I met the internationally known pianist Radoslav Kvapil in the spring of 2005. At that time he was thinking of founding a new festival that would – after half a century od limited artistic contacts – bring American musicians to this country and introduce them to Czech audiences. From the very beginning Mr. Kvapil wanted to complement the musical program with lectures, movie screenings and other events, and when he learned about my book Svět zvaný America (The World Known as America, published in 2004), he invited me to join the project. I had lived in the USA for almost 25 years (1969-1993) and had many friends and acquaintance with transatlantic connections.
Together, we came up with the title “American Spring” and put together the first year’s program in 2006. In addition to 21 concerts it also included a day-and-a-half seminar on Czech-American relations. Thereafter, I gradually took over the organization of the musical part as well – despite not having any musical education, I have been a music lover since childhood. Soon, the festival began to gain new friends and supporters and became well known at many places of the country because of its artistic quality and diversity. I also began to look for a possible successor and was lucky in this search. In 2015, I transferred the management of the festival to Zdenka Součková who had joined our team several years before that.
Two large previous projects in my life ended differently. The first was the Club of Committed Non-Party Members (KAN) in 1968, one of only three non-Communist initiatives during the Prague Spring. I was among the leading members of KAN since its beginning till the end, in early September 1968, when it was probihited following the August invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet forces. After the Velvet Revolution, KAN was renewed in 1990, but it was a different organization in completely different context.
The other non-profit association, the American Czech-and-Slovak Education Fund (ACSEF), ceased to exist for several reasons, one of them being the “ad hoc” character of this small foundation, and the other the return of my whole family to Prague in 1993. Founded in 1990 by my friend Michael Kraus (today Professor at Middlebury College in Vermont), at the suggestion of Vaclav Havel, ACSEF played a small but not insignificant role – in the course of several years, we sent books and computers valued at about $5 million to Czech and Slovak universities. Thus we were a part of the enormous army of Czechs and Slovaks living abroad who after November 1989 contributed to the renewal of democracy in this country.
All my life I have been lucky – both professionally and in the non-profit sector – to work in great teams. Therefore, I am an ardent promoter of the principle of synergy, which means that an effective cooperation often results in one plus one equalling more than two. A well functioning team always requires that each of its members aims primarily for the success of the whole team, not only for his or her own success.
Chairperson of the Institute for Czech-American Relations