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It Is I Who Must Begin – Vaclav Havel

I made a promise coming into the school year. I would keep my head, do only what I can, and not flounder. I won’t let things get me down. I find solace in writing, nature, with Kathy, and in reading poetry. Some days I just open a book and find a poem which speaks to me in such a clear voice I think the poet stands or sits across from me sharing their words. That is what happened with this poem by Vaclav Havel.

It is I who must begin,

Once I begin, once I try—

here and now,

right where I am,

not excusing myself

by saying that things

would be easier elsewhere,

without grand speeches and

ostentatious gestures,

but all the more persistently

—to live in harmony

with the “voice of Being,” as I

understand it within myself

—as soon as I begin that,

I suddenly discover,

to my surprise, that

I am neither the only one,

nor the first,

nor the most important one

to have set out upon the road.

Whether all is really lost

or not depends entirely on

whether or not I am lost.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

24 responses »

  1. How true, Ivon… How true..

  2. wonderful stuff from a wonderful man… if only all presidents were like him!!!!

  3. “without speeches and ostentatious gestures…”

  4. Pingback: The Poet Speaks « Teacher as Transformer

  5. Great poem to share with us all. Thank you.

  6. These words inspired and humbled me at the same time. It speaks of personal responsibility and integrity and how each of us must make that decision to first transform ourselves. Make that change. Be that change. Thank you Ivon. Sharon

  7. Hello,
    Please can you tell me where I can find the original Czech version of this wonderful poem?

  8. I must proclaim that it is a little bit misleading to interpret this text like a poem by Václav Havel. He was sentenced to imprisonment by the communist regime from 1979 to 1983. Originally it was written as a letter (absolutely not as the poem!) to his wife Olga from prison in 1982. So that’s why the text presented here is only a reduced extract from the last paragraph of Letter to Olga n. 142 in translation by Paul Wilson (Letters to Olga, New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1988, p. 369). All the texts written by Václav Havel are available after registration on the website of the Václav Havel Library (

  9. Oh I love this poem. Thank you for choosing to follow my blog. I’m looking forward to your posts as I follow yours. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

  10. Havel is a genius, thank you for posting

  11. This is a meaningful poem, sometimes, it would seem so easy just to give up. beebee

  12. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    I love a teacher that give it their all! If you inspire but one student, that student will carry your creativity and teachings into the future.


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