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Former Czech President, Playwright Vaclav Havel Dies


If there were a world leader who was the opposite of Kim Jong Il, it might have been former Czech President Vaclav Havel, a man who wanted to believe that truth and love must prevail over hate and lies. Havel died yesterday. He was 75.


He was a playwright and a political activist, jailed often in the 1970s and '80s because he criticized his country's communist rule. Then in 1989 came the Velvet Revolution. Vaclav Havel led that popular uprising that helped bring an end to Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. He was elected Czech president for 14 years, a role that, as an artist, he says he never felt completely comfortable in.

WERTHEIMER: Tomas Sedlacek was one of Havel's economic advisers in the last years of his presidency. He says that Havel had an inner strength which emerged when needed.

TOMAS SEDLACEK: You know, it reminds me a little of Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien. You know, to hobbits, he was just a fun little gadget-maker, so to speak, but you only realized how powerful he is when he actually met a demon from the ancient past. And this is exactly how Havel looked like.

WERTHEIMER: Vaclav Havel, who quietly helped change the face of Europe.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.