Czech state and the importance of his close personal relationship with President Woodrow Wilson in giving birth to the first democracy in Central Europe. The Prime Minister further cited the continuing importance of a strong U.S.-Czech relationship. Topolánek was greeted by an AFoCR delegation including Chairman Fred Malek, President Peter Rafaeli, Vice President William Cabaniss, and AFoCR Directors George Drost, Phillip Kasik, Michael Rokos and Jack White. Also, former AFoCR President Milton Cerny was on hand to greet the Prime Minister. After the moving wreath laying ceremony, AFoCR presented the Prime Minister with a memento and a certificate of recognition for his continuing efforts to enhance Czech-U.S. relations. The Prime Minister thanked AFoCR for its activities on behalf of the Czech people, and he was briefed on AFoCR s next big project - the reestablishment of the Woodrow Wilson Monument in Prague. L to R: AFoCR Chairman Fred Malek, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, AFoCR President Peter Rafaeli, current U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Richard Graber, AFoCR Past President Phil Kasik Photo by Lillis Werder VISA WAIVER UPDATE: New Agreement Paves Way for Visa Free Travel to U.S. On February 26 th, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, as part of a Czech delegation in Washington, signed a memorandum of understanding that marks the first step towards the Czech Republic s inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Prague has been a strong advocate of visa-free travel to the U.S. for years. Prime Minister Topolánek described the signing as the fulfillment of a dream for generations of Czechs. Signing the memorandum on behalf of the U.S. government, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said that he hopes to welcome the first Czechs without visas as early as October of this year. Prior to traveling, Czech citizens will be required to provide detailed information to U.S. officials via the internet with the Electronic Travel Authorization system. Travelers from the Czech Republic will also be tracked under the immigration and border control system, US-Visit, a database of foreigners present in the United States. The Czech Republic s bilateral agreement with Washington has caused concern within the European Commission; in particular Brussels takes issue that the signing might imply a release of personal data that extends beyond EU policies. Interior Minister Langer, however, rejected complaints by Brussels, stating that the Czech Republic had waited long enough for solidarity which never materialized. Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff gave praise to the Czech Republic as a pioneer in becoming the first EU state to enlist in America s new, stricter form of visa-free relations. Wilson Project Moves Forward As described in the Fall, 2007 Newsletter, AFoCR is working with the City of Prague and the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens to rebuild the monument to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in Prague. An exciting discovery regarding this project was made in early January, The original plaster model of the full-size head and shoulders of the Wilson statue, created by internationally renowned artist Albin Polasek, was found in a warehouse of the National Gallery in Prague. This unexpected find guarantees a more exact copy of the original statue, as the most expressive part of the sculpture can now be reproduced. Moreover, it will connect the reproduction of the statue directly to the hand of the original sculptor. In February, AFoCR Directors Jack Stack and William Cabaniss held a number of meetings in Prague to advance the project, including with Dr. Pavel Bém, Lord Mayor of the City of Prague. The City officials all expressed their enthusiasm and commitment to work with AFoCR to successfully complete the project. The City is considering a site for the monument near the entrance to the 1970 s addition to Wilson Station. The entire station is currently undergoing renovation. Spring, 2008 Page 2 Volume XIV, Number 1 Message from AFoCR President Peter Rafaeli I am pleased to report on a number of exciting steps underway by AFoCR s Board of Directors and the Board s Executive Committee towards the organization s growth and conversion into a national organization. The following agendas are being actively pursued: The Board streamlined the leadership structure of the organization, creating the position of Chairman of the Board. This new position is now filled by our longtime friend and Director Fred Malek. I have been appointed to the post of AFoCR President and we added to the Board and the Executive Committee three outstanding individuals who bring with them years of valuable experience and a wealth of contacts for AFoCR in the Czech Republic. They are listed below in alphabetical order: