Home Ripple Presidential milestone ripples onward through Cedar Rapids National Czech & Slovak Museum

Presidential milestone ripples onward through Cedar Rapids National Czech & Slovak Museum

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Angel Rodriguez with Large Ten Leases raises the nook of a giant tent in entrance of the Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library on Tuesday in Cedar Rapids. The tent might be used Friday for the annual BrewNost worldwide beer pageant, a part of the weekend celebration of the museum’s twenty fifth anniversary celebration, which was delayed one yr by the pandemic. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library curator Stefanie Kohn (left) directs Peter Barta, a author with the Slovak Nationwide Museum in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Branislav Panis, director of the Slovak Nationwide Museum, in positioning a show case within the “Treasures of Slovakia” exhibit that’s on mortgage from the Bratislava museum. The exhibit opens Saturday on the museum in Cedar Rapids and runs by way of March 20. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Slovak President Michal Kovac (left), U.S. President Invoice Clinton (middle) and Czech President Vaclav Havel wave Oct. 21, 1995, through the dedication ceremony for the Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. The twenty fifth anniversary of that historic occasion might be celebrated Friday by way of Sunday on the museum. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The chilly day three presidents waved from the balcony of the brand new Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids in 1995 created a ripple impact that continues to be felt on a neighborhood, nationwide and worldwide degree.

President Invoice Clinton, Czech President Vaclav Havel and Slovak President Michal Kovac had been available that day to dedicate what continues to be North America’s solely nationwide museum dedicated to Czech and Slovak heritage.

And after the Oct. 21, 1995, celebration, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin informed reporters: “This was an ideal occasion for Cedar Rapids. The primary time three presidents from three international locations have ever been in Iowa. That’s phenomenal.”

That 25-year milestone was to have been commemorated in 2020, however the occasion was delayed due to COVID-19 till this weekend, when three days of festivities will remind folks not solely of that historic gathering, however of the museum’s ongoing place on this planet.

The $80,000 celebration, financed by way of donations and company sponsors, is drawing ambassadors and dignitaries from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in addition to company from throughout the US.

“It makes me pleased that we’re residing that nationwide type of repute,” mentioned Cecilia Rokusek of Cedar Rapids, the museum’s president and CEO.

Weekend celebration

The place: Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids

When: Friday by way of Sunday, Sept. 17 to 19, 2021

Friday: BrewNost outside worldwide beer pageant, 5:30 p.m. VIP entry, 6:30 p.m. common admission and designated driver entry; tickets at ncsml.org/ncsml-events/brewnost/

Saturday: Free actions: 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting and parade of conventional kroje folks apparel; extra programming on movie at midday, visible arts at 1 p.m. and an writer dialogue at 2 p.m. Ticketed anniversary dinner at 5:30 p.m. (registration closed); ncsml.org/event/ncsml-building-dedication-25th-anniversary-celebration/

Sunday: Free movie and exhibition packages, midday to three p.m.; ncsml.org/events/category/september-19/

Particulars: Go to ncsml.org/

Behind the scenes

Actions contained in the museum practically 26 years in the past had been monumental, as nicely, when Clinton met individually with Havel and Kovac within the museum’s library.

That’s one thing that “lots of people don’t know — that was extraordinarily necessary to the fantastic dedication of our museum,” mentioned Ann Poe of Cedar Rapids, a museum board member on the time. Poe used her Democratic Occasion and White Home connections to orchestrate the presidential gathering to coincide with Havel and Kovac coming to the U.S. for the United Nations’ fiftieth anniversary commemorative session.

Ann Poe

“That was all the celebrities aligning proper,” mentioned Rod Jiruska of Cedar Rapids, the museum’s board president on the time. “All the things simply appeared to fall collectively, and I’d put all of it on Ann, that she obtained issues in order that the folks may all get right here on the identical time.”

“It’s nonetheless talked about as we speak,” mentioned Gail Naughton of Cedar Rapids, the museum’s president and CEO from 2002 to 2018. “It’s such a degree of satisfaction for the folks with Czech heritage locally. Those who organized it, they pulled off a feat that also boggles the thoughts as we speak. To get these three males right here was simply unbelievable. It’s nonetheless the one time three heads of state have been in Iowa.

“It’s nonetheless a supply of satisfaction,” Naughton mentioned, “and it’s so built-in into the museum and what it’s.”

Gail Naughton

Presidential conversations

Czechoslovakia had shaped in 1918, after the tip of World Struggle I, and separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, so each had been new international locations when the presidents got here to Cedar Rapids. This was their probability to talk privately with Clinton.

