National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library announces national scholarship program

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Jan. 10, 2019) – The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is accepting entries to its first-ever digital speech competition, with the winning student receiving a $750 scholarship to the college or university of their choosing.

Sponsored by the Aegon Transamerica Foundation, the 2020 Velvet Voices of Freedom competition honors Václav Havel, a civil activist of international stature, and author of plays, poetry and essays that continue to inspire millions.

Havel waving over a crowdHavel served as the last president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the country’s dissolution in 1992, having led the people through the Velvet Revolution, which peacefully overthrew communism. His leadership continued during the Velvet Divorce, which saw the country’s peaceful separation into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Havel was the first President of the Czech Republic, serving from 1993 to 2003.

Velvet Voices of Freedom honors Havel by celebrating the power of human compassion expressed through speech and literature to transform the world. This year, applicants must use excerpts from the play “R.U.R.”, a quintessential piece of literature by Karel Čapek, in their video.

Čapek was a Czech writer, playwright and critic who supported free expression, and opposed the rise of fascism and communism. “R.U.R.”, which stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots, celebrates 100 years of publication in 2020. NCSML will honor this achievement with the exhibition, “A Century of Robots”, later this year.

To enter, participants must record their performance. Videos cannot exceed 15 minutes in length. Copies of Čapek’s play are available to peruse at the Skala Bartizal Library for students who do not want to purchase their own.

Entrants should upload their videos to YouTube and email the link to Sarah Henderson, NCSML’s K-12 Learning Specialist, at by April 30, 2020. The winner will be announced in May.

Velvet Voices of Freedom is open to any high school junior or senior in the United States. Students do not need to be of Czech or Slovak descent to enter.


National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a museum that celebrates life: Czech life, Slovak life and American life. The Museum seeks to inspire people from every background to connect to Czech and Slovak history and culture. Through extraordinary exhibitions and experiences, the Museum tells stories of freedom and identity, family and community, human rights and dignity connecting yesterday with today and tomorrow. The Museum honors those who immigrated to America and worked hard, contributing their skills and vision to the formation of our nation. For more information, visit or call (319) 362-8500.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field

Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.