When on May 17, 1989 a visiting TIME magazine correspondent and a Prague correspondent for REUTERS together watched Alexander Dubček congratulate Václav Havel on being released from jail earlier that day, little did we know that in six months the Iron Curtain will be no more and that in eight months Havel would be the president of Czechoslovakia. Even less did we know that in twenty three years we will be joining forces along with many wonderful friends on both sides of the Atlantic to launch the Aspen Institute Prague as a Central European focuspoint for fostering value-based leadership, reflection on the ideals and ideas that define a good society and a neutral and balanced debate of critical issues.
It could be said that history has led Walter Isaacson and me to this point just as it led us to Havel’s riverside apartment that evening. It was thanks to the leadership of Europeans like Václav Havel and Lech Wałeşa and Americans like George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton that the value-based partnership between the United States and the countries of Central Europe took roots and flourished in the aftermath of the Cold War. The idea, long in gestation, of a non-partisan Central European institution with American links, which would be dedicated to promoting these values and conducting a dialogue, both Central European and trans-Atlantic, on the burning issues of our time, followed naturally.
It would, however, remain just that were it not for the invaluable support of a number of people in the Aspen family, members of its board of trustees and its international committee, including Americans with Central European roots like Madeleine Albright, Leonard Lauder and Fred Malek. Equally, it could not take off without the pioneering efforts of Tomáš Klvaňa, Radek Špicar and our brilliant young team, the generosity of our sponsors, and the willingness of several important and insanely busy personages to sit on our board.
This first issue of our Aspen Review, a genuine joint Central European endeavor, published in English, Polish and Czech, is a fitting starting point of the Institute’s activities. Its international make-up speaks of our ambition to become, in cooperation with our partner institutes in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Romania and Spain, an active and useful member of the global Aspen community.
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