In the late 1980s, the fight against global communism entered a crucial phrase. President Ronald Reagan publicly pressed Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa gave Polish workers the courage to rise up against their communist masters. The Velvet Revolution sprang up in Czechoslovakia.
That last event may be less famous, but it’s no less important. It began on Nov. 17, 1989, when Czech police suppressed a peaceful student demonstration in Prague. Within days, the number of protestors swelled, until it reached half a million. In the face of this uprising, and with the governments of other Soviet satellite states collapsing, the Czech communists saw the handwriting on the wall. They yielded power and dissolved the single-party state.
Credit for this victory goes to many brave souls in Czechoslovakia -- including Václav Klaus, the man who now serves as its president.
Klaus, who turns 70 on June 19, has proved himself a leader in the fight for the free society and the rule of law. He recognizes that evil is not something confined to the past, that forces seeking to quash freedom exist even today.
These enemies, he points out, spread the “virus of demagogy” to suppress a civil society. They cannot be ignored. They must be challenged.
Freedom needs defenders -- public and private, in the academy and in politics. Václav Klaus is a giant in each category. His leadership has preserved and extended the boundaries of the free society in his nation and has inspired other leaders worldwide.
Without such a leader, the political and bureaucratic elite can suppress the aspirations of those who seek opportunity and prosperity in a free and ordered society. Sadly, such a fate plagues many countries. But not the Czech Republic. Under the leadership of President Klaus, the Czech Republic has become a country that recognizes natural rights, promotes free markets, and limits the power of the State.
A contrarian, Klaus was the first international political leader to predict the threat to freedom from those who advocate “environmentalism first.” A decade before the excesses of global-warming hysteria became clear, Klaus warned the world at a Heritage Foundation event that “environmentalism with its ‘Earth First’ arguments represents ‘Leviathan Two’ [and is a] menace which may become even more dangerous than old socialism.”