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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Havel, Still a Man of Morals and Mischief

October 21, 2009

By ALISON SMALE
The New York Times
October 20, 2009

PRAGUE -- It was supposed to be an interview
about the revolutions that overturned communism
20 years ago in Europe. But first, Vaclav Havel had a question.

Was it true that President Obama had refused to
meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?

Mr. Havel is a fan of the Dalai Lama, who was
among the first visitors to Prague’s storied
castle after Mr. Havel moved in there as
president, the final act in the swift, smooth
revolution of 1989. A picture of the Dalai Lama
is displayed prominently in Mr. Havel’s current office in central Prague.

Told that Mr. Obama had made clear he would
receive the Dalai Lama after his first
presidential visit to China in November, Mr.
Havel reached out to touch a magnificent glass
dish, inscribed with the preamble to the United
States Constitution -- a gift from Mr. Obama, who visited in April.

"It is only a minor compromise," Mr. Havel said
of the nonreception of the Tibetan leader. "But
exactly with these minor compromises start the
big and dangerous ones, the real problems.

"This is actually the first time I really do mind
something Obama did," Mr. Havel said. He minded
it "much more" than Mr. Obama’s recent decision
not to station elements of a missile-defense
system in the Czech Republic, a move that several
Central European politicians criticized but that
Mr. Havel noted was ultimately "an internal American decision."

One day after his 73rd birthday, with a
half-drunk glass of Champagne at his side in
midafternoon, the man who steered the Czechs and
Slovaks out of communism showed that his morals,
and his sense of mischief, were intact.
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