William J. Cabaniss, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, who is now the AFoCR Vice President Thomas A. Dine, former Director of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty in Prague, who also has years of experience as a public servant in the federal government Jack Stack, an American banker who came seven years ago to Prague as the head of Česká Spořitelna Banka (Czech Savings Bank) and expertly modernized the Czech banking world. We have excellent news on the topic of the Visa Waiver. The following is an excerpt from the February newlsetter of the U.S. Embassy in Prague: Following a full morning of negotiations with Czech authorities on border security agreements, DHS Assistant Secretary Richard Barth reported excellent progress in the work that would enable Czech citizens to travel to the U.S. without a visa in We invite you to read a complete transcript of Barth s February 6 exchange with Czech media. To view this, please go to The recently formed Czech Caucus is growing gradually. If your Senator or Representative is not a member, we suggest that you contact him or her immediately. The Woodrow Wilson Monument project, led for AFoCR by Director Robert Doubek, is starting to solidify. Recently, Directors Cabaniss and Stack met with various officials in Prague. We anticipate that this project will be another example of healthy Czech-U.S. cooperation. Our fundraising efforts have been successful. If you made a contribution, we express our heartfelt appreciation for your support. If you have not contributed recently, please consider making a taxdeductible contribution today. With kindest regards, AFoCR Recognizes Ambassador Peter Kolář AFoCR President Peter Rafaeli and Ambassador Peter Kolář Photo: AFoCR AFoCR President Peter Rafaeli presented a certificate of appreciation to Ambassador Peter Kolář, in recognition of his exceptional support of AFoCR's Nicholas Winton Educational Project. Ambassador Kolář s work culminated in the success- ful effort to achieve Congressional recognition for Sir Nicholas Winton, resulting in the passage of House Resolution 583. The presentation was made in Washington, D.C. during a reception dinner hosted by Ambassador Kolář in connection with the national meeting of the Czech Republic Honorary Consuls in October, AFoCR Mourns Passing of Representative Lantos America mourns the loss of a great American by Choice - Tom Lantos. AFoCR mourns the untimely loss of a great ally in the fight for freedom and human rights. Representative Lantos served with distinction and wisdom in the House of Representatives and on the House International Relations Committee, as the committee s most recent Chairman. He was a friend of the Czech Republic, and cooperated with AFoCR in projects to educate young people about the Holocaust. As the only Holocaust survivor serving as a member of Congress, he understood the importance of continued efforts to educate others about these terrible crimes. His wisdom, leadership, and courage will be sorely missed. About Artist Albin Polasek Albin Polasek ( ), the Czech-American sculptor of the Woodrow Wilson statue of 1928, created more than 400 artistic works throughout his lifetime in a variety of media including bronze, stone, plaster, wood, and paint. Over half of all his works are now on display at the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens at Winter Park, Florida. As evidenced in the Wilson statue, Polasek s talent and legacy remain in his life-like sculptures of people. Born in Frenštát, Moravia, Polasek began his career as a wood carver in Austria. Emigrating to America at age 22, he began formal art training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. While attending the Academy, Polasek began to develop his own distinct style of sculpting, while at the same time incorporating classic techniques taught by his instructors. As a student, he produced two of his most acclaimed works, Man Carving His Own Destiny (1907) and The Eternal Moment (1909). After becoming an American citizen in 1909, Polasek competed for, and won, a fellowship to the American Academy in Rome. While studying at the American Academy, he won the Prix de Rome competition. At age 37, after dividing his time for many years between Italy and New York City, he was invited to head the Sculpture Spring, 2008 Page 3 Volume XIV, Number 1 AFoCR Expands Board Malek elected Chairman Rafaeli elected President Moving AFoCR Forward Chairman Fred Malek President Peter Rafaeli The fall of 2007 brought new faces to AFoCR s leadership line-up when the Board of Directors convened in October. Long-time Board member Fred Malek was elected Chairman of the Board, while Peter Rafaeli was chosen as President. Rafaeli observed that the three new Directors - William Cabaniss, Thomas Dine and Jack Stack - bring with them a wealth of experience with non-profit organizations, business, and U.S.