Václav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, said, “Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” Staff members, friends, members, and donors of the NCSML illustrate that spirit in every conversation that I have had with them, and that reminds me regularly of the importance of sharing stories.

Hardship and challenges are part of the human condition. The opening sentence of W. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled is “Life is difficult.” That sentence comprises the entirety of the first paragraph, and for good reason. Clearly, Havel ventured down a road less traveled, which led him to many sets of stairs. So, too, has everyone in their own way. Everyone can learn from others’ experiences.

I have been privileged to have heard many inspiring stories already from others regarding Czech and Slovak experiences, family stories of the past, current situations–so many of which involve resilience and resolve on grand and subtle scales. Those lessons cannot be forgotten.

There will never be a time when life does not require a willingness to venture up the stairs of living. We are emboldened when we listen to, and learn from, the stories of others. The oral histories preserved at the NCSML provide an outstanding example of lessons learned that empower.

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