Both as a dissident and as a national leader, Mr. [Vaclav] Havel impressed the West as one of the most important political thinkers in Central Europe. He rejected the notion, posited by reform-minded Communist leaders like Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, that Communist rule could be made more humane.
His star status and personal interests drew world leaders to Prague, from the Dalai Lama, with whom Mr. Havel meditated for hours, to President Bill Clinton, who, during a state visit in 1994, joined a saxophone jam session at Mr. Havel’s favorite jazz club.
Even after Mr. Havel retired in 2003, leaders sought him out, including President Obama. At their meeting in March 2009, Mr. Havel warned of the perils of limitless hope being projected onto a leader. Disappointment, he noted, could boil over into anger and resentment. Mr. Obama replied that he was becoming acutely aware of the possibility.