The Address of the President of the Czech Republic at the Festive Ceremony on the Occasion of the Czech National Day on the 28th of October
Dear President Klaus, dear Mrs. Havlová, dear state representatives, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is said that in one drop of water are found all secrets of the oceans. Similarly, a piece of Czech history can be found in the human stories of today's decorated personalities. I have always tried to relate my speech on the occasion of the 28th of October to the life stories of the decorated. I will express my opinion of the situation of the Czech Republic as part of my Christmas message in two months' time. Today, however, I consider it my kind duty to speak about the fates of the people who will soon be decorated.
I am doing so as I consider it my personal duty to take responsibility for and state the reasons why I have decided to decorate individual personalities and I am doing so primarily as I believe in the concept of a living history. A history which is not only interpreted as an anonymous movement of abstract ideas but as a live and living history. From this point of view then, allow me to divide the decorated into two basic groups. The first will present a story of bravery and the second group will be a story of labour.
As regards the first story of bravery, I consider it my great honour to deliver the highest Czech military award to a twenty-year-old pilot who died in the Battle of Britain at the end of October 1940 having successfully shot down 17 enemy aircraft. What is valid here is not the Coubertain's motto that it is necessary to take part in a war but, if possible, to win the war. I remember Sir Winston Churchill's words that said: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," by which he meant the pilots. Another example of bravery is a man who saved hundreds of Jewish families. Yet another brave was a sixteen-year-old boy who made the supreme sacrifice to safe his schoolmate's life against an attack by a mad woman. We often encounter the idea that the older generation complains about the younger generation as being spoilt rotten, but the older generation does not realize that it is the older generation's role and duty to implant the values onto the younger generation, the values being bravery, courage, diligence and patriotism. I would very much like to thank the parents of Petr Vejvoda for raising their son in the way they did, even though I know that this will in no way relieve their sorrow. Recently, with regional presidents, we have planted a whole alley of oak trees in the Žďár's region. Oaks grow slowly and endure for hundreds of years and I believe that the memory of this brave boy will last just as long. The last person I would like to mention is a man who, unlike the previously mentioned brave boy, took a long life-pilgrimage. He fought in the Spanish civil war and he served as a doctor in the Chinese army where he fought against the Japanese aggression. At the end of the 1940s, like many others, he succumbed to communist ideology. Nevertheless, every mistake can be rectified, and František Kriegl rectified it to the full extent. We often drift back to the year 1968 in search of its explanation. It is sometimes held that it was a fight of two communist factions. However, there is a real fact opposing this thesis as this recovery or reformation process was being supported by the overwhelming majority of our society. Only then did the breaking point come. It was not at the point of occupation. It was at the moment of the Moscow negotiations and, although I know that I will again be blamed for depriving Czech history of its heroes, I would like to share with you my opinion that it was at the signing of the Moscow protocols that the Czech political elites failed. With the sole exception whom I decorate with the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk today.
Well, I will again quote Churchill who said, ensuing the Munich Agreement: "Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war." In Moscow, our representatives could have also chosen between two things, between the loss of honour and the loss of function. They lost honour and, over the course of several months, they lost function, too. Therefore, I take my hat off to the memory of František Kriegel who was one of only four, four verbatim, representatives of the then Federal Assembly (Federální Shromáždění) who voted against the occupation and, thus, did not lose his honour. We shall not wonder at the nostalgia for normalization when the elites had betrayed us and there was no one left who would lead society.
At this point, I shall conclude the part of my speech devoted to the memory of the brave. Let me now continue with a much broader group whom I shall name the People of Labour.
I would divide it into several sub-groups with the first being constituted by Czech entrepreneurs. We had long been hearing chants that they would never be able to endure the pressure of foreign competition, that there would never be a generation of Baťa-like entrepreneurs, because there was only a generation of Koženýs and Bakalas. In the end it turned out that, despite all the difficulties, the Baťa generation had fought their way to victory. Four successful Czech entrepreneurs whom I will decorate today have not had an easy life because they had to work their way up from rock bottom; they had to invest all their powers and energy and, as a result, they have succeeded in international competition. I am pointing this out because many branches of our industry, such as the textile or glass industries, have seemingly been doomed to go bankrupt. Two of the decorated entrepreneurs come right from these branches which have been much more difficult to rescue than others.
