Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright had to live in exile with her family when she was a girl during the Nazi occupation of her native city of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Later, when the Communists took over the country’s government after World War II, her father took the family to the United States, where Madeleine became a citizen, raised a family and earned a PhD before joining the Carter administration. She is well aware of the troubled history of the Czech-speaking lands during the 20th century and before. And the Secretary of State knows very well the role that Woodrow Wilson played in creating the state of Czechloslovakia out of the wreckage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the Great War.
So, she was on hand when President Wilson was honored with the recreation in 2011 of a former monument to Wilson that the Nazis had destroyed, saying, “I am thrilled to join President Havel, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, and the people of Prague in celebrating and honoring President Wilson’s contributions to a free and independent Czechoslovakia.”
The event was part of an effort of the American friends of the republic to honor the American president and his Czech counterpart. Václav Havel, president in 2011, spoke of how Wilson had recognized the government of Tomáš Masaryk before others and encouraged the creation of an independent state of Czechs and Slovaks to foster democracy in the region. Before the war was even over, Wilson wrote to him, “I need not tell you with what emotions I read the Declaration of Independence put out by the National Council of the Czecho-Slovaks.”
Their work was successful in creating a new Czechoslovakia and the two men continued to support each other with the military opposition to the Bolsheviks and the creation of the League of Nations. Masaryk wrote in a letter of gratitude to Wilson, “You have repeatedly announced the principles in which the American citizens have been bred, the principles of liberated mankind, of the actual equality of nations, and the principles according to which governments derive all their just power from the consent of the governed.” It was because of this gratitude that the train station in Prague was named after Wilson shortly afterwards.