WMU News

Vaclav Havel to visit WMU summer program in Prague

July 11, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Internationally known political leader and artist, Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, has scheduled an Aug. 24 visit to Western Michigan University's Prague Summer Program.

Havel will attend a ceremony in his honor that will include an evening of readings by students participating in the program as well as a question-and-answer session.

A playwright by trade, Havel was repeatedly jailed for his views criticizing the Communist-led Czechoslovak government. His plays satirized Communist bureaucracy and the effect government policy had on artists and intellectuals. He was elected to the presidency with the fall of communism in 1989. In 1992, Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In response to the division of his country, he stepped down from his presidency to show his opposition to the split, but the newly formed Czech Republic re-elected him to its presidency.

The Prague Summer Program is an annual intensive creative writing study abroad experience, which gives approximately 100 writers the opportunity to be closely mentored by some of the biggest literary names from the United States and Central and Eastern Europe. Participants travel to Prague for two- and four-week periods, during which they work with established writers. The list of visiting writers includes such luminaries as Grace Paley, Stuart Dybek, Amy Tan, Gerald Stern, Phillip Levine, and Tracy Kidder.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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