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Journal of Democracy 14.2 (2003) 184-187
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Documents on Democracy
On February 2, Václav Havel stepped down after almost 14 years as president first of Czechoslovakia, then of the Czech Republic. (See Michael Kraus's article on pp. 50-64 of this issue.) Excerpts from his last two presidential addresses follow:
New Year's Address on January 1:
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the birth of the Czech Republic as an independent state. . . . I think it would be appropriate for me today to recall the positive things that have happened during the ten years since the emergence of the Czech Republic—especially since most of us no longer even notice them. First and foremost: The world has long ceased to see us as a left-over of some divided country, whose existence or purpose is hard to understand. On the contrary: Today, we are a trustworthy and respected European democracy that . . . engages as a member in many important international organizations, and boasts stability in its politics and creative potential in its citizens. . . . We have become used to newly won freedoms and are using them to the fullest; we are strengthening the democratic order and developing our young market economy. . . . New generations are maturing, generations of people who grew up free and are not deformed by life under communist rule. These are the first Czechs of our times who inherently consider freedom normal and natural. . . .
Our country's democratic development is irrevocable. That said, our work is not over. We must remind ourselves over and over that democracy is not just a certain institutional structure, but also a spirit, a human capacity, a purpose, and an ideal.
Farewell Address to Czech Citizens on February 2:
In late 1989, the profound transformation that took place in this country brought me here to Prague Castle. It all happened so suddenly that I did not even have time to properly consider whether or not I was up to [End Page 184] the task, and I was sincerely of the opinion that I would just take it on for a few months until the first free elections. . . . Clearly, things turned out quite differently: I have now been here for more than thirteen years. . . .
It is easy to destroy the fine web of civic institutions and relations that developed over the long decades, to place everything under state control and to subject the life of the entire country to a single political entity. But it has been extremely challenging and time-consuming to put everything together again after those decades when time stood still—just as it would certainly take a lot longer to restore a piece of antique furniture than it would to kick it to pieces. . . .
[My successor] will be head of state during times which may be less agitated than when I assumed this office, but which will in no way be uninteresting. Quite the reverse, only the time now at hand will truly show the extent to which we are a fully fledged part of the democratic world.
On February 25, the National Endowment for Democracy awarded its Democracy Service Medal to Nicaraguan president Enrique Bola~nos for his outstanding efforts to advance democracy and fight corruption in Nicaragua. Excerpted below is his acceptance speech.
Since the end of the Cold War and the first free elections in Nicaragua, which began a democratic process 13 years ago today, democracy as a form of government has spread to more places on earth than ever before. However, in many of these new or restored democracies, the promise of prosperity associated with a democratic form of government has not been fulfilled. And few bear more responsibility for these shortcomings than corrupt democrats!
Corrupt democrats are [those] affiliated with democratic parties who have been duly elected or appointed to a position in a democratic administration, and who then turn around and rob the poor, stealing the people's money. Nothing discredits democracy as a form of government faster in the eyes of the governed than to witness government officials stealing from the poor with impunity. So, in one...