Former Ambassador to Slovakia Tod Sedgwick Explained Cleveland's Contribution to Central European Democracy

Former ambassador to the Slovak Republic Tod Sedgwick spoke to the Cleveland Club on September 26, 2017, stressing the ties between Czechoslovakia and Cleveland. Speaking at the law firm Jackson & Campbell, Sedgwick pointed out that during the latter half of the 19th century representatives of American industrial corporations actively recruited in Central Europe, helping to stimulate a significant migration of Czechs, Slovaks and others to American mills. Once World War I broke out, Czechs and Slovaks in Cleveland got together in 1915 and wrote the Cleveland Agreement, a bold and original statement calling for an independent and democratic Czechoslovakia to be formed from portions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire then at war with Britain and France, later to be at war with the United States. In 1918 Czechoslovakia joined the family of nations.

Sedgwick said the Cleveland Agreement of 1915 was fundamental to the formation of the Czech and Slovak nation, which of all the countries formed after World War I, retained democracy longest in the inter-war period. Sedgwick said that the work done in Cleveland in 1915 paved the way for strong relations between the United States and Central European countries. "When I was Ambassador to Slovakia, I kept a copy of the Cleveland Agreement in the foyer of my official Residence for anyone walking in to see," he said. He also noted that his Residence was decorated with art by Cleveland Slovak artists.

Efforts he is proud of from his work as ambassador include keeping natural gas flowing to Slovakia from the Ukraine despite Russia's attempt to cut it off; spurring Slovakia to spend more on its national defense; and working with U. S. Steel Corporation to retain its mill in the eastern part of the country, a presence that would defend against Russian influence in the region. Ambassador Sedgwick said he feared the notion of the United States being the "beacon of the world" for democracy and freedom was slipping in the face of the notion that the United States was overly militaristic and aggressive. He warned against increasingly effective Russian propaganda and called for better efforts by the United States to present its message to Central and Eastern Europe.

Ambassador Sedgwick noted the presence in the room of the first U. S. ambassador to Slovakia, Ted Russell, and praised him for his work during the difficult period of the formation of the new nation. Also in attendance were Josef Polakovic, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Slovak Embassy, as well as representatives of Slovak Public Television and the U. S. State Department.