Saturday, February 16, 2008

Klaus: fifth candidate speech

Distinguished chairmen, dear women senators and woman deputies, dear senators and deputies, dear members of the government,

please allow me to begin by thanking to those of you who have voted for me a week ago and to thank to all those who were struggling to preserve the dignity of the presidential election. It has a value for its own sake.

I consider it to be a really strange privilege but this is already my fifth candidate speech. I have checked that no one else has faced this task or opportunity or honor since the creation of our modern state.

It might be a symptom of a missing indisputable presidential authority in our country. However, it might also be a result of a very strong polarization and un-cooperativeness of our political life and the presidential election might be just the proverbial tip of an iceberg that is far too visible. Just like some of the glaciers that have been melting on Earth since 1850 (not just recently), let us hope that this iceberg will melt, too. It is my desire. I believe that the whole Czech public wants the same thing.

In order to avoid misunderstandings - when we already talk about glaciers - I don't dream about a quiet, nearly invisible melting of the extraordinary recent era of authentic political freedom and democracy and the associated and perhaps likely risk of tight results of elections that lead to complicated processes of creation of coalitions. But I wish the presidential election to be truly decent. The generous dose of demagogy, untruths, insults, and other ugly things that the last week brought us can't easily be erased from the consciousness of the citizens of our country. My desire is for the participants of the election to be able to look into the eyes of their colleagues once the procedure ends. This desire unfortunately wasn't fulfilled after Friday and Saturday last week.

A week ago, I tried to overview my work in the role of the president of the republic, offer my experience and life-long love for our country and I asked you to support my candidacy. I won't repeat the same arguments today.

In April, I am scheduled to be the main speaker during a memorial meeting near the grave of American President Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois that takes place every year during the anniversary of his death. With this motivation in mind, I have studied various texts he has written and found his 1865 Second Inaugural Address, i.e. the speech he gave before his second term began. Let me quote a brief excerpt from the introduction:
"At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented."
I have a very similar feeling today.

A week ago, some of you have described me as a man with extreme or marginal opinions or a man of yesterday. I must add a few crucial comments about it that you may have not heard from me yet.

Dear electors,

if you long for a tomorrow where your free decisions are monitored and where everyone who offers his or her own opinion is being intimidated, then I am certainly a man of yesterday. If you feel well in the atmosphere of hostility, conflict, slanders, and humiliation, I can't be your candidate because throughout my political career, I was a champion of a fair political competition and the search for consensus and I have always rejected crudeness and insults.

If you don't want to care about thousands of years of traditions of our civilization, its Christian values, the accent on a classical family and every human life, don't vote for me because I do respect these values. If you want a future created out of fashionable waves when it is forbidden to smoke but when drugs are tolerated, when marriage will become a dying institution and city halls will only see pairs who want to register their partnership, when old and sick people will be mercifully liberated from their lives, when authorities will tell us what we should eat, drink, and how we should talk, then it is not my plan. It is not my vision about the future.

Dear electors,

if you dream about a future in which the Czech Republic shouldn't protect its interests but it should rather succumb to the orders of officials of one kind of international institutions or another, then I am a man of yesterday, too. If you consider the Czech crown, our currency, to be such an anachronism that we must get rid of it as soon as possible, choose one of the remaining candidates because I want to support our currency as long as it is going to be beneficial for the citizens of the Czech Republic. If you want to live in the future in which policies are adopted without any solid arguments to skittishly fight against a possible slight warming of our planet, policies that negatively influence both the poorest groups of our citizens as well as (especially) the poor countries of the third world, then yesterday is a better choice again.

I could continue and define myself in this negative way but I have been, I am, and I will fundamentally be an advocate of positive perspectives and attitudes to the world. I have dedicated the last two decades and most the effort of my life to our country. I have liked to do it and it was done because of my deepest conviction. Despite all difficulties, it has been an era in which our republic flourished. Not only its economy. The life expectancy has increased. The healthcare was improved. The air quality and the quality of water in rivers got hugely better. We have moved to a totally different position but it is sometimes easy to forget where we have been before.

I believe in the Czech Republic. I trust the people who live here. I like my country and I will continue to work actively here regardless of the outcome of the election today. But I will primarily fight for us to keep our freedom and national coherence. Five years ago, I quoted Alois Rašín, the first Czechoslovak finance minister, because it was his anniversary. Because he has an anniversary again, let me choose his quotation once more. Right before he died, he said the memorable words: "If all of us will hold to each other, we will hold our republic."

Let us choose this path. It is the only way for the Czech Republic to remain strong, independent, and a good place to live. If your thoughts are similar to mine, vote for me. Whether it will be a secret ballot or a public vote. The public vote would probably be - in the light of the recent experience - less contentious. If I am going to be elected by you, I am decided to maximally contribute to the restoration of confidence and the ability to co-operate on our political scene.

Thank you for your attention.

Václav Klaus, Spanish Hall, Prague Castle, February 15th, 2008

(Translation: LM)

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