Special Event: Václav Havel, Speaking Today

Actions Panel

Special Event: Václav Havel, Speaking Today

Václav Havel, Speaking Today - highlighting late Czech President Václav Havel’s speech before the joint session of US Congress 30 years ago.

When and where

Date and time


U.S. Capitol Visitor Center First Street, NE Washington, DC 20515

Map and directions

How to get there

About this event

You are cordially invited to the special event Václav Havel, Speaking Today, with a keynote address by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, highlighting the historic speech 30 years ago before the joint session of the United States Congress by the late Czech President Václav Havel, on February 18, 2020, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, at the United States Capitol Visitor Center.

The evening will include excerpts from the documentary Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me by director Petr Jančárek and reflections by Martin Palouš, Czech former Ambassador and UN Representative who worked closely with Havel.

Honorary Co-Hosts: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

The event is presented by the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel Library Foundation, Czech Center, American Friends of the Czech Republic, Florida International University (FIU) – Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Essens Foundation, Endorfilm, and the Michael Kocab Foundation.

Event Details:

Date/Time: February 18, 2020, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Location: United States Capitol Visitor Center

Congressional Auditorium and Atrium (CVC 200)

First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20515


Invitation photo: ©Tomki Němec, a renowned photographer of Václav Havel

Václav Havel

Václav Havel (1936-2011), playwright, essayist, poet, dissident, and politician, was one of the writers of Charter 77, a document that criticized the Czechoslovak communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Havel became the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. Shortly after being elected, he gave a speech to the joint session of the United States Congress on February 22, 1990. In his speech, he stated, “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility.” His powerful speech received 17 standing ovations in Congress. Havel has received numerous state decorations, honorary doctorates, and international awards, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. After leaving office, he continued to work in human rights, creating the Forum 2000 Foundation. Havel passed away on December 18, 2011.

Keynote Address

Madeleine K. Albright is Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and Chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She was the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Obama on May 29, 2012. In 1997, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Albright served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the President’s Cabinet. From 1989 to 1992, she served as President of the Center for National Policy. Previously, she was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council and White House staff and served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie. Dr. Albright is a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She is a member of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy. Dr. Albright also serves on the Board of the Aspen Institute. In 2009, Dr. Albright was asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Chair a Group of Experts focused on developing NATO’s New Strategic Concept.

Reflections on Havel

Martin Palouš is Senior Fellow and Director of the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. He is also President of the Václav Havel Library Foundation and President of the International Platform for Human Rights in Cuba. He was one of the original signatories of Charter 77, served as its spokesperson in 1986 and participated at the creation of the Civic Forum during the Velvet Revolution (November 1989). After the fall of Communism, he served as a member of Parliament (1990), Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (1990-1992, 1998-2001), Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States (2001-2005) and Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations (2006-2011).

Excerpts from the Film: Havel Speaking, Can You Hear Me?

The film captures the public and private moments of the last three years of former Czech President Václav Havel’s life. Havel travels the world, directs his feature film Leaving, and produces concerts for stars like Joan Baez and Lou Reed. Jančárek shows Havel‘s life journey as an incredible road movie, covering his fight for human rights and dignity, but also his struggle with time running out on his own life. Delve into the life of an extraordinary leader and enter into the discussion about how his life can continue to serve as an example for today’s generation.

About the Director

Petr Jančárek is a renowned Czech documentarist and cameraman specialized in the history of the 20th century. He directed more than 100 documentaries, mostly about human rights and politics. His filmography includes films about the Hong Kong handover, aftermath of the Lebanon civil war, and persecution of human rights defenders in Cuba. He is cofounder of the Czech non-governmental organization People in Need, for which he often makes projects related to humanitarian aid.