Poe famous that Havel wished to realize Clinton’s help for increasing NATO to incorporate the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which occurred March 12, 1999.

Kovac, who had been elected to guide in Slovakia in 1993, wished Clinton’s recommendation on working for a second time period in workplace, which Kovac didn’t win.

“They had been doing these conversations in our library that had been extraordinarily necessary to the sustainability and the working of these two counties after they cut up,” Poe mentioned. “That was actually fairly a giant deal along with our dedication. The White Home was working with the Nationwide Safety Council, and that’s how a few of these discussions got here up.

“So it was only a fantastic alternative for these three international locations to have a dialog whereas they had been all collectively,” she mentioned. “It really was a chilly, however magical, day.”

Elevating the profile

The presidential go to additionally raised the museum’s profile, attracting a diplomatic corps from the US and overseas, together with native and nationwide media consideration, and positioned the museum to proceed attracting high-profile company and exhibitions over time.

“It gave us respect within the museum group, and even most likely extra importantly, within the bigger Czech and Slovak group in United States, and that’s the important thing,” Naughton mentioned. “When the museum was named and opened, you’ll be able to name your self the nationwide museum, however this gave us the proof that we really had been revered all over the world as that nationwide museum.”

The presidential go to helped pave the best way for the museum’s first exhibition, “A Thousand Years of Czech Tradition: Riches from the Nationwide Museum in Prague,” in 1997, and “Treasures of Slovakia,” which opens Saturday and might be view by way of March 20.

Each showcase artifacts that hadn’t left their respective international locations.

“The museum profile was very excessive,” mentioned Dan Baldwin of Monterey, Calif., who served because the museum’s first president and CEO, from Could 1996 to 2002.

Dan Baldwin

He mentioned the museum’s profile prolonged to locations “vital” for creating the “Czech Tradition” exhibition: the Previous Salem residing historical past museum in Winston-Salem, N.C., which helped create the exhibit with the Nationwide Museum in Prague.

Baldwin went to the opening in Previous Salem and began discussions with Prague museum officers about bringing the exhibit to Cedar Rapids.

“It was the mixture of the three presidents, the constructing itself, then the aspirations of being a nationwide museum with a world mission,“ Baldwin mentioned. ”This was a extremely tall order for us at that stage of improvement, to usher in a present of like ‘A Thousand Years of Czech Tradition.’

“It was an actual daring step and an act of religion on the a part of Previous Salem and the (Prague) nationwide museum to permit the exhibit to journey to Cedar Rapids,” he mentioned. “This was like raiding the Smithsonian.”

Constructing blocks

The museum’s repute has continued to develop, however the glory celebrated as we speak started with the individuals who envisioned preserving the world’s Czech heritage from its earliest days, Rokusek mentioned.

The museum’s attain, nonetheless, goes past ethnic and cultural boundaries. The museum is a house for everyone, Rokusek mentioned, pointing to the everlasting “Faces of Freedom” exhibit, which talks about freedom and democracy and immigration, so guests can uncover the variations and similarities in their very own immigration tales.

It’s additionally a spot for all ages, with instructional and outreach programming, in addition to displays, designed to span the generations.

“Baldwin and the founders constructed this nice establishment,” she mentioned. “Now our problem in preserving the previous, celebrating the current and creating the long run is concentrated on the long run.”

Cecilia Rokusek

However why right here, why Cedar Rapids for this nationwide facility?

Rokusek pointed to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as planting the seed for the museum, by coming into into the Congressional Report on July 2, 1992, that the Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library be established in Cedar Rapids.

For that act, he’ll obtain the museum’s first Award of Distinction, to be introduced throughout Saturday night time’s anniversary dinner within the museum’s ballroom.

And when Rokusek is touring and is requested, “Why Cedar Rapids,” her reply is all the time the identical:

“That is the perfect place the place it ought to be, as a result of Czech and Slovak immigrants settled right here. One time the town had a inhabitants of 28 p.c Czech.

”Plus, we’re within the middle of America, and if we had been in a significant metropolis like New York or Chicago, we’d be misplaced. In Cedar Rapids, we get folks right here not solely to benefit from the library, however to take pleasure in all of the artwork facilities, the town, NewBo, Czech Village and all of Cedar Rapids and the area. So I believe that it is the proper place to be as a result of it is within the middle of America.“

Feedback: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

The Nationwide Czech & Slovak Museum & Library begins its transfer to increased floor in July 2011 in Cedar Rapids. The museum, adjoining to the Cedar River, was severely broken within the 2008 flood. It was renovated, moved and reopened in July 2012. (The Gazette)

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