Czechoslovakia celebrates turning 100 in Washington
A notable celebration of the centennial of Czechoslovak independence took place on November 1st at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The American Friends of the Czech Republic and the U.S. Czech Republic Embassy hosted an evening gala to celebrate perhaps the most important event in modern Czech history. Several dignitaries attended the celebration of this anniversary and the Czech-American relationship, including U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Stephen B. King (and four of his predecessors) and Czech ambassador to the U.S. Hynek Kmoníček. Michaela and Zdenek Bakala felt honored to be the guests and the main partners of this celebration.
Václav Havel award for Frederic Malek
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright provided a highlight of the evening when she presented Frederic Malek (pictured above, photo by Lillis Photography) with the Václav Havel Award for the Advancement of Civil Society. Mr. Malek has made it his life’s work to enhance Czech-American relations. In a heartfelt speech Ms. Albright, a born Czechoslovakian, accentuated the qualities of a true leader. Respect for truth and free media, and a determination to promote understanding between people of different nationalities, religions, and ethnicity. Although Madeleine Albright and Frederic V. Malek have each worked their whole lives at the opposite ends of the U.S. political spectrum, their firm viewpoints and protection of democratic principles made them lifelong friends.
In a speech that touched on the long-term relationship between the two countries, Michaela declared, “Without the United States, there would be no Czechoslovakia. This country gave us hope, and not only that, it gave us the opportunity to make our dreams come true. I was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, controlled by communists. I never thought I would be standing here today and celebrating this anniversary with you all.” She continued, “In its history of hundred years our country was free only for a half of that time, so we still need to remind ourselves that a free society and democracy should not be taken for granted. It is something worth fighting for continuously.”
“We would like to thank our dear and long-time friend Fred Malek for his lifelong endeavor to promote and develop the Czech-American relationship. His persistent attitudes and the values he represents resonate with those we support – courage, freedom and education. Fred is a great inspiration for us.” The Bakalas and Frederic Malek have been linked not only by friendship but also by a long co-operation on a range of philanthropic projects over many years, including setting up the Aspen Institute Central Europe and installation of the bust of Havel in the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.
A favorite song of T. G. Masaryk
The gala evening program included a performance by gifted pianist Tomas Kaco, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and recipient of Bakala Foundation scholarship, who is enjoying yet another success after his recent concert at Carnegie Hall. On the day of the 100thanniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia he released his debut album called “My Home”. During the evening, Tomas played two pieces from this album, including the beautiful improvisation of “Ach Synku, Synku”. To the surprise of many participants, Tomas played this favourite song of the first president, T. G. Masaryk together with his long-standing supporter Michaela Bakala and they got the whole audience to sing along. They played this song for the very first time just a few weeks ago at the Scholarship event of the Bakala Foundation in Prague (and you can see it in a video here). “Tomas is yet another example of an American dream coming true. Despite of coming from an environment where the conditions were not ideal, he never gave up trying and we are proud to be able to support him on his journey,” added Michaela Bakala. “Thus he is following in the footsteps of my husband Zdenek, who has never forgotten what the United States enabled him to achieve in his quest for freedom and education, and this is his way to repay for the favour.
USA ambassador to the CR Stephen B. King and four of his predecessors (photo by Lillis Photography)
Michaela Bakala and Tomas Kaco playing together Czech traditional song Ach synku, synku (photo by Lillis Photography)
Zdenek Bakala, Michaela Bakala and Tomas Kaco (photo by Lillis Photography)