Czech ambassador to United Nations is coming here Sept. 30-Oct. 6 as visiting scholar

The Czech Republic’s ambassador to the United Nations will spend a week in the Twin Cities this fall as the first visiting scholar in a program that is an offshoot of the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium.

Martin Palous, who recently became the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the United Nations, will begin his visit on Sept. 30.

Martin Palous

The Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium was established in 1999 to encourage discussion on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The biennial symposium brought to Minnesota noted speakers that included former U.S. Secretary of State Madelene Albright and Havel, who was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Under the new program, prominent scholars and leaders will be able to visit Minnesota for more extended periods.

Havel was the symposium’s first speaker. He and his followers, including Palous, brought down the communist government of Czechoslovakia during a bloodless revolution, often called the Velvet Revolution, in late 1989.

Palous was one of the first to sign a document called Charter 77. First circulated in 1977, the document was signed by an informal group that called for human and civil rights reforms in Czechoslovakia. He served as spokesman for the group in 1986, and three years later was a founding member of the Civic Forum, a Czech political party established in the wake of the Velvet Revolution.

Palous went on to serve in the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly in 1990 and later became the deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic. He was the Czech ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2005, and was named ambassador to the United Nations in July.

The visiting scholar program is a partnership of the University of St. Thomas and the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in cooperation with the Minnesota Czech community. During his visit, Palous will preach at the House of Hope, attend a reception hosted by Czech and Slovak Minnesota and a breakfast at the historic Hilltop Hall in Montgomery, meet with reporters, and participate in a host of classes, seminars and programs at St. Thomas.

At House of Hope, 797 Summit Ave., he will preach at both the 9 and 11 a.m. services, and will participate in a 10 a.m. question-and-answer session, on Sunday, Oct. 1. He also will speak at a House of Hope adult education class from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4. The public is welcome to attend all events.

A St. Thomas event that is free and open to the public is a play, “Protest,” that was written by Havel. The Lex-Ham Players will perform the play at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, in the auditorium of Brady Educational Center on the south campus in St. Paul. Palous will participate in a discussion that will follow the play.

A second St. Thomas event that is open to the public is a College of Business program and reception that will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in the auditorium of Schulze Hall on the Minneapolis campus. The presentation portion of the program, "Trade Issues and Opportunities in Eastern Europe," will run from 5 to 6 p.m. The event is free but reservations are required. More information about the program and reservations can be found at http://www.stthomas.edu/cob/events/.

Also at St. Thomas, the ambassador will:

  • Speak on “The Velvet Revolution and the Transition to Democracy” at Dr. Winston Chrislock’s Eastern European history class, 12:15 to 1:20 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2.
  • Speak to a theology and science class taught by Dr. Phil Rolnick from 9:55 to 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3.
  • Participate in a seminar with science students and faculty from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, in 3M Auditorium, Owens Science Hall. All members of the St. Thomas community are welcome to attend the seminar, titled “Personal Responsibility in Science and Technology.”
  • Join faculty, staff and visitors to discuss “Transitions to Democracy: Lessons From the End of the Soviet Era” at a dinner and discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3. This program is by invitation and reservations are required.
  • Speak to a justice and peace studies class, taught by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, from 9:55 to 11:35 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 5.
  • Participate in a discussion about the United Nations with several St. Thomas student groups from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, in the Great Hall (Room 100) of McNeely Hall. All members of the St. Thomas community are welcome to attend the discussion, titled “A World in Crisis: Issues Facing the United Nations.”
  • Discuss Havel’s and Palous’ experiences as public intellectuals at a graduate English class taught by Dr. Amy Muse from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Room 126 of the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts.

The classroom discussions listed above are open to the St. Thomas community. Those interested in attending a class should check with the instructor to make sure there will be room. For general information about Palous’ visit to St. Thomas, call the Executive Assistant to the President’s Office, (651) 962-6030.

Palous, 55, holds a doctorate in chemistry from Charles University, Prague, where he also studied philosophy and social sciences. He is working on a doctoral thesis in international law at Masaryk University in Brno. He has held a number of teaching positions at Charles University since 1990 and has lectured extensively in the United States.

His published works include the chapter on the Czech Republic in the European Commission’s “Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe” and most recently a chapter on “What Kind of God Does Human Rights Require?” in the 2005 Does Human Rights Need God?