|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the Masaryk Remembrance Festival, Vladislav Hall, Prague Castle
Prague, Czech Republic, March 7, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Dear President Havel, Mrs. Havel, Lord Mayor Kasl, Mrs. Benesova, Deputy Chairman Buzkova, Professor Kohak, excellencies from the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, for the past two days, I have been thinking about the lessons we might derive from T.G. Masaryk's life and teachings.
President Masaryk differed from many leaders in that he was not satisfied simply to be followed or admired; he wished to be understood. So I suspect, if he were able, he would say to us today: (in Czech) "Thank you very much for the statues and the celebrations, but are you really sure you finally understand?"
As Professor Kohak reminded us, President Masaryk was at times almost worshipped and at other times a prophet without honor in his country. But Masaryk was astonishingly consistent, so why did all about him change?
This question has significance far beyond Czech borders. It is relevant in my own land and around the world. Because all history seems to be about learning and forgetting, and all progress about not forgetting the lessons taught by Masaryk and very few others of his quality.
If past is prologue, we will be asked often in the new century to choose between tribalism and tolerance, watching and acting, lip service and the demands of true democracy.
Time and again, we will be tempted to take the path of least apparent risk. Time and again, we will find ourselves on the verge of forgetting President Masaryk's warning, (in Czech)"A nation which lives only for itself will be as wretched as a man who lives only for himself. Without faith in ideas and ideals, the life of individuals and of nations is mere vegetation."
Tomas Garrigue Masaryk was not content to observe history; nor even to participate in historic events; he was determined to shape history and to build a world more peaceful, just and free than it has ever been.
His, then, is a living legacy. An inspiration, yes. A great gift, yes. But even more--an ever-renewing challenge to us all.
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