-Czech relations. Bill Cabaniss, former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, was elected Vice President. Tom Dine, having returned from his presidency of Radio-Free Europe in Prague, and Jack Stack, recently back from an exceedingly successful term in Prague, as CEO of Česká Spořitelna Bank, bring unique competencies to the Board. Cabaniss and Stack wasted no time getting started as they shuttled off to Prague in February, 2008 for meetings with Czech leaders to coordinate plans for AFoCR s newest project, the reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Monument in Prague. Peter Rafaeli reported that the new AFoCR Leadership Council is continuing to grow and expand across the country, and is still open to new members. AFoCR Board of Directors Meeting, October, 2007 Photo by AFoCR Chairman Fred Malek s Vision for AFoCR I am honored to accept the invitation of the Board of Directors of the American Friends of the Czech Republic to become its Chairman. My grandfather was born in Krasna Hora, Bohemia, and like Milt Cerny, Phil Kasik, and Bob Doubek, I grew up in the Czech enclaves of Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois. I deeply treasure my Czech heritage and have served on the Board of AFoCR since the mid-1990 s under Milt Cerny s outstanding leadership. In 2000, I chaired the AFoCR gala, honoring Vaclav Havel and Madeleine Albright at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and I have been honored by this fine organization. Thus, it is a great pleasure to join Peter Rafaeli and the other members of the leadership team. Although it is early to be too definitive about my vision for AFoCR, below are a few of my initial thoughts: We have launched some important initiatives and made meaningful contributions, including assistance to resolve issues from the 2002 floods, the establishment of the Masaryk Memorial in Washington, and the recognition of Sir Nicholas Winton s heroic efforts during World War II. We are now working on the resurrection of the monument to President Woodrow Wilson in Prague, erected in 1928 and later torn down by the Nazis in Our mission should be broadened, relying less on projects and emphasizing a continuum of programs to enhance relations between the peoples of the United States and Czech Republic, and preserving our valued common heritage. We have had able and dedicated leadership, and now we need to attract a new generation of young leaders to provide the energy to realize the broadened vision. We have been, primarily, a Washington-centered organization, and now we need active members from every part of the country. As we move in this direction, we embrace the participation of younger, more geographically dispersed, friends of the Czech Republic. As we move in the directions described above, we will need greater funding, and thus, a strengthened approach to fundraising. Obviously, the above are my initial impressions, and the Board will provide more definition in the months ahead. Most importantly, however, we would like to hear more from you. Do these concepts and directions strike a responsive chord? What are we missing? What would you like to see AFoCR accomplish? Please take the time to share your thoughts by writing to me at the following address: Thayer Capital Partners 1455 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite 350 Washington, D.C., or, me at Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Department at the Art Institute of Chicago where he worked for almost 30 years. He was often referred to as a Chicago artist because of the many sculptures still seen today dotted throughout the city. Polasek was elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1927, becoming a full member in At age 71, the artist retired to Winter Park, Florida, suffering a stroke shortly thereafter. Even though the stroke left him paralyzed on his left side, he went on to produce 18 more major works, using only his right hand. During his lifetime, Polasek was married twice. He died in 1965 and is buried in Winter Park alongside both his wives. Photos by Albin Polasek, Artist, Sculptor Spring, 2008 Page 4 Volume XIV, Number 1 Vondra Presentation: US and EU in 21 st Century Photo by AFoCR On November 16, 2007, Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, delivered a compelling speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, entitled The EU and the U.S. in the 21 st Century. This event, the 8 th annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture, was co-sponsored by the Friends of Slovakia and the AFoCR. In his discussion, Vondra examined the current and future state of transatlantic relations with an emphasis on the goal that the strategic interests and values of both the U.S. and Europe remain centrolineal. Vondra described a community of existing values between the two powers, emphasizing