This week I am in Prague attending the 11th Annual Conference of the International Leadership Association. Tomorrow, I have the privilege of speaking to conference attendees on the subject transformation in leadership.

At today’s opening ceremony, conference organizers reminded the gathering that this week marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in what was then Czechoslovakia. We heard from Vaclav Havel who was instrumental in leading the non-violent transition to a free Czech society and who went on to become President of the country.

Many Czech citizens who were alive in the 1950’s – 1970’s remember what life was like before the Velvet Revolution. Vaclav Havel, himself a noted playwright before he became a dissident, could not perform his own plays in public. People were restricted from going to the cinema or owning a business.

Many of the rights we take for granted today in the U.S. simply weren’t available to many in Eastern Europe before the pivotal events of the late 1980’s. In talking with leaders from this side of the Atlantic at this week’s conference, I can feel the powerful emotions shared by many who still remember what it was like before the turn of events that took place only 20 years ago.