PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Guess who wrote the following words:
“I have to admit I probably do have a certain ability to bring people together. As someone with a visceral aversion to conflict, tension and confrontation, especially if they are pointless, and moreover, as someone who hates it when the conversation goes around in circles, I have always tried to contribute to a consensus among people and to find ways to transform a common position into visible action. Perhaps it was these qualities of mine that in the end — without my want to or trying to — brought me to the forefront and made me seem to some like a ‘star.’”
If you guessed Barack Obama you’d be wrong. It was Vaclav Havel, the former Czech President who just finished meeting with President Obama here in Prague, where Havel lives.
It might be easy to mistake that quote for coming from Obama though if you’ve been paying attention to how his aides and advisers have been portraying the president during his trip through Europe over the past week. In London, they said he saved the day during negotiations over off-shore tax havens between the French and Chinese. In France, they said he brought Turkey together with the Danish prime minister to resolve differences keeping Anders Fogh Rasmussen from becoming the next NATO secretary general.
“He’s somebody that seeks out — and I think is very good at — achieving a sense of common ground,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Before Obama and Havel began their speech, Obama told reporters that he was “a fan of Mr. Havel’s writing even before he ended up helping to lead the liberation of this extraordinary country.”
“For me to spend [time] with him is a great way to cap off my visit,” he said.
Havel, in Czech that was translated into English, said he was “grateful to the president that he found time to receive me.”
“I’m a great great admirer and I’m really glad we could meet,” Havel said.
Havel’s quote is from his 2006 book To the Castle and Back, which I just picked up on a stroll through the Old City here in Prague. I also found a nice little souvenir shop that was different from most of the others, with a bunch of pretty cool Kafka stuff.
And I also came across this lively group in the main square. These are Greek fans, but you’ll have to look below to find out which sport they’re in town to watch.
Turns out these are volleyball fans in town for the championship game of a Europe-wide tournament. They’re team is called Hercules, and they started playing an Italian team about 20 minutes ago as I write this. I was surprised that Europeans were so passionate about volleyball.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times
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