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President Obama 'deeply saddened' by death of Vaclav Havel

December 18, 2011 |  9:52 am

Remembering Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, leader of Czechoslavakia's 1989 "Velvet Revolution" has died, and President Obama says he is "deeply saddened" by the news.

In a statement Sunday from the White House, the president said Havel's "peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon."

Havel, a onetime dissident playwright and leader of the anti-Communist struggles in Eastern Europe, was 75. He was the last president of Czechoslovakia, from 1989 to 1992, and, after the nation split, was the first president of the Czech Republic, from 1993 to 2003.

Obama said:

Having encountered many setbacks, Havel lived with a spirit of hope, which he defined as 'the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.' ... He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world. He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.

The president said that he, like "millions around the world," was inspired by Havel's "words and leadership."

"We extend our condolences to President Havel’s family and all those in the Czech Republic and around the world who remain inspired by his example," Obama said. "Vaclav Havel was a friend to America and to all who strive for freedom and dignity, and his words will echo through the ages."


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Photo: People gather to lay flowers and light candles to commemorate Vaclav Havel in Prague, Czech Republic, on Sunday. Credit: Petr David Josek / Associated Press