a commitment to democracy, individual rights, and the importance of market economics. Vondra elaborated on the significance of the combined efforts of both regions to thwart international terrorism, while also assuring the security of energy resources. Throughout his address, Vondra underscored the invaluable and ever-strong alliance that has sustained through the decades between the U.S. and the EU. This relationship has been evidenced through two world wars, as the U.S. greatly assisted in the recovery of Europe s economy after WWII. Vondra stressed that the U.S. has been instrumental through NATO, as U.S. leadership led to the ultimate liberation of Central and Eastern Europe from the Communist regime. Vondra outlined three topics of foremost strategic importance for a successful transatlantic alliance: security, economic cooperation, and energy. In regard to security, he proposed a resolute discussion between the EU and the U.S. regarding the future of NATO, and the coordination between EU member states concerning Kosovo and the European Security and Defense Policy. Vondra also highlighted the U.S. missile defense shield as a key policy in the promotion of ongoing beneficial U.S. relations with Europe. Vondra explained how the global economy is presently dominated by the U.S. and the EU, together generating almost 60% of world economic output. Vondra urged that because of the rapid growth of large countries such as China, Brazil, and India, and their increasing foothold in an expanding world market, the U.S. and EU must work together to remain competitive. He also cautioned EU members and the U.S. from holding up the Doha round, recommending that any differences be resolved through joint compromise. Vondra lastly examined energy issues, and how a country s accessibility to energy resources can largely determine a state s geopolitical position. To circumvent the hardships that arise from many of the world s resources being situated within the confines of totalitarian governments, Vondra laid out his plan for effective management for future energy security. He recommended a diversification of energy resources, an increasing reliance on nuclear energy, and the broadening of the energy market. To summarize, Vondra reiterated the priority of the U.S. and the EU to forge a united alliance as equal partners, jointly committing to resolve global obstacles as they arise. It is paramount that the two maintain a cohesive bond, keeping global interests in the forefront. He noted that the two regions have historically united through a collective sense of responsibility, advocating an ongoing transatlantic partnership in the future, as he deems this goal essential for securing global stability. He resolved that a transatlantic agenda is ultimately a global agenda. A variety of groups made up the large audience attending the lecture including many AFoCR and FOS supporters. FOS Board members in attendance included Bill Tucker, Juraj and Julie Slavik, Ken Bombara, Ted Russell, and Peter Rafaeli, who coordinated this year s Freedom Lecture. Deputy Prime Minister Vondra was presented with a Friends of Slovakia medal on behalf of the FOS Board of Directors by FOS Vice Chairman Ted Russell immediately after the lecture. AFoCR Vice President Peter Rafaeli presented Vondra with a certificate of appreciation from the AFoCR and the FOS, in addition to a large photograph of the Masaryk Memorial in Washington, D.C. If you would like to listen to the audio of the 8 th annual Czech and Slovak Freedom lecture, use the following link: 90 th Anniversary of Masaryk s Visit to Chicago May 5, 2008 Photo by Lillis Werder May 5, 2008, will mark the 90 th anniversary of the triumphant visit of the founder of Czechoslovakia, T.G. Masaryk, to Chicago, that helped solidify the American decision to support the establishment of the Czechoslovak state. Masaryk was greeted in Grant Park by a crowd estimated at one hundred, fifty thousand people, mostly from the Czech-American community. It was, indeed, a historic moment in the life of the Czech community in Chicago, but also one of the milestones, together with the backing of President Wilson, which led to the independence of Czechoslovakia on October 28, The first week of May will be filled with events commemorating the anniversary. Some of the events that are being planned are as follows: May 1 st Documentary Premiere Accidental Army The Amazing True Story of the Czechoslovak Legion at the Chicago History Museum May 3rd Masaryk Memorial Banquet at Klas Restaurant, Cicero, Illinois May 4th Special Tour of the Bohemian National Cemetery May 13th Masaryk Lecture on Democracy at the University of Chicago For additional information, please contact Radka Kloudova, office of the Czech Consulate of Chicago at or call Spring, 2008 Page 5 Volume XIV, Number 1 Topol
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