Remarks by Jane Harman at Dedication of Prague Woodrow Wilson Memorial

Oct 13, 2011
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THE HONORABLE JANE HARMAN
OPENING REMARKS
“THE LEGACY OF WOODROW WILSON & TOMAS MASARYK IN THE 21ST CENTURY” SYMPOSIUM
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
OCTOBER 4, 2011

 

•    As the President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars I am honored to be back in beautiful Prague to celebrate the legacy of America’s first internationalist President and the birth of democracy in central Europe.

•    For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Wilson Center is a living memorial to President Wilson, and provides an essential link between the worlds of scholarship and policymaking.  It’s a safe political space for discussing the hard issues central to the challenges we face.  

•    President Wilson was our only President to earn a PhD and spent most of his life in academics.  He would no doubt agree that the best solutions to tough problems require a bipartisan approach, and bipartisanship is the Center’s “brand.”

•    Sadly bipartisanship is not in favor in the US these days:  as a “recovering politician” who left our Congress recently after serving 9 terms, I am dismayed by the needless fighting and inability to solve urgent problems like our debt and unemployment crises.

•    Many are supporting this event, including the Wilson Center, but I must single out a bipartisan Wilson Center supporter and personal friend, Fred Malek, who honors his Czech heritage and devotes much of his time and resources to promoting democracy and enlightened policy between our countries.

•    Woodrow Wilson once said:  

“We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered,
afraid of its own forces, in search not merely
of its road but even of its direction.”

•    That comment was so relevant to the world as it emerged from the first World War, when the nation of Czechoslovakia was formed from the war-torn lands of Austria Hungary.

•    My father was born in Austria Hungary, in the part that became Poland.  Sadly, he did not grow up in the land of Masaryk – although his life, and most of Europe including Czechoslovakia, underwent drastic change when the Nazis came to power.

•    He was fortunate to emigrate to the United States in 1935, and to become a successful medical doctor.  But such was not the case for so many here and throughout the continent who lost their freedom, their families, and their countries.
It is fitting that, after 70 years, this monument to Woodrow Wilson – the American President whose vision of a democratic Europe and partnership with Tomas Masaryk led to the birth of a free and democratic country – has been re-created and re-dedicated.

•    I was part of the delegation led by Madeleine Albright that witnessed the “Velvet Revolution” and assembled in the town square that evening with 50,000 Czechs to hear Paul Simon sing.

•    I am honored to witness history being made in Prague – again – and to play a small role by introducing today's distinguished panel and helping to moderate questions.

•    Our first panelist, Dr. Dagmar Hajkova is an expert in Czech history in the first half of the 20th century, with a focus on the first resistance, exile and propaganda – and her work includes the publication of President Masaryk's correspondence.  

Dr. Hajkova is a graduate of Charles University’s distinguished Faculty of Arts and is currently a scholar at the T.G. Masaryk Institute and Archives.  She will speak about President Masaryk.

PAUSE

•    Now I am pleased to introduce Dr. John Milton Cooper – a former Wilson Center scholar, a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC and Princeton University, he is the preeminent living historian of Wilson and his era.  He has authored numerous books on the President, including a monumental new biography, Woodrow Wilson, which is not simply a narrative of a presidential life.  

•    This book revives Wilson for the 21st century and explains why he deserves our continued esteem.  The New York Times Review of Books has cited it as the “definitive” biography.  Dr. Cooper is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and will speak, not surprisingly, about President Wilson.

PAUSE

•    Former US Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright may have been born Czech, but she is also an American patriot and world citizen – and a simply wonderful girlfriend!

Her history here, about which she is writing another book, is complicated.  But her love of this country and its re-emergence from the shadows of Hitler and communism, is not.  Madeleine is so proud of you and the example you have set.

Madeleine has shattered almost every glass ceiling in America, and, like Cher or Madonna, is widely known by her first name.  She is truly an American icon.  She will comment on the relationship between Wilson and Masaryk.

PAUSE

•    Finally, we will hear from President Vaclav Havel – a man who needs no introduction, especially in Prague.  So let me instead recount a wonderful story that my late husband, Sidney, often told.

•    We had been invited to the White House by the second President Bush for a small dinner in honor of Vaclav Havel.  For some reason, unlike other arriving cars, ours was directed to the White House portico – and the passenger door was opened by … George Bush!  Why?  Because he thought Sidney Harman was President Havel!  

•    After realizing the error, my husband and President Bush burst into laughter – but it was so meaningful to Sidney to be mistaken for Havel:  a playwright, fearless activist, humanist, and visionary leader.  

•    Since leaving office in 2003, President Havel has continued to write and speak about the issues that have always concerned him.  If we have a world conscience, he is it.  President Havel will speak about the legacy of Wilson and Masaryk today.  

•    In closing, let me just say how pleased I am to be back in Prague.  So much history has been made here … much of it by the people in this room.  

•    Woodrow Wilson is back, too – and his legacy is fondly remembered.