Dinner with a World Leader

Dinner with a World Leader

April 24, 2013
Former president of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus visits campus

It’s not often that one gets to have dinner with a world leader.

So when Vas Khomyk, ’14, found himself having dinner with a world leader, an ambassador, the president of the University, the dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and a few of his professors, he could hardly believe his good fortune.  

“I was able to witness leaders interacting and exchanging ideas, which was very inspiring,” says Khomyk, a leadership studies and international studies double major with a concentration in world politics and diplomacy. “When I was invited to the dinner, I saw it as a great opportunity to meet a leader who had a large impact on the history of Europe and is an expert on free market economics.”

Václav Klaus, former president of the Czech Republic, ended his term in March. He came to campus in April to deliver a talk as part of the Jepson School’s Marshall Center Lecture Series. The center is directed by leadership studies professors Gary McDowell and Terry Price and hosts speakers from around the world to talk about leadership from an international perspective. The Jepson School hosted a private dinner after the talk.

Khomyk was introduced to the table by Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, and McDowell.   

Khomyk, who was born in the Ukraine, admits he was a little intimidated by the idea of having dinner with distinguished scholars and statesmen – at first. “But then I realized everyone wanted to hear what I had to say. President Klaus was interested in the mission of the Jepson School, so I was able to share my experience as a leadership studies major,” he says.

He was also able to share his experience studying abroad during the fall semester at Charles University in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

The junior says the former president made a lasting impression on him “as a man who doesn’t mince words and has a very deep understanding of the concepts of leadership.”

Klaus was escorted by Petr Gandalovič, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S., founding member of his country’s Civic Democratic Party and a graduate of Charles University.   

Klaus’s talk was titled “Hayek and Today’s World” and was a personal look at the ways in which Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek influenced him. Hayek received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974.

“We all have our heroes, and Hayek was, for me, one of the greatest ones,” Klaus told the audience. He also discussed the 2008-09 financial crisis and his time as finance minister.

Klaus was the first prime minister of the Czech Republic from 1993–97. He served as the second president of the country and was the principal co-founder of the Civic Democratic Party, the country’s largest center-right political party.

During his time in office, he worked to reform his country’s economic system and rebuild the Czech Republic after communism.

“We were delighted to welcome a distinguished leader to campus,” says Sandra Peart, dean of the Jepson School. “We were pleased to invite students, faculty and the community to hear him discuss the significant leadership challenges in his country following the Velvet Revolution as well as more recent leadership questions that have challenged the European Union in the wake of the financial crisis.”

Before the talk, Klaus attended a conference on Hayek sponsored by the Marshall Center. Invited scholars from around the world discussed Hayek’s contributions and influence. Their papers, and Klaus’s talk, will be part of a book in the Jepson Studies in Leadership Series.  

The experience of interacting with the statesmen is not one Khomyk will forget, he says. “Their roles in the history of the Czech Republic are truly inspirational to those studying global leadership and statesmanship.”  

Public Lecture