Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of Prague and Chicago,
Today I am very proud to celebrate with you a very special day dedicated to Prague, the Czech capital, to her sister city relationship with Chicago and to the Czech Republic´s ties to the United States.
It is merely a coincidence, but it is also a powerful symbol that just a couple of hours ago, the President of the United States delivered a speech in Prague, our beloved capital, about democracy. We all know how difficult, complicated and risky it can be to promote democracy and freedom in many parts of the world. But it was never too soon, nor was it an impossible ambition in Prague – a city in the heart of Europe, where freedom, democracy and friendship with the U.S. were always on people’s minds, even at times, not so long ago, when we couldn’t express our feelings, sympathies and aspirations freely.
Prague is one of the Chicago sister cities that we are celebrating at the Daley Plaza this week. They have been Sister cities since 1990. This special relationship is a natural reflection of the long and rich history of ties between Czechoslovakia, and even before 1918, Bohemia and Moravia, and Chicago. There is no other American city with such a rich tradition; no other city where the Czech migrants and the Czech-American community contributed so greatly to the history and the development of the city; no other place except Chicago. It is true that the traditional Czech neighborhoods in Chicago, such as Pilsen, Cicero, Berwyn have long since lost their Czech character. People and communities have moved long ago, dispersed and integrated as it happens in this great country, but here in Chicago and back in Czech Republic, everybody remembers Chicago’s famous and first Democratic Mayor Anton Cermak, who was born in Bohemia, just a couple of miles from my hometown and from Prague.
Today we are celebrating Prague, opening a month long program of festivities – Prague Days in Chicago ─ highlighting the ties between the two sister cities and between our two countries. The rich program – including cultural, community, business and social events – was prepared and sponsored by the City of Prague and its Mayor, Pavel Bém – who is going to pay a visit to Chicago at the end of the month – together with our Consulate General here, the Prague Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Program and Mayor Daley´ s Office of Special Events. I hope you will like the program today and the festival throughout the month of June – the music, arts, films and commemoration events. I would like to extend my thanks to the many sponsoring organizations, and hundreds of friends, artists, volunteers, Czech-Americans and other Chicago organizations and individuals. And, last but not least, I thank my colleagues at the Consulate, who made this happen. Pick up the program, enjoy the show, visit Prague in the heart of Europe and Czech it out!
Consul General of the Czech Republic