Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech receiving the Order of the White Lion in Prague

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Prague
Source: Thatcher Foundation: press release
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 411


Vaclav HavelMr President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am deeply honoured to receive this splendid decoration, and to do so in such distinguished company. I am also pleased that a lioness is to be admitted to this highly select pride!

The Czechs always bring something distinctive to whatever they do, whether it is building this the most beautiful city of Central Europe, or creating their own Velvet Revolution or selecting such a remarkable figure as yourself,

Mr President, to help them reconstruct democracy. The Czechs have "done it their way": but they have also done it in line with the deepest traditions and the highest values of the West. Belief in the unique dignity of the human person, in the need for the state to serve and not to dominate, in the right to ownership of property and so to independence - these things were what the West upheld, and what we fought for in the long twilight struggle that we call the Cold War.

In the ten years that have elapsed since communism fell, much has been written of that great conflict. There has even, at times, been a little revisionism at work. But truth is too precious to become the slave of fashion.

Mr President as I receive this award today, I would like to refer to the man who more than any other - and more than me - can claim to have won the Cold War without firing a shot - I mean, of course, President Ronald Reagan . The fact that he cannot be here, for reasons that are well known, reminds us also of so many others who can't be here - because they perished in prisons and by torture. In the joy we now feel that Europe is whole and free, let us not forget the terrible price that was paid to defend and to recover liberty. As the poet Byron long ago wrote of another such prisoner of conscience:

Eternal spirit of the chainless mind!

Brightest in Dungeons, Liberty! thou art,

For there thy habitation is the heart -

The heart which love of thee alone can bind;

And when thy sons to fetters are consigned -

To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,

Their country conquers with their martyrdom,

And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.

Thank you once more, Mr President, for this great honour.