Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, Mayor. It’s delightful to be here in Pilsen today.
And thank you also to the citizens of Pilsen and the Czech people for honoring our American soldiers with this remarkable memorial. One of the inscriptions says that, “We will never forget.”
Indeed, we’re keeping that memory alive through this ceremony today.
Seventy-five years ago, our fighting men, led by the great General Patton, cut the Nazi shackles off of Western Czechoslovakia. I was once a young cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain. I saw what real tyranny looks like up close. I can only imagine the joy, the absolute joy, when American tanks and jeeps came rumbling into Pilsen 30 years ago – obviously 75 years ago.
But it was 30 years ago when Ambassador Shirley Temple Black laid this memorial’s founding stone alongside Vaclav Havel. It was the first time after decades of communist rule and Soviet domination that Czechs and Americans were able openly to commemorate the U.S. military’s role in your liberation. It is truly special and a great tribute that you continue to honor those soldiers here today.
I remember reading about this country’s invasion by the Soviet troops in 1968 and the courageous Czechs and Slovaks who fought for freedom here in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The principles that they fought for – for democracy, for freedom, for the rule of law, respect for human rights, market economies, a return to the West – are the same ones that motivated American troops during World War II and that unite our countries to this day.
It’s worth remembering as we – even as we celebrate, that because authoritarianism is still alive in Beijing and in Moscow and Tehran, there remains work to do.
Thankfully – thankfully – the Czech Republic is alive. It’s alive and free to help secure the legacy of freedom, democracy, and security that this memorial represents. That work – that work to extend the blessings of liberty – also honors the soldiers remembered here.
I wanted to be here today to share with you, so that you would know that whether through this memorial, through Pilsen’s annual Liberation Festival, or your country’s continued commitment to NATO, the American people thank you. We thank you. We thank you for your partnership. We thank you for all you do for freedom. We thank our Czech friends for holding our fallen countrymen in your hearts, now and always.
Thank you and may God bless you.