CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
ANDREW ELIAS SVU HUMAN TOLERANCE AWARD
PRESENTATION TO JAN FIGEL
The Andrew Elias SVU Tolerance and Humanitarian Award was presented to Ing. Jan Figel
by SVU President Miloslav Rechcigl on February 6, 2006
at special ceremony at the Slovak Embassy, hosted by H.E. Rastislav Kacer.
Statement by Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl:
In its Resolution adopted at the occasion of the historic 20th SVU World Congress held in Washington, DC in the year 2000, the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) reaffirmed its resolve to work "toward enhancing the values of human tolerance and of freedom of spirit and thought."
With a sensitivity so uncommon in these times, and expressing his deep and long-held convictions, Dr. Andrew Elias has decided to sponsor, through the Society, an annual Human Tolerance Award.
In an age marked by animosities and strife among human beings around the globe, the quest for human tolerance is the fundamental imperative of this day. Without human tolerance, democracy itself decays, culture is warped, civil society becomes uncivilized.
Human tolerance cannot be decreed. It has no institutions and no structures. It either lives in men and women as their innermost value guiding their feelings and thoughts and deeds, or it does not live.
Therein lies the meaning of the Andrew Elias SVU Human Tolerance Award: to keep on reminding us that human tolerance begins in human beings, and to do so by recognizing and honoring those whose life and work have been guided by tolerance and compassion.
Beginning with the year of 2001, the first year of the third millennium, the Society bestowed its first Andrew Elias SVU Human Tolerance Award on Father Anton Srholec of Skalica, who was jailed under the Communists and who later became the founder and the director of “Roseta” Home for the Homeless in Podunajske Biskupce, Slovakia. The Second Andrew Elias SVU Tolerance Award was presented to Rev. Tomas Halik, Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Charles University in Prague, one of the strongest voices for tolerance across all human boundaries.
Today, it is a great honor for me personally to bestow the Third Andrew Elias SVU Tolerance and Humanitarian Award on an equally deserving person - who holds the imposing title of European Commission for Education - Jan Figel, a native of Caklov, in the district of Vranov nad Toplou, Presov Region in Eastern Slovakia. He is a real “Vychodnar”, just as our sponsor Dr. Andrew Elias, who comes from Hanusovice, a stone’s throw away from there.
Commissioner Figel , it gives me a great pleasure to present to you Andrew Elias SVU Human Tolerance and Humanitarian Award. In addition to the certificate you will receive an honorarium of $1000 and one year membership in SVU.
Washington DC, February 6, 2006 Miloslav Rechcigl, SVU President
Jan Figel’s Biography
Ing. Jan Figel was born on January 20, 1960 in Caklov, a small village in eastern Slovakia. After the primary and secondary schools, he enrolled at the Technical University in Kosice, from where he graduated in 1983 with an academic degree of Engineer in Power Electronics. Later he completed one semester of special education at the University of Antwerpen (UFSIA), Belgium, and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Jan Figel, a very popular Eastern Slovak intellectual, worked in Research and Design Engineering, but became publicly and politically active soon after the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989. His high moral standards in private and in public life and his non-combative, tolerant, professional approach to the political debates led to his election to the Slovak Parliament and earned him the respect of his allies and his opponents alike and, in spite of his young age, propelled him into a small circle of leading Slovak political and diplomatic personalities. His special hobby -English language- was a valuable asset to his appointments as a representative of Slovakia at various international organizations.
Jan Figel served in several top positions in the Council of Europe and is still serving as the Slovak Government Representative in the Convention on the Future of Europe and as the Chief Negotiator of the Slovak Republic for Accession Negotiations with the European Union. He was also elected Chairman of the Pan-European Union in Slovakia. On November 22, 2004, he was appointed European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism, which also includes responsibility for youth and sport and relations with civil society.
In spite of his meteoric rise in the world of politics and diplomacy, Mr. Figel is a very modest, humble and private person. He does not look for headlines or to see his name in print. But through some of his close friends, we were able to learn about at least a few cases of his tolerance and humanitarian activities. For instance, as a father of four children, he is also taking care of his adopted son in India and of another child in another country; he organized life-saving help for the children of western Ukraine after the tragic floods in 2001; he is actively involved in various charitable organizations helping sick children (children oncology); and is a leading functionary in the Society for Help of Mentally Disadvantageous.
In his present position, he is considered the “citizens’ commissioner” in whose portfolio is one recurring theme: the citizens and their quality of life. The building of a citizen-friendly Europe is at the center of all his activities.
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