By Peter Gandalovic and Fred Malek
On Oct. 28, 1918, Czechoslovakia became a sovereign state, and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was soon elected as its president. The support that Masaryk received from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sealed the strong bond that the U.S. and Czechoslovakia already shared through the tens of thousands of immigrants who had made the transatlantic journey in search of the American dream.
Today, millions of Americans claim Czechoslovak or Czech ancestry. That bond between our two peoples remains strong. In times of crisis, Czechs have helped American communities affected by disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, the floods in Cedar Rapid and the explosion in West, Texas.
Democracy returned to Czechoslovakia with the peaceful Velvet Revolution in 1989. The country’s new democratic leader, President Václav Havel, who courageously dissented against the totalitarian regime, visited Washington just three months after the revolution. He was the first head of state from the former communist bloc to speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
The peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics took place in 1993, serving as a model for similar situations. The two countries now are enjoying best bilateral relations.
In 2013, the Czech Republic and the U.S. are collaborating to advance democracy and human rights throughout the world. The Czech Republic is a staunch NATO ally and a proud member of the European Union. The U.S. and the Czech Republic share the same perspective in promoting peace in the Middle East and cooperate on global strategic security challenges.
The Czech Republic and the U.S. also continue their joint commitment to facilitate economic cooperation. Bilateral trade has increased by more than 35 percent in the last five years. Many American businesses have found the Czech Republic attractive for investments, thanks to its geographic location and highly skilled work force. Recently, several Czech companies have opened new facilities in the U.S., creating jobs in Virginia, Iowa and Georgia.
To further strengthen this relationship, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., have formed a bipartisan Czech Caucus in the Congress to provide a forum in regards to U.S.-Czech relations and celebrate the countries’ political, economic and cultural ties.
Together, we celebrate the 95th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia and the democratic values shared by the U.S. and the Czech Republic. We wish that the Czech-American relationship remains vibrant and mutually inspiring.
Peter Gandalovic is Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States and Fred Malek is Chairman of the American Friends of the Czech Republic. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com