The Cable

Hillary and Bill Clinton off to Prague to honor Václav Havel

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the funeral of former Czech President Václav Havel on Friday, with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in tow. The U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen, who was just finally confirmed by the Senate, will round out ...

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the funeral of former Czech President Václav Havel on Friday, with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in tow.

The U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen, who was just finally confirmed by the Senate, will round out the delegation. The leaders of Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia will also attend the funeral, as will as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and former Polish President Lech Walesa.

The Clintons will arrive in Prague Friday morning and leave Friday afternoon. It is the first time the couple have traveled together on official business since Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic’s first democratically elected president and leader of the Velvet Revolution. His death is a loss for the Czech Republic and for human rights defenders around the world. He was an inspiration to me and I was proud to call him a friend," Hillary Clinton said in a Dec. 18 statement.

"He once said that his hope was for history to remember him as having done something useful. President Havel spent his life removing chains of oppression, standing up for the downtrodden, and advancing the tenets of democracy and freedom. When communism threatened the peace and prosperity of our world and covered Eastern Europe in a cloud of hopelessness, he wrote plays so powerful they changed the course of history and created new democratic opportunities for millions. And when the people of the Czech Republic were finally allowed to express themselves freely, they overwhelmingly chose a man who never wanted to be in politics."

"Havel was a big personality," Bill Clinton said Wednesday. "I established a real relationship with Havel, and I stayed close to him."

Bill Clinton played saxophone at the Reduta Jazz Club during a visit with Havel in 1994 (video below), and Havel gave Clinton a Czech-made tenor saxophone. The club was "where he had basically hatched the Velvet Revolution," Clinton said. "He told me that under the Communists, Czechoslovakia had to make all the saxophones for the Warsaw Pact. But now, he said, we will have to compete, and I hope we are up to it."

Albright, who was born in what’s now the Czech Republic, was secretary of State while Havel was president and when the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999.

Havel died on the same day that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il‘s death was announced. No U.S. officials were invited to Kim’s Dec. 28 funeral. In fact, the only foreign dignitary reportedly invited to Pyongyang for that funeral is Japanese magician Princess Tenko.

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