Stjepan Mesić 2013

Dear guests, youth of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, respected laureates and members of their families, esteemed Mrs. Broz.

It is a great honor for me to take part in this unique ceremony. I am especially honored to be the person handing the award for civil courage to the sons of murder victim Goran Čengić and the award for affirmation of civil courage to Nebojša Popov.

Remember that these awards are for human beings, not for members of one ethnic group or another, one religion or another, one viewpoint or another, and do not ever forget it. The Gariwo NGO is hereby recognizing people who had the courage not to be bystanders. They spoke up, they were defiant when most people preferred to keep their silence, look away, keep their head down, avoid something unpleasant.

These are awards for people who were ready to put their lives on the line, even lose their lives - as did GoranČengić, for people who spoke out in public without hesitation, taking positions that earned the disapproval, at the very least, of the authorities - as did Nebojša Popov. Hence these are awards for people who had the courage to stand up for what they felt to be good and right, and who knew that doing so was paramount, indispensable - no matter what.

This is what civil courage is all about.

You, today's youth, learn from their lives and what they did. Let them inspire all you do. Let these people be your teachers, your models. Let them show you that it matters to resist, not to be an opportunist, not to be - as people say - pragmatic and realistic. There are values that deserve a different approach, values worth defending, even when defending them seems impossible.

For human life, human dignity, the right of a person freely to express his opinion, the right of every individual to be - in short - who they are, this is worth all your effort, even sacrifice, this is worth doing everything for - to preserve your integrity. At the end of our lives, each of us is alone with who we have been. If you can look at yourself in the mirror without shame, without the fear that you will be seeing someone who did not take note of injustices done to others, someone who did not dare to stand up to evil when it was hurting others, only then will you know if you have been a true human being.

And only then will you know that your life had meaning.

It is no exaggeration to say that this is something needed now more than ever in the territory of the former Yugoslav federation. More here than anywhere.

I commend the Gariwo NGO for its efforts and commitment, and I call on all of you - gathered here - not to forget this ceremony you are witnessing, nor what you hear today.

  Thank you!

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Who bears the most blame for the lack of civil courage?


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