Another group of labour consists of former politicians. I would like to say that even politicians can work hard. However, only some of them. To state an example, I would like to mention my life-long friend Pavel Dostál who is to be decorated side by side with the ministers of agriculture, transportation and finance. He was one of the ministers who had never had enough money. Which minister ever has had, though? But he coexisted with his department in as much as, instead of promising wealthy subsidies, he wrapped himself in his legendary scarf and went to see a theatre performance or a concert, to museums and art galleries, and people of cultural life accepted him as their minister. I wish of all ministers of the present government and of those yet to come to be as capable of resonating with their department as Pavel Dostál was.
Due to the lack of time, let me mention all the other decorated in just a few cases. We have two excellent sportsmen here who obtain their decorations for their outstanding representation of their homeland. The president of the Czech Olympic Committee, Mr. Kejval, has recently told me that seventy per cent of the Czech Republic's prestige is delivered by Czech sportsmen. I have no intention of disputing this opinion and its quantification, but it is an indisputable fact that they contribute enormously to the prestige. Therefore, I am highly honoured to be able to reward them today.
Equally, other professions are represented in the choice of the decorated. There are a number of people from the field of culture. And I am glad that there is a singer among them who has overcome a serious disease and that his strong-mindedness has brought him back to the concert stage. There are medical doctors here of whom one has contributed incredibly to the prestige of the Czech Republic by saving people's lost faces. And there are also lawyers, economists and, to your surprise, there are two journalists. Two journalists whom I esteem highly for their objectivity and professionalism.
There are people who deserve attention for the work they have done although this work is the target of frequent criticism. I will present only one example. When I had decided to decorate the founder of babyboxes, I received a letter from several pediatricians who protested against awarding this honour. As a consequence, I read the letter diligently. I had expected protests against the low technical quality of babyboxes. However, in the end it turned out that the essence of the protest lay in that we do not need any babyboxes at all because the existing institute of anonymous adoption suffices completely. I decided to ignore the pediatricians' objections and to proceed with the decoration because I maintain the principle that, as far as I know, first appeared in the Talmud: "Whoever saves one live, saves the entire world." And even if only one child lost its life in a dustbin due to the non-existance of babyboxes, the work of the babybox founder is worthy of respect.
Similarly worthy of respect is the work of the initiator of the "Hospice Movement" as we, in all our fondness for the productive phase of our lives, tend to forget that people should die with dignity. And you know that anywhere I walk or travel, I support the establishing of bricks-and-mortar as well as mobile hospices.
I have left two notes until the conclusion. Sometimes we doubt the importance of fundamental research. One of the decorated is a man who laid the foundations for electron microscopy in this country. Not many of us know that the Czech Republic is the biggest producer of electron microscopes in the world. There is the wonderful example of a man who managed to join fundamental and applied research with its industrial utilization.
The concluding note concerns two people who have entered into some kind of dispute with green activists. I intentionally say "green" instead of "environmental" activists because the environmentalists at least know what biomass is. Nevertheless, one of them is our Slovak friend, the designer of recognized water works such as Gabčíkovo dam of which the green activists claimed that as soon as it was completed, its water would become putrid and waterfowl would disappear. The water is clean and the number of waterfowl has doubled.
And the second man is the head of the Šumava National Park who, in cooperation with his predecessor, Jan Stráský, curbed a bark-beetle epidemic triggered by these green fanatics.
And the very last note. One of the decorated is sometimes considered to be a clown although his theatre has delighted tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people and brought happiness and smiles into their lives. He is indeed a clown. And if you utter this in a contemptuous manner, remember Jan Werich who used to say: "Clowns, alas clowns, there are so few of them, but we abound in fools." Let me use this quotation of the wisest of all Czech clowns as a way of concluding my speech today.
Thank you for your attention.
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