Velvet Voices of Speech Competition

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library opens the 2020 Velvet Voices of Freedom Speech Competition for high school students
Honoring and inspired by the example of Václav Havel

Due April 30, 2020

Václav Havel was a civil activist of international stature, president first of Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic, and an award-winning author. Havel wrote plays, poetry, and speeches that still inspire millions today. The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library seeks to honor this incredible man and his many diverse talents by initiating the annual Velvet Voices of Freedom Speech Competition. Havel led the people of Czechoslovakia through the Velvet Revolution where they peacefully overthrew communism, and then he led the people through the Velvet Divorce where they peacefully separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The intention of the competition is to celebrate the incredible power of human passion expressed through speech 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.

Havel waving over a crowd

Sponsored by the Aegon Transamerica Foundation.