Zbigniew Brzezinski, Distinguished Foreign Policy Figure, Dies at 89: The Third Member of FOS’ Board of Advisors to Pass in Early 2017
It is with great sadness that Friends of Slovakia learned of the passing of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski on May 26 at the age of 89. Dr. Brzezinski was a renowned foreign policy intellectual and strategist, having served as National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration. He played significant roles in many foreign policy issues and actions, including fighting against Communist oppression in his native Poland and Eastern Europe and integrating the doctrine of human rights into the practice of foreign policy. Dr. Brzezinski graciously joined the FOS Board of Advisors at its inception, lending his support to Slovakia’s ambitions of integration with Western institutions. He was a giant in the field of foreign policy, remembered for his razor-sharp intellect and wit, and will be greatly missed on the world stage. For more information, please refer to the obituary published by the Washington Post upon his passing.
Early 2017 Sees the Passing of Noted Slovak Americans
This year marked the loss of two significant Slovak-American personalities, who were also part of the Friends of Slovakia Board of Advisors. Astronaut Eugene Cernan and social philosopher Michael Novak were both well-known nationally and internationally for their achievements.
Eugene Cernan was a Navy test pilot who later became a NASA astronaut, and is best known as the last person to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. He had a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University (1956) and an MA in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School (1963). Cernan was part of the Gemini space program mission. During this mission, he performed spacewalks and became the youngest American in space at the age of 32. He also participated in the Apollo 10 mission, which did the groundwork for the historic Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969. After several other Apollo missions landed astronauts on the moon, Cernan was on Apollo 17, which was the last mission to do so in 1972. Cernan was born on March 14, 1934, in Chicago, to Rose (Cihlar) and Andrew Cernan. His father was of Slovak descent, and his mother was of Czech descent. Apart from serving on the FOS Board of Advisors, Cernan was also on the Board of Advisors of the American Friends of the Czech Republic. After retiring from the Navy and NASA in 1976, Cernan continued to work in the private sector and promoted the value of continuing space exploration. He passed away on January 16, 2017, at the age of 82.
Michael Novak was a Roman Catholic social philosopher who is best known for his intellectual argument that free-market capitalism is a superior social system compared to socialism. He gained recognition for his arguments in the 1980s when Western democracies were fighting the Communist powers, and his ideas were validated as the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of that decade. He passed away on February 17, at the age of 83, in Washington. Novak had started his career as an important thinker on the political left but changed his views over time. Despite opposing the Vietnam War and advocating reforms in the Catholic Church at the start, he later questioned many positions of the left. His writings then explored the moral argument for the capitalist system, based on liberty, individual worth, and Judeo-Christian principles. In 1982, he wrote the successful book, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” where he argued for the moral superiority of capitalism as a social system. His ideas were further developed in several other works, and he gained recognition among free-market devotees and conservative politicians, including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Novak’s ideas were also appreciated by Eastern European figures such as Lech Walesa in Poland and Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote on a variety of topics, and in 1994, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which is a highly prestigious award in the field of theology. Michael Novak was born on September 9, 1933, in Johnstown, PA, and was the grandson of Slovak immigrants. He grew up in Indiana, PA, and McKeesport, PA. He attended Notre Dame University and received bachelor’s degrees from Stonehill College in Massachusetts and Gregorian University in Rome. He also attended Catholic University in Washington, DC, for some time. Novak went on to receive a master’s degree from Harvard and held several academic positions. He was always proud of his Slovak-American heritage and was well-known to the Washington-area community, as he spent the latter part of his career as a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2000, he delivered the inaugural Annual Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington.