Interview with Pepper de Callier
Columnist and best-selling author of the Common Sense Wisdom trilogy, Pepper de Callier has dedicated his career to understanding and counseling leaders worldwide. He is a founder and former chairman of the supervisory board of Aspen Institute Central Europe. As long-time chairman of the Lobkowicz Collections advisory board, Pepper sheds light on his career and involvement with Lobkowicz cultural heritage work.
Why did you come to the Czech Republic and what have you been doing since you came here?
My wife, Priscilla, and I were living in San Diego when I retired in 2003. We wanted to live in Europe, but weren't sure where, so we tried France first. We rented an old farmhouse for three months in the Champagne region and we loved the decompression it offered after living in Southern California for so long. Our next stop was Italy and a 16th-century farmhouse, again for three months. A Czech Ambassador, Dana Hunatova, came to visit us in Italy. Dana had known us for many years and one night at dinner she asked, "Where are you going to live?" We had no idea. So, she invited me to a four-day conference at the Czech Foreign Ministry in Prague. While I was in meetings, Priscilla was walking around Old Town. When my meetings finished, Priscilla said, "Can we try Prague for a while?" And, long-story-short, we fell in love with the people, the history, and what must be the most beautiful ancient capital of Europe — and we never left. That was 17 years ago, and we absolutely love it here.
How did you first encounter the Lobkowicz family and how did it happen that you got so closely involved with their work?
I was a senior advisor to President Václav Havel’s foundation, Forum 2000, and I met William at an event. We started talking and comparing humorous expat stories. I was writing a weekly column on leadership for the economic daily and I would reach out to William from time to time for his insights and guidance on who I should be interviewing for my column. Priscilla and I met Sandra and the kids and were very impressed with how down-to-earth they all were. Coming from the farmland of the Midwest, that meant a lot to me. One thing led to another and William asked me to help create a Board of Advisors. After hearing William and Sandra's vision, and knowing who they were as people, I considered it an honor to help them in their stewardship of one of the most important European art collections in private hands. I still find it hard to understand how they have accomplished all they have, but it is a joy to know them, and we consider them the closest of friends.
What do you see as the future for this country and for this family, particularly in the area of cultural heritage?
This is truly the exciting part for me. Many years ago, I had lunch with the Commercial Attaché at the United States Embassy in Prague. I asked him what they were projecting for this part of the world. He pointed me to an article written for Newsweek by a well-known American urban studies theorist, Richard Florida. Florida was the one who coined the term “megalopolis”. In his article he laid out his thoughts about the future with regard to population density and economic centers around the world by the year 2030, I believe it was. In Central Europe, he identified a geography that went from Poland to Slovenia, which included the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary. The name he had given this future locus of economic importance was the “Prague Corridor”. The name said it all to me. It validated a feeling I had about the geographical, political, and economic future. That, coupled with the extremely high caliber of leadership talent here, convinced me that the future of Central Europe was here. That was 12 years ago, and I must say, coronavirus notwithstanding, I think the facts are bearing out Florida's prediction. Now, fold that into the mission of the Lobkowicz family: To create a center of excellence for the study of Central European Culture and Heritage, and offer this vast collection to the public, I think it makes perfect sense to be quite optimistic. The thing that ties all this together, for me, is the dedication, integrity, and vision of the Lobkowicz family and their hard work to make this happen.