Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, whom many of you will remember as the NATO Secretary General when the NATO summit was held in Prague in 2002, was back in the Czech capital this week to collect a special citizenship award. The award, which seeks to honour those whose work has helped break down national and cultural barriers, was presented by the Prague Society for International Cooperation. Previous winners include Madeleine Albright and Vaclav Havel.
"He's a person who brought this part of the world into Western Europe. It actually always had been in Western Europe - after all Prague is farther west than Vienna -but during the time of the Cold War it seemed like it was part of Eastern Europe. [The Czech Republic] is now taking up its rightful place in the scheme of things and he's responsible for bringing it back to that."
One unusual aspect of the award is that it includes a cash prize of roughly 10,000 USD, which the prize winner gives to a talented young person who might benefit from the money.
This year, Lord Robertson gave the money to David Hodan, a gifted Czech student confined to a wheelchair who had written to the former NATO Secretary General around the time of the Prague NATO summit in 2002. Lord Robertson had been so impressed by the clarity with which David expressed his view of the role of NATO in today's turbulent world that he flew to Prague especially to meet him last year.
The last time Lord Robertson was here in an official capacity during the NATO summit in 2002, he had rotten tomatoes thrown at him by anti-NATO protestors. One would imagine that coming back to Prague to collect an award must be an altogether more pleasant experience.
"It's always nice to receive an award. It's like a memorial service before you're dead - people say nice things [about you]. But it's also an opportunity for me to say thanks both to those people who cooperated with me and to this country, which has also done much to liberate Central Europe from communism and to produce stability in the whole of the centre of this continent. These things are important, and if I get a platform, like I have today, then I can say these things."
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Prague Society for International Cooperation can visit their website at: www.praguesociety.org
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