President: The Mission of the Candle Demonstration Continues Today

President Andrej Kiska attended the "How We Treat Our Freedom" conference on Sunday night at the Primate’s Palace to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Candle Demonstration. The former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck, also made appearance with him. Together, they laid wreaths by the Candle Demonstration Memorial. The visit of Joachim Gauck in Slovakia is in the spirit of the struggle for freedom and democracy and is also a manifestation of excellent Slovak-German relations. "The organizers of today's event, whom I thank very much, could not have chosen a better name. Indeed: "How do we treat our freedom?" The question was different during the arrogant and repressive regime that we rejected in November 1989. How can we get our freedom? What can we do for it? How should we fight for it? Thirty years ago, those who stood with candles in their hands at the nearby square showed us how. They came there despite the threats of state power, despite the provoked atmosphere of fear. Despite the propaganda machinery of an unprecedented scale, despite the collaborators from Pacem in terris. Despite armored transporters, convoys of public security cars, vehicles full of uniformed officers. They came and stayed there, despite the violence and wailing of the horns, despite the water cannons, the batons knocking people down to the ground and the arrests. They came there, stood there, and stayed there because they had their faith, conviction, and desire for freedom in their hearts. The freedom they were ready to make sacrifices for. And thanks to them, we can enjoy our present freedom. But in their honor, we have to ask ourselves today: do we know how to treat this freedom properly? Can we cultivate it and develop it so that it is not only a liberation from tyranny, oppression or ideological straitjacket, but also a positive freedom? Freedom in favor of a better arrangement of relations? One to be associated with the responsibility for what's happening around us? In the last few weeks, traumatically marked by the terrible murder of two young people, I started feeling that this was how the organizers and participants of the For A Decent Slovakia march understood freedom. They demanded not only the liberation from crimes and mafia practices, malicious corruption, and the trampling of human and civic dignity, but were also able to unite tens of thousands of people throughout the country with admirable deployment, imagination and organizational talent. With their key message – "engagement, courage, justice," they took over after those who were here before them. After the soldiers and officers of the Uprising in 1944. After the Communist defendants sentenced to jails and uranium mines in Jáchymov. After the advocates of socialism with a human face, who were chased to social non-being by Soviet tanks. After the founders and members of the secret church. After the authors of the critical document Bratislava Aloud. After the quiet heroes of the Candle Demonstration. After the men and women of November 1989. After civic activists fighting for fair elections in the autumn of 1998. After the White Crow recipients and all others who were able to lift their heads and become "positive deviants." Since my election as President, I have been traveling a lot and I love meeting young people. I always tell them that our future, the fate of Slovakia, even Central Europe, and thereby of our entire continent, is in their hands as well. Sometimes it may sound like a pathetic vision. But now we have seen with our own eyes the immense energy emanating from these people at our squares. I believe this is the beginning of a deeper social change. That's why I am glad that there are events like today’s, that there are hundreds of civic and cultural organizations and initiatives all over Slovakia, showing us the light at the end of the tunnel. They resist the demons of indifference and helplessness. I’m happy to see faces from Kežmarok, Prešov, Žilina, Martin, Bratislava – because freedom and responsibility must be preserved and cultivated in every corner of Slovakia. Today is once again a time to decide whether these corners will take the form of flowering and well-kept gardens, or farms colonized by Mafia agrobarons. Lastly, let me be celebrate the fact that a man who spent decades living in the dictatorial regime of East Germany, where he preached faith as an evangelical pastor and defended citizens who longed for freedom, came to visit us today. Mr. President Joachim Gauck was not only the head of democratic Germany, but he was at the head of the Stasi Archives for ten years, and for the next ten years at the head of the association called Against Oblivion – For Democracy. "Freedom," our guest repeated in his speeches, "is not a matter of course. We need to fight for it and defend it today and every day. It requires a lot and from everyone. And it also needs responsibility." These words are unwittingly one of the answers to the question you asked in the headline of your event. Our society needs you more than you can imagine today."