Welcoming remarks by AU President Benjamin Ladner

"We are all citizens of one world; we are all of one blood...
   Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity." 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished participants in this 20th Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences:

I am sure you recognize the author of these stirring words. They were, of course, written by John Comenius, or Jan Komensky, the father of modern education, some three and a half centuries ago. This great philosopher and educator, and native of Moravia, could be considered the intellectual and spiritual patron of your deliberations this week.

Indeed, Comenius symbolizes the ideal of internationalism and the transcendent power of education - as well as that unique creative, literary and scientific genius that has so long characterized the Czech and Slovak peoples. It is fitting that your conference is being held at AU. This is one of the leading global universities in the world - with the largest international school in the US and students from 165 countries. Our stated aim is to "educate citizens with a global perspective." For me, this is the heart of globalization - the human heart, the message of Comenius that "We are all citizens of one world; we are all of one blood".

We are delighted to have represented here the leading figures of the political, economic, artistic, scientific and cultural lives of the Czech and Slovak peoples - including the Speaker of the House of the Czech Parliament, the Hon. Vaclav Klaus, and the Vice Premier of the Slovak Republic, the Hon. Pal Csaky. It is an honor to have you in our midst. We are proud also to name among our own faculty several world-renowned experts of Czech and Slovak  origin - many of whom have been instrumental in bringing you here and in organizing this Congress.

I am also pleased to see my friends the Czech and Slovak Ambassadors with us today, Ambassador Vondra and Ambassador Butora. They are both playing key roles in the diplomatic lives of our nation's capital. I believe that a university such as ours has a particular part to play, uniquely dedicated as it is to a global mission and to international service, with a wealth of internationally experienced and connected faculty, and students from almost as many countries as the United Nations. There are many occasions in which we can offer a bridge of intellectual understanding, a safe harbor for groups not accustomed to dealing with each other, practicing what I call "academic diplomacy."  After all, the journey towards peace always passes through the gate of mutual understanding.

This summer, in fact, we have been hosting a group of young leaders form the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus, bringing them here for an intensive period to work and study together. We have trained 60 human rights lawyers to work in Jerusalem. We have hosted joint meetings of scholars from China, Korea, Japan and the US to explore critical issues together. I recently visited North Korea and Cuba to meet with those countries' leaders and to see how we may, in the special domain of intellectual inquiry and free exchange of ideas, advance the cause of understanding and common ground.

I am deeply gratified at the opportunity your presence here gives us to further strengthen the warm and abiding ties we have with your countries and your compatriots - a bond symbolized by our awarding an honorary degree to Alexander Dubcek in 1990. May these special relations between American University and the Czech and Slovak peoples grow and prosper in the future.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.